On September 26th, 2006, I departed Toronto on my maiden trek home to, the motherland, Africa. I am pleased to share a few of the blessings of this incredible voyage. I am grateful to Carole Adriaans, Founder/President of South African Women for Women (S.W.W.W.) and Board Member, Gwen Coffen for hosting my inimitable pal, Kevin Pennant and I on this expedition. Prior to departure, we had produced a very special event featuring some of Canada’s brightest stars, to commemorate S.A.W.W.’s 10th Anniversary, The 50th Anniversary of The Women’s March to Pretoria and to recognize Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, S.A.W.W.’s Woman of Distinction 2006 Award. In gratitude of our efforts, Carole generously invited us to be her special guests at Bishop Desmond Tutu’s 75th Birthday Gala in Johannesburg, on October 7th. A gesture I will never forget.
After two days airborne, we landed in Johannesburg. We floated through a few divine moments with Bishop Desmond Tutu, then flew an additional two hours to Cape Town, where, atop Table Mountain, way above the clouds, I had my first epiphany. I suddenly actualized that though I have been proud all along of my Jamaican heritage, Jamaica in fact, was but a stop over. “Africa is my home”. And with that ‘the good the bad and the ugly’ raced into my soul at a dizzying and most disarming rate.
Carole and Gwen immersed us in the history, lore and eccentricities of South Africa through their friends, acquaintances and indelibly etched memories. Passionate and painful stories unfolded at lunches in Kamammas’ kitchens, at dinner parties hosted by colored South African socialites; groundswell performances by children, youth and diamond in the rough artistes; surreal tours of oppressive black townships; tragic colored districts and white wine country. From Cape Town to Johannesburg, tour guides, white Lisa, colored Ronel, black Lutendo and black-come-colored couple Mandisa and Ronnie, confirmed and affirmed Carole and Gwen’s recollections of South Africa’s apartheid years. Kevin and I were rendered speechless.
The ever-reverend Ronnie christened us with Xhosa names; Carole/Thenjiwa (trusted), Gwen/Sindiswa (protected), Kevin/Monwabisi (happinessmaker), me/Daluxolo (creator of peace) and delivered us to our Atlantic baptism on a beach ironically called Monwabisi. On top of that, a newfound genius/friend, the Muslim philosopher Mohammed, tale after tale, schooled us in the history of religion and South Africa from his perch way above The Cape. He so amused us so much we had to return for more at the restaurant of Peter, ‘the Greek’. What joy. What passion!
Kevin, Mama Gwen and I sailed the Atlantic to Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island cell and were altered by the former inmate/guide’s authentic accounting of how it really was. We were crippled and simultaneously fortified by Mr. Mandela’s will and fortitude to have survived and triumphed. Next, Franschoek, Khayelitsha, Langa, Stellenbosch, we then toured the Garden Route to Oudstshoorn, Knysna, Port Elizabeth and Addo. We rested at a variety of five-star B&B’s, where we were continually faced with reminders of the atrocities of Apartheid. Blacks staff white-run and owned establishments, where ‘we couldn’t before’ – so now, why and how? Conflicted passions consumed us with increasing fervor and the days zoomed by. The deal was finally sealed at a squatters’ camp in Soweto when an impoverished yet spirited South African brother joyously and profoundly greeted Kevin and I with ‘Welcome HOME my Brothers’. We got it. And as if for the first time in my life, I wept.
By the time we got back to Johannesburg, as Kevin spins it, I “got booted off the island.’’ This was largely due to our unique vulnerabilities coupled with the many challenges we all have had to face. So alas, I did not make it to the Gala. But I’m genuinely thrilled for Kevin that he did. He again met the Bishop along with Alfre Woodard, Samuel Jackson, Carlos Santana and the incredible Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela, to name a few of the 700 global guests. What a thrill! I was genuinely pleased when I heard because you see, Kevin and I really fused our friendship on this journey. Everything he experienced, I experienced. Everything I experienced, he experienced. It had been the standard, for us as friends, to approach challenges from different perspectives, but on this journey we, more and more often, arrived at mirroring conclusions – a truly empowering co-journey. As fate would have it, I was blessed to reconnect with an architect friend whom I had met only six months earlier in New York. Talk about six degrees. Soon he and I came to realize that, though oceans apart, we had some very rare and special people in common. My new compatriot hosted me in Johannesburg and laid out for me, the new South Africa, the emerging black middle class, the new freedom to express – new life, new hope – such a treacherously “Long Walk To Freedom”, and still so many miles to rout.
I departed South Africa on October 8th for a scheduled trip to Cannes to attend my first ever, MIPCOM, one of the world’s premiere television and film markets. The others stayed on for two additional days in Johannesburg. On their final morning, they joined the indomitable Winnie at her home for a private breakfast and the formal presentation of her S.A.W.W. award. ‘She is such a wonderful spirit’ Kevin lovingly recalls.
At MIPCOM, I joined my television colleague, Patricia Scarlett to sell our new television series “Making Fashion Reel’. My South African awakening opened, prepared and launched me perfectly into Cannes. I arrived with a new knowing, a quiet confidence and the most profound centeredness. I was adrenalized the moment I arrived in Cannes. We met a number of potential partners. Networking with familiar as well as new, local and international, industry friends within this forum went a long way in concretizing my fashcam dream. Everyone we met affirmed that “Making Fashion Reel” and the fashcam concept is ‘exciting, fresh and new’ and ‘right for now’. What incredible joy on top of bliss!
Life – God’s divine plan continues to unfold. I wish you peace, love, joy and most importantly grounded gratitude on your blessed journey.