Swazi Ambassador, Noni Hlophe on her heritage and experience taking over the One Young World Twitter account in honour of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
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My name is Nondumiso and this is my story of cultural diversity. My name, meaning ‘one worthy of praise’ in siSwati, was given to me in honour of my birthday; 25 December. My culture forms the backbone of who I am and who I will become in this increasingly globalising world. My upbringing serves as testimony to this. I am a child of Swazi origin with a global soul, having been born in North America and raised in Europe, Asia and of course Africa. Raised in a trilingual home, I was taught to be respectful of my cultural heritage as well as the heritage of others. My spirituality has been influenced by the family that I come from, the schools I’ve attended and my exposure to other religious, spiritual and traditional practices. Today, my life is firmly rooted in observing basic human rights, where most belief systems seem to concur at their axes.
My country of origin is deeply rooted in culture and tradition, seemingly stemming from the fact that it was never fully colonised. Swaziland went from being a traditional Swazi nation with its King to a protectorate nation-state in the late 1800s, to a protected nation-state in 1967 and achieved full independence the following year. However, culture is not static but rather socially constructed by society, with Sonas World Tweeting a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that agrees with this idea: “no culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive." Indeed, our late King iNgwenyama Sobhuza II used to say that we needed to find a way to take what was good in modernity and to take what was good in tradition, and combine the two towards living a principled life.
During the takeover, I was reminded of how something as simple as greeting one another may vary from culture to culture, “from a wave, bow, handshake, nod, a bob, to tipping of the hat” – Erasmus Mweene. In our increasingly globalising world, Twitter could not have been a better example of how we are bridging the cultural divide.
We Tweeters (Ajarat Bada, Dan Ryan and myself), Tweeted from Los Angeles to Adelaide, with Mbabane somewhere in between. We represent different ages, countries, cultures and spiritual beliefs. We Tweeted on different aspects, from different perspectives on cultural diversity, remaining united in our task of stimulating dialogue around the issue. I posted links to the different action plans, declarations, proclamations and resolutions. All formulated with the same goal of bridging to gap between conversation and realisation of respect for cultural diversity, as a way of developing, discussing and living in the world. Somehow, it took Tweeting across different time zones and giving youth, in particular, a space to share their views on culture and to realise just how powerful educating and protecting one’s culture is.
In reflecting on the suggested list that forms part of the Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion campaign, I realised I had done most of them in my lifetime. I came from a home that encouraged engaging with the arts-irrespective of culture-as any engagement was a welcomed opportunity for learning. For the most part, I attended schools where sharing meals, different points of view, as well as the history of our cultural roots were not initiatives. We were simply living in our truth, sharing a part of us, with and without their prejudices.
I do believe Pax Cultura (peace through culture) is possible worldwide, as our differences make us unique. My fellow One Young World Ambassador from Swaziland Sakhile Dlamini said “as we build our cultural awareness, we also build bridges to trust, respect and understanding across cultures.” We should bridge the gap between said differences through encouraging dialogue, exercising tolerance and developing policies geared towards supporting cultural diversity. I am encouraged when I hear that nation-states are also taking such principles seriously and enshrining such principles into their national vision. Pax Cultura themed messages from Tweeters around the world, the change agents who will be leading the charge on this issue, further confirm this. It demonstrates a willingness to commit towards peace and understanding, as opposed to war, intolerance and prejudice.
(Ambassador Nondumiso Hlophe holding the Swazi Flag at the 2011 Summit in Zurich)
In my last Tweet for One Young World, I quoted Henry David Thoreau saying what I truly believe: “It is never too late to give up your prejudices.”