Gosiame and Derek are two colleagues at an NGO in Johannesburg. One is 30-something, black and lives in a densely populated section of Soweto; the other is over 60, white and lives in a well-resourced suburb in Jozi’s northern suburbs. Apart from their shared passion for Orlando Pirates, at first glance it appears they have very little in common.
But through an informal teambuilding exercise of sharing their stories with colleagues in the office, they realised they had an unusual moment of intersection in both their histories. As a young, white male living under apartheid in the early 80s, Derek was conscripted to the army and had to patrol and guard the highly contested region of Soweto. As a black youngster growing up under an oppressive and highly unjust regime, Gosiame was enlisted as a comrade, a freedom fighter groomed to resist – even by force – any police officer or other apartheid agent entering Soweto.
You know my name, but not my story
We live in a country where suspicion, fear, prejudice and racism plague us daily. The growing sentiment seems to be anti-black, anti-white, anti-rich, anti-poor, anti-foreigner … in fact anti-everyone who is not like us or threatens our comfort. We have a trust deficit that affects the quality of our relationships with others and hinders us from getting to know each other better.
Heartlines, the Centre for Values Promotion, believes that getting to know each other’s stories is the first step towards breaking down the misconceptions and prejudices that divide us. Just because you know someone’s name, doesn’t mean you know their story. What’s your Story? is a Heartlines initiative to build understanding and, ultimately, trust and reconciliation through the sharing of our stories. Personal storytelling gives us a nonthreatening foundation from which we can have authentic conversations with people we interact with daily, those we know well and those we don’t.
Five elements of What’s your Story
The film, Beyond the RiverInspired by true events, this is the nailbiting story of two men from different backgrounds whose quest to win gold connects them on and beyond the river. Regarded by some critics as “the most spectacular South African cinema experience of our time!” Beyond the River is the film to kickstart a culture of personal storytelling. Available on DVD or by order at https://shop.heartlines.org.za.
Multimedia resources on personal storytelling. Easy-to-use resources to empower you to share stories at work, church, faith-based small groups, youth groups, high schools or on campus. These resources include DVD stories of inspiring individuals such as Gosiame and Derek.
Leadership engagementsTwo-day offsite engagement for leaders of a particular sector who work together to overcome a specific challenge within their sector.
Community mobilisationTo date, over 2800 leaders nationwide have engaged in What’s your Story?, with many workplaces citing a notable increase in workplace cohesion.
Online platformRead, listen to and watch the stories of ordinary people making an extraordinary impact in our nation. www.whatsyourstory.org.za.
To find out more, visit www.heartlines. org.za or email whatsyourstory@ heartlines.org.za Photo credits: Taken from Heartlines resources (credited within resources)