Isn’t it strange that when you visit a new place with no reflections of yourself or your way of life, you somehow see deeper into yourself and the surrounding milieu? Your desire to be anything vanishes. Less noise, more to hear, less eyes, more to see. Too often with travel and life in general, we crave the fiction when we need the truth. Since my first visit to Africa, I have been entirely drawn to the place. Geographically on the same scale to Australian shores but volumes apart, there’s and inescapable element of danger and instability both in and out of the water. As surfers, having the freedom to divide your time between chasing waves and experiencing unforeseeable elements beyond the ocean is what makes foreign surf travel so enjoyable and unique. And more often than not, it’s those hidden truths that uncover the essence of what you truly journeyed for.
"Like all elements of Africa, there are two faces, and unless you turn your head, you will only see one side."
Irrespective of which angle you look at it, Africa is a torn land. Divided in the past and uncertain about how to heal its wounds for the future. Beneath all the incredible experiences, lifelong memories and lessons learnt in Africa, you can’t help but feel torn yourself. Torn between possibilities and the confronting reality, torn between wanting to know more, what to believe, how to act or how to help, and haunted by the guilt of a life born into privilege. I’m no Bono and refuse to pretend I’m even remotely educated in foreign affairs, but subjectivity aside; it is currently a very volatile time for South Africa. In brief, there is a push with plans to amend the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land, including farmland, without compensation. The majority of land remains in white hands, a compelling symbol of lingering inequalities 25 years on from the end of apartheid. Those in favour of the amendment feel it will advance economic development and help transform the unjust spatial tension that exists. On the other hand, there are strong concerns that surrendering land ownership to inexperienced African farmers will mean invaluable knowledge and resources are lost, thus triggering a drastic supply crisis and an economic collapse. Third and fourthgeneration farmers will not surrender their land without a fight and the land rights issue threatens to tear the country apart again.
Much of South Africa’s raw appeal as a travel destination is linked to its untamed grandeur and its social diversity. Preserving the independent cultural identities of the various groups (black and white) while fostering greater equality will be a huge challenge. Perhaps the best thing we can do to help is visit and find our own path through the glorious country. Tourism is arguably the greatest asset for the Rainbow and potentially one of its most unifying forces. One thing everyone believes in is the wonders of Africa.
raw identity is what ultimately epitomises it as an unassuming travel destination; hopefully it won’t double as its subsequent undoing.
Excerpt from the latest Tracks magazine
Words by Brett Burcher
Images by Sam Walklate