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The Rainbow Nation

We have all heard the term ‘Rainbow Nation’ used in relation to South Africa, but who coined the term and what does it mean?

South Africa as Rainbow Nation

The Rainbow Nation was first used by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa after South Africa’s first fully democratic election held in 1994. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a South African social rights activist and played a crucial part in the opposition of apartheid during the 1980s and even to today is considered a “voice for the voiceless” as declared by late President Nelson Mandela.

Rainbow influence

The term ‘Rainbow Nation’ was intended to capture the unity of the many cultures and the coming-together of people of many different nations, in a country once identified with the strict division of white and black in the Apartheid era. South Africa has 11 official languages and may different cultures whose heritage include Malay travellers, indigenous African and Khoi San tribes, Asian emigrants as well as Dutch and British settlers, making it one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. In a series of televised appearances, Tutu also spoke of the “Rainbow People of God” as within South African indigenous cultures, the rainbow is associated with hope and a bright future.

President Nelson Mandela

“Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.” President Nelson Mandela further rooted this term during his first month in office.

Other symbolism

The South African flag also represents a Rainbow Nation by sporting 6 different colours, further entrenching the country as a Rainbow Nation. As the term ‘Rainbow Nation’ symbolises a beacon of hope after the travesties of Apartheid, even today it represents hope for a brighter future to all South Africans. While there have been a lot of economic and social growth since the 1994 democratic election, many South Africans still struggle under the burdens of poverty and inequality resulting in many South African volunteer opportunities being created to help the poor and disadvantaged find hope for a better future.

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