Like millions of South Africans I am doing what I can to drink the milk and taste the honey of joy that is flowing through our land. We’re living in a different time, a transformative time. There is something beautiful about the magic of world soccer and the pride of being a successful host.
I am a cross-breed. Semi academic and once a dance therapist, I am fascinated by the intangible! I love reading books by my friend and World Business Academy Fellow, Verna Allee http://www.vernaallee.com/VA/Verna-Allee-Complete-Works.htm who writes that in the future, our competitive advantage as businesses, as countries, lie in the spaces between us. That is where creativity and knowledge lie. So living during a time, when there is permission to “feel the spaces in between us” is nothing short of magic. To share the experience of being hosts for the biggest international sporting event is nothing more than a privilege. To simply love Africa without worrying that you’re not “indigenous” has been liberating.
I have appreciated the permission these times give to all of us to ‘feel it’ and to invite others to to share the feeling. Checking into Kulula airlines in Johannesburg on June 16th, Simphiwe Moyo, behind the counter, looked at me straight in the eye and said, “are you feeling it?”. I smiled and said” Yes I am! Are you?” And what passed was a lovely moment of mutual recognition. Ineffable, intangible, and never to be forgotten. A memory of a moment which speaks volumes about this time. I loved not simply the uncomplicated directness of his enquiry, but also the freedom to connect, human being to human being without the constraints of rank, privilege or what is deemed an appropriate “professional” question on the job.
What is “ feeling it”? That day, that moment,’ it ‘was the connection, and the excitement in the interconnection and the pride of being hosts to the world. It’s about the freedom to be connected, to invite connection. For me it was the joy of being in South Africa at her best, and enjoying fellow South Africans at their best.
I wanted to experience how other people were” feeling it” in different places. I invited some friends to Mzolis- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mzoli’s well known to locals in Cape Town, a successful butchery turned restaurant in Guguletu township. ( Even Jamie Oliver visited Mzolis!) From the moment the car journey began from Cape Town’s city bowl to Guguletu, I was laughing. One of our group, is a South African actor recently returned from seventeen years in Canada, where he developed a thriving business as a “voice-over artist”. On the way there, we were regaled with stories of unimaginable assignments and hilarious accents – one was GPS recording in a Borat accent. This is absolutely true. This product is available!
The laughter turns to temporary sobriety when we enter Mzoli’s place. Delightful in its simplicity, there are long tables with benches and plastic chairs and a variety of televisions screens large and small. Coming from the rarified country air of Franschhoek, http://www.franschhoek.org.za/ however versatile my tastes in music, even taking pride in a long standing African music collection, it was difficult to cope with the extremely loud and unpleasant sounds of hip hop, or whatever unharmonious tones appealed to the disc jockey. Blissed out by the music, wearing headphones, undoubtedly to give his audience the “subtleties” of whatever what playing, he was oblivious. Not afraid to ask for help when supremely uncomfortable, I spoke to a young man in dreadlocks who seemed to be in charge and I said, “ would you mind playing the music a little softer?” He looked at me and said” We don’t DO soft”. While I enjoyed his assertiveness, I quietly wondered how we would get through an hour of this unharmonious din. We were unlikely to get used to this volume – even the earplug didn’t work. Eventually I was referred to the owner, Mzoli himself, who was very accommodating and saw to it, that the volume was turned down.
We slowly saw Mzoli’s place fill up and vuvuzelas began to sound as more and more people took their places. People of all ages, all races, all freely expressing their fan loyalties and their heroes in their garb. Some wore T-shirts that said Messi, 11; or Ronaldo 10. Taken up by the spirit, I had invested in a Ghana scarf and large Ghana flag which I didn’t quite know how to wear or how to juggle with a long shawl.
And then the game began. Holland was playing Brazil. At this point, it was difficult to tell which team the audience was supporting. It simply didn’t seem to matter. A group of six African women sat in the row just in front of us. If Brazil scored they cheered, if Holland scored, they cheered! They were feeling the joy of the game – their excitement followed the ball and the players who played fantastic soccer. They did their own individual moves and sometimes spontaneously entered into more choreographed rhythmic group moves, side to side, in unison.
Holland won the game, the vuvuzelas went wild, the TV commentary and debrief was immediately switched off and the loud music resumed!!! And people simply started dancing – some on the tables, most on the floors. At that point, I was ‘feeling it” so much that it was impossible not to be swept up into spirit of celebration. It was so easy to connect – to give people high fives, and flow into the dancing. Dance for has always been the best way to “feel it”. Not even caring about the volume of the music, I abandoned the Ghana flag on our table and just entered the fray.
Marc, my Swiss friend, shyly held up the flag high, dancing behind it. And it was in the dance, I found myself connecting with three young African men – I forgot about the loudness, just dancing in a blissful sea of joy was all I could feel. There were signals from my guests that it was then time to go – so I pick up my shawl, the Ghana flag and scarf and place them awkwardly around my neck not quite knowing what to do. Before long, my three dancing partners “dressed me up” like a proud Ghana fan. They tied the scarf around my head, the flag around my body and placed a pair of large yellow plastic sunglasses on my face. Before I knew it, there I was dancing again – with my new found friends. All I felt was happiness – Jabulani – the name of our South African Fifa soccer ball – and the dizzying experience of connection and the shared anticipation of a Ghana victory that night, which unfortunately was not to be.
Later that night – I recalled one of my favourite quote from one of West Africa’s finest social philosophers, Leopold Senghor. I lived the philosophical sentence which for him best describes Africa’s way of being. “ I feel the other, I dance the other, therefore I am”. A mini epiphany flashed through my mind – why listen to the commentary when you can feel it? Sure beats Descartes – I think therefore I am.