RCYC ACADEMY REPORT – by Lindani Mchunu
My father and I having a standing joke; it refers to the reason why black people are afraid of the ocean. We quippedbetween ourselves that we think the reason is because slavery and colonisation came by the way of the Sea. Big ships with white sails came from the sea and all hell broke loose. So, through cellular memory, black people are afraid of the Ocean and Boats. My father then went on to tell me that the next best thing that black people can do for themselves is to familiarise themselves with the ocean and boats, just in case history should repeat itself. At the heart of the joke is the fact that, African people were ill prepared to deal with what came from the ocean, they did not have the ability to go out to sea and meet these strange objects. It’s a joke with a bit of truth in it, I guess. With imminent climate change upon us and rising sea levels, it’s probably a good idea for black people to familiarise themselves with the ocean once more. I often wonder whether we are fooling ourselves, can we really introduce a culture of sailing and general boating to a people that have no direct link to this world in their immediate environment.
Prior to slavery and colonisation was the African continent a seafaring civilisation? Some history does speak of certain African nations that had seafaring capabilities, how far they ventured out and the level of skill and technology is not too clear. What is certain is that we never gained full dominion of the ocean, not that anybody ever could really, but exploration and merchant shipping was the foundation of the global proliferation of western civilisation and commerce. Whether it was through plunder or trade the European nations were able to increase their influence and territories via the sea.
On paper kids living in townships today have a very low life expectancy compared to kids living in more affluent areas. The fact that there are people who actually make it out of the township and make a success of themselves is a miracle on its own. Farmers talk about fertile soil. The environment and conditions have to be conducive in proportion to the best laid plans. It then makes it obvious that our work here at the academy operates outside the confines of logic. We have kids coming from townships, into a world bearing no resemblance to their daily lived experience and we are trying to persuade them to adopt this new world, with no re-enforcements at home. They spend one day in our world and the rest of their lives in the other world.
Recently Liverpool football club beat Barcelona foot club in a champion’s league semi-final. Going into the match they were 3-0 behind on aggregate, Barcelona just had to draw or score one goal to seal the match. By any stretch of the imagination no one gave Liverpool a chance, no one expected Liverpool to win the match by 4-0 at the end of 90min. Yet for some odd reason even though all the odds were against Liverpool they won. On paper the South African Rugby team of 1995 had no chance against New Zealand, how could a team that had not had the experience of playing on the international stage for so long come and beat a stalwart of the game? On paper South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela was supposed to tear itself apart, a civil war was imminent and certain parts of the country in the early 90’s definitely looked the part. Yet here we are 25yrs later and no civil war, although many still believe it’s coming. The question is what makes the impossible possible? The answer is the same for both scenarios. People make the possible impossible and People make the impossible possible. If people share a common vision and purpose and are motivated enough and are willing to dig deeper than what is immediately available at their disposal, miracles occur. I am currently putting all my efforts to try and secure a sponsorship for the Academy Rio campaign on Archangel. It seems like an impossible task at the moment. Yet what I am sure of is the cause is just. The kids that will get to crew on Archangel and sail across the Atlantic to Rio, will never forget the experience. I cannot think of any other mind-bending experience then for someone to be entirely removed from their accepted reality. Like going to space, you are bound to come back a changed person.
This is my wish for this crew that will go to Rio, to go across the Atlantic and with each passing day on their voyage, convention is turned into radical inspiration. All the barriers they encounter every day in the township will fall way, they will be in an environment, where for the first time, the horizon is always shifting, willing you to keep going. I have been eyeing this Race since 2017 when I arrived here. I am sending all my energy out into the Universe. The Cape2Rio Archangel campaign must no longer remain a dream but it must be a reality…