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Camera, lights, action: shining the light of our personhood

Two Thursdays ago, I had the opportunity to see Sarafina at the Nelson Mandela Joburg theatre. It was the finale weekend, which is always a treat. I think it’s something about the nostalgia of the cast seeping into their treatment of the piece in a way that energizes; almost like an elder in the prime of their strength. You can see everything that is and was great, strong, deep, and frail about them all at once, and it’s wonderful. Definitely, my favorite time to go see a production. That, or in the spring of the production when all is fresh and new. But I digress…

Sarafina has traveled the world successfully and has had a good run as they say. As I watched, what struck me, outside of the myriad of emotions that always accompanies any entry point into the utter shock and inhumanity that was apartheid, was the elevation of one aspect of South African indigenous cultural life and tradition as “the” expression of South African indigenous culture and tradition. Maybe my sense of equity and inclusion were disturbed. But, the more overpowering sensory discomfort was the conflation of a part into the whole.

This ambassador of South African history and cultural experience is all or as close as some will have of the country their entire lives. In that curiously touristic way we all have of experiencing “the other”, I wondered how satisfied some would feel at having been immersed, even for a short while in this version of the South African experience. How much of it would feel expected and therefore leave them satisfied?

Hang in there, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise you. Because I also thought about those like me who have had a deeper immersion. Did they like me think wistfully of what could have been if other colorful and decidedly different representations of South African culture and tradition were included in the piece? I think it would have been even more fabulous. I wondered if it was ever a possibility with the producers. And, if the very fact of the weird and wonderful and different were what shot that idea down.

How often do we do that in our own lives? What are we all missing out on because your inner producer, that voice within, shot down the idea that you could do more, be more, or show up differently? How often are we as people so stuck in what we might feel are the best representations of ourselves that we miss out on the gift to ourselves and others, of showing up more fully? How often do we miss or resist the opportunity to bring our crazy, different, more exciting selves or ideas or points of view into our leadership practice, that team conversation, or just in a night out with friends? Is it because we think it’s too risky? It’s not “the brand ME” people have paid to watch, so to speak?

We were born with infinitely more than most of us express. I believe we were crafted with love, to impact the world with the uniqueness that only we can bring. Are you hiding your light or only letting it peak through once in a while? We, the rest of the world need your brilliance. Let your light shine.

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