LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DMINLGP

Jake’s Visual Ethnography of Cape Town

Written by: on June 18, 2018

Student’s Personal Interests:

One of the first things to spark my interest at the CapeTown Advance was making the connection with my amazing LGP8 cohort. The diversity and quality of each individual impressed me and the quick connection I made with many of them blew me away. In a very short time, I felt bonded to these strangers to my delightful surprise. There was so much I wanted to learn from and discuss with them and I felt an immediate comradery with them on the DMin journey.

 

The next thing that sparked my interest was the incredible beauty of Cape Town in the midst of a very poor country. Seeing the beauty of the waterfront and Table Mountain, and just a few miles away seeing the homes of thousands made of corrugated steel and tarps was rather sobering and shocking. I was also so disappointed to learn that even though apartheid had been abolished in the country in 1994, the stark inequality of economic and political power is still very much present. This became very evident after hearing the presentations at JL Zwane Memorial Church by Rev Dr Spiwo Xapile and other church/community members.[1]

 

New Knowledge and Synthesis:

Some of the new knowledge I acquired during the advance was concerning the journey of Nelson Mandela and the political leadership that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. Taking a trip to Robben Island and seeing and hearing first-hand what went on there with the political prisoners brought many things we read about in The Rise and Fall of Apartheid to light. When I read about how important and instrumental the leadership was in the successful dismantling of apartheid, then seeing the prison where these men were held,[2] and hearing about how the incarcerated leaders would continue to produce political materials for the rest of the prisoners,[3] it all came together and made more sense. These powerful leaders never stopped believing in their cause and never gave up hope of a radical change taking place.

Listening to Mary Burton explain what went on while she was a part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was fascinating. She explained that the TRC had three main tasks: 1. Amnesty, 2. Reparation & Rehabilitation, and 3. Human Rights Violations, and talked about how hard it was for them to be successful, although there were a few powerful stories of reconciliation, one of which she shared during her presentation.[4] After hearing her presentation, the things I read about the TRC that were confusing to me made much more sense.

 

Another piece of new knowledge came from Mahlatse (Winston) Mashua in his presentation and personal testimony of growing up in a home that practiced Ancestralism.[5] Not only was what he shared absolutely shocking and mesmerizing, it opened my eyes to a whole other world of people who struggle to reconcile the Bible and Christian faith with their culture and family beliefs. I could have listened to his story and insights for another hour, and I appreciated the transparency and honesty in which he presented.

 

Practice:

After leaving the advance in Cape Town, my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where I was able to practice some things I learned from Rev. Michelle Boonzaaier. She talked about reaching out to the people on the fringes and also about finding God in people’s stories.[6] My approach with the people I met in Zimbabwe changed as a result of this and I found myself spending time with people on the fringes and listening to their stories. I was blessed in the process and I definitely noticed a new glimpse of God in each of their stories. One of the experiences was with a driver named Chenge, who shared about how hard it was to make ends meet in a country that has an 80% unemployment rate and does not provide free public education for his children. He also blessed me with sharing his favorite worship music with me while he drove me in his truck.

 

Application:

Many of the things learned and experienced at the advance will stay with me for years to come. One of the more significant things was the experience at JL Zwane Memorial Church. Although the church service we attended on Sunday was very memorable, the meeting we attended there the next day impacted me greatly and brought me to tears. Hearing the young girls share about the discrimination and lack of equity they experience in school in Cape Town,[7] and hearing about the same hurtful experiences from members of our own LGP program caused me to stop and ask myself, what am I doing to make a difference for the minorities around me at home? What struck me so powerfully was the fact that my heart was breaking for the broken people of South Africa, when those same broken and mistreated people are in my doctoral program and all around me back home. This convicted me greatly and I sat there in the meeting weeping for these people and for the shame I felt for not noticing those individuals right in front of me. It is so true what Sarah Pink says, “when researching everyday life as ethnographers, we do this from inside, we become immersed in its flow and, indeed, our own actions and feelings become part of the very contexts that we are researching”.[8]

Another thing that has and will stay with me also came from that same meeting at JL Zwane when the grandson of the architect of apartheid, Wilhelm Verwoerd, shared. He talked about how important it was to not take systemic problems personally because we end up getting defensive instead of having conversations through relationships with the people who have been wronged.[9] I could resonate with that statement because it has been easy for me to take it personally and get defensive when someone talks about white people being racist or some other statement that doesn’t represent my personal feelings or convictions. What I will take away is his challenge for me to use those as opportunities for healing if I will not get defensive, but engage in a healing conversation.

 

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[1]           Rev Dr Spiwo Xapile, “Reconciliation Conversation” (lecture, JL Zwane Memorial Church, Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2017).

[2]           David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010), 73.

[3]           Robben Island Tour Guide and Ex-Prisoner, “Tour Presentation” (commentary, Robben Island Political Prison, Cape Town, South Africa, September 22, 2017).

[4]           Mary Burton, “Truth & reconciliation commission presentation” (lecture, Commodore Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, September 23, 2017).

[5]           Mahlatse (Winston) Mashua, “African ancestralism & Christianity presentation” (lecture, Commodore Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, September 23, 2017).

[6]           Rev. Michelle Boonzaaier, “Inclusive & affirming ministries presentation” (lecture, Commodore Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, September 23, 2017).

[7]           Various College Women, “Reconciliation Conversation” (lecture, JL Zwane Memorial Church, Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2017).

[8]           Sarah Pink. Doing Visual Ethnography. (London: Sage Publications. Kindle edition, 2013) 35.

[9]           Wilhelm Verwoerd, “Reconciliation Conversation” (lecture, JL Zwane Memorial Church, Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2017).

 

Bibliography

 

Boonzaaier, Rev. Michelle. “Inclusive and Affirming Ministries.” Lecture, Commodore Hotel,        Cape Town, South Africa, September 23, 2017.

 

Burton, Mary. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” Lecture, Commodore Hotel, Cape Town,   South Africa, September 23, 2017.

 

Mashua, Mahlatse (Winston). “African Ancestralism and Christianity.” Lecture, Commodore          Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, September 23, 2017.

 

Pink, Sarah. Doing Visual Ethnography. London: Sage Publications. Kindle edition, 2013.

 

Tour Guide and Ex-Prisoner. “Tour Presentation.” Commentary, Robben Island Political Prison,    Cape Town, South Africa, September 22, 2017.

 

Various College Women. “Reconciliation Conversation.” Lecture, JL Zwane Memorial Church,      Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2017.

 

Verwoerd, Wilhelm. “Reconciliation Conversation.” Lecture, JL Zwane Memorial Church, Cape     Town, South Africa, September 25, 2017.

 

Welsh, David. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press,           2010.

 

Xapile, Rev Dr Spiwo. “Reconciliation Conversation.” Lecture, JL Zwane Memorial Church,          Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2017.

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About the Author

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Jake Dean-Hill

Currently a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice. Ordained minister with 10 years of prior full-time church ministry experience and currently volunteering with a local church plant. Also working with companies as a Corporate Leadership Coach.

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