By: Cecyl Esau
Date of publication: 2015
African Identities: Shades of Belonging, Season IV
Set in the small town of Vryheid, in northern Kwazulu-Natal, season four of African Identities: Shades of Belonging features 12 participants from diverse generational and racial backgrounds sharing their personal experiences of living in South Africa, 20 years into democracy. While each film is thought-provoking in its own right, when woven together, the series depicts the nuances and intricacies, similarities and differences of lived experiences in small South African towns.
The participants featured in this series candidly share their thoughts about whether identity issues are still prevalent, despite the democracy now afforded to all in South Africa. The viewer will also get a sense about whether different generations experience freedom and reconciliation differently.
Added to the diversity of age and race, this series of films is also infused with diverse ideological and political perspectives, making for thought-provoking viewing, and is intended to also inspire viewers to honestly interrogate their own understandings of identity and belonging in democratic South Africa.
With a powerful name, meaning freedom, this small, inland, rural town was the capital city of the Boer Republic in the 1800s, and the place that the Anglo-Boer War first began. The town homes other contested histories, including the battle of Tshanini or Blood River. During apartheid, this town, like so many others in South Africa, underwent forced removals of non-White residents. This painful history of segregation lingers through the economic and spatial divisions that are still evident in the town today.
About the African Identities: Shades of Belonging documentary film project
Initiated in 2009, the project includes nationwide screenings and dialogue sessions held in different communities across the country, revealing the extent to which South Africans are inspired by creative engagement and conversation about issues affecting them.
Collectively, the four seasons of African Identities: Shades of Belonging offer diverse perspectives of life in South Africa, but the overarching sense of a shared appreciation for this country, despite distinctly individual experiences of it, remains abundantly clear. The project highlights that, regardless of age, race or creed, people living in South Africa have unique stories to tell and are overwhelmingly positive about wanting to play their part in helping to build a reconciled country.