By Published On: 5th April 2023

I was recently invited by Danielle Hoffmeester, the project leader for the Youth Identity Project, to attend the premier of the documentary of Bergsig in Bergsig, Calitzdorp.  The film was produced by IJR and Abrasive Media, documenting the lives and experiences of the young people in the town, through the lens of an IJR workshop held in August 2022.

I have worked in the anti-racism space for a number of years and I know the statistics well: just less than half of South Africans (46%) say they or their friends have experienced reconciliation since the end of apartheid; 72% say that reconciliation is still needed; 34% say they don’t trust people from other race groups very much, or even at all.  These numbers roll of the tongue easily and are used so often that it becomes academic.  But behind these numbers lie people’s lives and their experiences.

This was brought home to me as we watched the documentary on a warm Friday evening in a church hall.  Load shedding was occurring just over the time of the screening but thanks to the foresight and planning of the team, the generator made a gentle hum outside the door.

As people filed in, I was struck – yet again – by the great divide that is at the heart of the schism in our country.  We asked people to sign a register and some of the participants indicated that they do not write.  I can guarantee you that were this event to take place in my church hall, every member of the audience would be able to write their names.

After the screening and the applause died down, the community members expressed their gratitude for the film.  This is a community whose voice is seldom heard, where stereotypes perpetuate the micro-aggressions that apartheid has left and which have never gone away.  Their presence looms large in the lives of the young people of this town.

The story of Bergsig, however, is a story of hope.  The documentary ends with a statement of the young people:

Calitzdorp is beautiful and peaceful.

We share in a richness of diversity, of land, fruits, port and landscape.

We treat each other with dignity and respect.

We are proud of our heritage.

We work towards an equal, just and inclusive Calitzdorp.

We believe in hard work, equality and accountability.

We believe in a better life for all.

We are moving forward.

We are moving.

This is the story of Bergsig, but it could be the tale of so many places in South Africa, where communities are still divided by race and class.  It is also a story of the future: the future of communities which have the hard conversations, deal with the challenges and move boldly into the future.

Felicity Harrison: Head: Sustained Dialogues Programme

Image Copyright: Abrasive Media and IJR, 2023

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