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  • Deidré

Benefits of Britishness (2020)

10 years ago I swore allegiance to the queen.

Less than a year later I left, passport in hand and ready to go travelling. Ready to just show up at any border and be welcomed with open arms. No more pre-arranged visa applications, interviews and other hoops to jump through.

Yes, I felt some guilt and shame, but only some and only momentarily.

If you've ever paid a visit to the "British" museum, you may have some understanding of why this may be. With its shameless display of stolen goods, it's hard not to leave feeling deeply solemn and moved to tears. Authorities still refuse to return many of those artefacts to their countries of origin.

If you're even slightly aware of South Africa's colonial and consequent history, perhaps it's easier to empathise. So many resources including land, livestock, minerals and people were exploited for financial and political gain with a divide-and-conquer strategy that still persists in our collective psyche.

What would South Africa be like in a parallel universe without colonialism? Who really knows? From a western perspective, one could argue that it also brought certain benefits such as education, infrastructure, legal, political and religious institutions. Heck, I possibly would be unable to write this in English!

But all these so-called benefits are highly contentious. Who's to say that any of these are better than what would have been? So much traditional wisdom and practices have been lost, diluted, dispersed or devalued. I guess we'll never know. That choice was taken away.

So frankly, on that day 10 years ago, it felt like I was reclaiming from the kingdom just a token of what was forcefully taken from my ancestors and homeland that still feels the bitter repercussions today.

The challenge that I face, and pose to myself, now that I'm settled back in South Africa is this.... How do I ensure that the privilege and exposure that I've gained filter its way back to my community?

The most valuable tools that I acquired and that I feel most passionate about passing forward are, yes, you guessed it... YOGA!

It's not just about contorting your body into all sorts of impossible positions. There are yogic practices and principles that help release heavy emotions, that help free our minds of ways of thinking that no longer serve us and that can help us cultivate active compassion for all those involved.

Please don't take my word for it, try it for yourself. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is the practice.

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