We stepped into a campus full of hopes and dreams and fraught with the desire to find out what the world demanded of us. Friendships were made and broken, we tried to fit in and struggled to stand out; created art that spoke to the world but resonated within. Challenges overcome or otherwise. During my first year I was told point-blank by a lecturer that I would not cut it as a director. And yet here I am—here we are…ever defiant. There is no greater inspiration you can give someone than to underestimate them. To throw down the gauntlet that says “rise”.
And yet here we stand, 3 years later, at a juncture, a pivotal point in the story of our lives, reincarnated storytellers born to lead and not to follow. Saving lives through our music, performances, films and television. We are the protagonists of our lives.
And so I say rise, rise with the expectation of risking it all for better or worse. Because now is the time. Because we will come to fail and do so heavily, but every day we fail a little less on the road to excellence. That refusal to be extinguished.
Go out! Go out into the world and never play it safe. You may be back at school, or working for a boss who doesn’t respect you, or, like myself, staring down the barrel of a R250, 000 college loan. And yet here I stand, truthfully, unafraid. For struggle evokes perseverance amid a world that rallies to define and divide us. And for a time I shunned my African roots in favour of an echelon of society that was never truly ready to accept me in all imperfections and possibilities. No more.
To come into your own. The concept of growing up, always seen as a bad thing, is simply the affirmation of values. Coming to define who you are, the space you exhibit and inhabit. When you can start defining the world on your terms– that is true happiness. And I wish this all for you.
There will be days when you will feel dejected—cast aside. There will be many days like this. But hold on.
Go beyond the syllabus—go beyond the standard and let diligence, love and dedication guide you. For the world will move for love and passion, tenfold. I promise you this. Manifestation of the accumulation of experiences – that is you. Bound by the collective spirit hell bent on living life to the fullest extent. So go out and create.
Promote and uplift excellence – we can no longer fall into jealousy and prejudice. As a foreigner gazing in I say to those purveyors of iniquity: the falling of dry leaves on top of a tree is a warning to other leaves on the tree…so be careful, never celebrate other people’s downfall. We are one, despite the colour of our skin, the languages we may speak, or where we may call home. We are all part of the same tree.
The system is broken, and it is our responsibility to rise up and fix it. For choosing not to act is the same as pulling the trigger or looting a foreign-owned store because an outsider saw the diamond in the rough. So rise up! Question your world, seek answers to once difficult questions in an attempt to carve out an existence free of the overly-privileged and ignorant.
But understand this: the world waits for no man or woman. Seize the pie in the sky and the stars beyond. For in each one of us lies the power of the sun while our roots run deep.
Deep with an African identity held hostage. But let us not conform to the limitations placed on us by others. Contract and expand with the limitless possibilities of imagination—define and recreate in these murky yet exciting times and come to exclaim: I am African! As we go out into the world let us not forget the only way to forge our desired future is to do so together.
And to AFDA – and the rest of the institutions of knowledge and power — I say nurture your greatest assets: students, lecturers and staff alike. In a time when injustice is rife and innocence raped, I say racism is real but we are fools to believe that it is the be all and end all of our problems.
We are sick—deeper scars lie under the folds of racial tension that must be treated to. The crutch of ignorance can no longer be used to pollute our thinking. Cries for accountability echo across the lands with the power to sweep aside entire regimes in their wake. And so I implore, honour your assets, revere, build them up because they deserve it. Any less and we are failures.
And so congratulations to the class of 2016 and to those who helped us get here. Lecturers and family alike, your contributions were invaluable. We would not be standing here without your unwavering support—I would personally like to thank my family and Zunaid Mansoor, my screenwriting mentor and brother. Thank you for everything.
And to you graduates, I praise each and every single one of you for grinding through and overcoming your own challenges. We are here; this is your time. Go out into the world a burn with the excellence of a thousand suns. You may not know it or feel it but I see it in each and every one of you—you hold my deepest reverence and gratitude.
The blood of kings and queens of a time passed by runs through our veins as we stand together because of the sacrifices they made. So stand tall as kings and queens, stand tall and recognize your excellence and heritage and the responsibility that comes henceforth. There is no more room for mediocrity. Go now—go and slay with excellence.