It is amazing how much time has passed. Ironically, my last post was on World Peace Day, much in the same spirit of my more recent “takeover” of the One Young World Twitter account by Ajarat Bada, Dan Ryan and myself.
I wrote this blog on Africa Day-pure coincidence-and it truly inspired me to reflect on what it meant to be Swazi, being raised in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres and to seek peace through culture, using life experience as a template. My intention was pure when I asked Rees Cowne (Community Relations at One Young World) if this takeover would be possible, almost a fortnight before it actually took place: to stimulate dialogue and create awareness around the day and its cause via social media. I hope Ajarat Bada, Dan Ryan and I succeeded in doing so. Below is an extended edit of my official blog post at One Young World, I hope you learn something from it, as I did from this experience.
Finally, the title for this post is taken from Emeli Sandé’s beautiful song, Read all about it Part III. This song was dedicated to me and One Young World’s cause, concerning World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, by Alma Karimah, a tweeter from Jakarta, Indonesia on 27 May. That was an auspicious day in my life, as it marked 8 years and 2 weeks of my best friend’s passing and would’ve been her 26th birthday. Being the music lover that Setsabile Nxumalo was, it was befitting.
This post is dedicated to warriors of peace, messengers of hope and believers in unity through diversity around the world. *Bisous*
This is my story of cultural diversity. My culture forms the backbone of who I am (through lessons on my ancestors and culture), who I am in the present (through reconciling tradition and modernity), and inevitably will shape who I will become, in an increasingly globalizing world. My upbringing serves as testimony to that, having been raised in North America, Europe, South-East Asia and, of course, Africa. My spirituality has been influenced by the home I came from, the schools I attended and exposure to others religions. I was raised in a trilingual home and was taught to be respectful of my cultural heritage, as well of the heritage of others, as we would ask others to be with ours. Today, my life is firmly rooted in observing basic human rights, where most belief systems seem to concur at their axes. My country of origin is deeply rooted in its culture and traditions, stemming from the fact that it was never fully colonized. Swaziland went from being a traditional Swazi nation with its King to a protectorate nation-state in the late 1800s to a protected nation-state in 1967 and achieved full independence the following year. Culture is not a static but rather socially constructed characteristic of our society, with Sonas World tweeting a quote by Mahatma Gandhi to us: “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” Indeed, our late King and iNgwenyama Sobhuza II used to say that we needed to find a way to take what was good in modernity and to take what was good in tradition, and combine the two towards living a principled life.
At a basic level, Erasmus Mweene from Lusaka, Zambia reminded us how something as simple as a greeting one another vary from culture to culture, “from a wave, bow, handshake, nod, a bob, to tipping of the hat.” One of my favourite shared thoughts in life has been about how your car is that and your coffee is that, movies are from here and electronics are from there and how people still want to complain about one’s neighbours being other countries. In our increasingly, globalizing world, Twitter could not have been more evident of how we are bridging the cultural divide. Us tweeters (Ajarat Bada, Dan Ryan and myself) tweeted from Los Angeles to Adelaide, with Mbabane somewhere in between. We represent different ages, countries, cultures and spiritual beliefs, tweeting on different aspects concerning cultural diversity, and were united in our task in stimulating dialogue around the issue. I tweeted links to the different action plans and declarations and proclamations and resolutions that exist, formulated with the common goal of bridging to gap between conversing and actualizing cultural diversity, as a way of developing, discussing and living in the world. Somehow, it took tweeting across different time zones and giving the youth in particular a space to share their views and their culture, to realise just how powerful educating, and protecting one’s culture is.
In reflecting on the suggested list that forms part of the “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion” campaign, I realised I had done most of them in my lifetime. As tweeter Michelle Ramage from Kansas, USA (in my opinion, rightly) pointed out, the to-do list “[is] not a list…but a way of life.” I came from a home that encouraged engaging with the arts-irrespective of culture-as any engagement was a welcomed opportunity for learning. I attended schools for the most part, where sharing meals, different points of view, as well as the history of our roots were not initiatives-we simply we living in our truth, sharing a part of us, with and without their prejudices. Hailley Griffis from Ottawa, Canada pledged to learn more about celebrations and holidays in the Greek culture. Alma Karimah from Jakarta, Indonesia shared details of the Waisak Day Festival she had planned to attend in Borobudur, Central Java, a Buddhist ceremony honouring the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
Call me an idealist-I do believe Pax Cultura (Peace through Culture) is possible worldwide. Our differences make us unique, we should bridge the gap between said differences through encouraging dialogue, exercising tolerance and developing policies geared towards encouraging cultural diversity. I am encouraged when I hear that states, not just citizens, are also taking such principles seriously and enshrining such principles into their national vision (Gogontlejang Phaladi from Botswana shared that cultural diversity has been enshrined into her country’s Vision 2016 pillar of ‘A Moral and Tolerant Nation’). Pax Cultura themed tweets from around the world-the change agents who will be leading the charge on this issue-further confirms a willingness to commit towards peace and understand, as opposed to war, intolerance and prejudice. My fellow One Young World Ambassador from Swaziland Sakhile Dlamini said “[a]s we build our cultural awareness, we also build bridges to trust, respect and understanding across cultures.” Sibaphiwe Matiyela from Cape Town, South Africa tweeted “[w]here we choose to love and learn instead, we create magic.” Perhaps the most eloquent words to live were eloquently summed up in Elyas Kakar’s tweet from Islamabad, Pakistan: “Love for all[,] hatred for none.”
My parting words to Twitter on the issue were the words of Henry David Thoreau:
“It is never too late to give up your prejudices.”