Posts Tagged ‘Kim Stanley Robinson’

Something loud and lively was happening in the hallway. Something cheerful and friendly. People greeting each other with gusto. It felt like I was home!

At a recent meeting of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn, I had the pleasure of meeting other students (read: scholars) from Africa. Yes – what a privilege! For what I found there was more than mere camaraderie: it was, I am sure, part of the future of our continent. Discussions ranged from theology to politics to art (both literature and visual arts), and in more than one case, I was totally blown away!

What I experienced there is hard to explain, so what follows might seem like a strange analogy, but I would like to make it anyway. The past two months or so I have been reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars-trilogy, a story deeply concerned with building a new society. One encounters multiple meetings, or conferences, or whatever it might be called, where people talk long into the night, totally immersed in both the challenges and the hope with which they are confronted. Hope – yes, hope! Amidst a myriad of opinions, amidst a host of key characters, the story spirals onward. Although the characters and parties involved are diverse, a common goal is imagined and achieved. No one character dominates in this story; everyone is important, but something bigger is happening than simply one person: a move towards something better.

This, I think, is sort of what I experienced – or at least perceived, last week. For although we all came from different countries, and shared differing points of view, we could speak of a common goal. And I have to add: a common willingness. Time and time again I was struck by the willingness of the people I spoke with to sacrifice for their country; and indirectly, for their continent – but without losing their identity. A realistic hope. If the people I met is a representative sample of what is happening in Africa, I am proud to call it my continent.

Speaking about being from Africa: as a whitey, I’ve sometimes wondered about my right of saying this. Am I from Africa? I’m glad to say that I was accepted in this group without question. And if you ever wondered if one could speak about “a” South African culture; we South Africans certainly were glad to find each other, and certainly were different in the sense of being, well, “South African”. (Yes, I know everything is much more complicated than I’ve set it out here, but please take it for the bona fide quick reflection that it is.)


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