Author: Grace Erickson
Location: Windhoek, Namibia
In my colonized mind, I saw Africa as a whole continent. In my colonized mind, I saw everyone in Africa as totally different from me since they were coming from another culture. In my colonized mind, in my colonized mind, in my colonized mind… Traveling from South Africa, to Eastern Cape, to Cape Town, to (finally) Namibia has already changed who I am forever. While it has been difficult at times to realize how much growth I still have ahead of me, my experience thus far has also prompted me to better the world in ways that I had never even considered before. It is painful to have a greater awareness of the fact that not everyone on our lovely Earth is always being heard equally, but I now know that learning about the injustices of the world is the first step to changing them. The very best lessons and memories I have, have come from being pushed beyond my comfort zone. Amidst the challenging intellectual and emotional times here, there are sprinkled moments of beautiful serenity and friendship. One of my favorite moments from the cohort’s fieldtrips was Freedom Park in South Africa where there was a spiritual reflection space. It was a location that was meant to help you find your headspace to reflect on our ancestors whom had sacrificed everything during their tireless work to fight oppression. Sitting barefoot on the ground in front of the monument, I found myself sinking into my meditative state. I lost track of time as I was hugged by the whisper of spirits around me.
I found myself feeling exceptionally whole during my time in the mountains at Elundini. The fog drifted over the side of the mountain as dogs, chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats galloped around us. I looked through the window while making homemade bread and felt one with the foggy froth of fog above us. To actually make your own bread, gather firewood from the forest, then actually bake it over a fire, is something I never would have made the time for in the US. The lack of any rush in daily life has been dreamlike after living somewhere that emphasizes the importance of making use of every moment.
During my homestay in Pimville, Soweto, my sweet friends Zama and Faith reiterated this by chiding us for walking too fast on the way to the grocery store, not packing a million activities into one day, and encouraging us to relax. Their spirit and friendship, both with each other and us, lives with me to this day. Our memory of simply going to the park is one that makes me glow with joy.
The last moment I would like to share from my first leg of this journey is from appreciating art. Once again, I found myself surprised at my own surprise that there were so many similarities to my own art, and that which I saw in a museum that is thousands of miles away from my home. While speaking with an art director at an art center in Katutura, he emphasized again and again the importance of knowing your roots. We may all come from different places, but we are the same material. The beauty and depth of many of the pieces empowered me to continue to look within myself for what I was meant to create in order to make my impact, both here, and eventually back where I came from.