The inaugural Illumi.Nation event proved that there is a real need for young people to participate in dialogues that affect their lives.
On Thursday the 29th of August the long-awaited Illumi.Nation event series powered by Strawberry Lips kicked off to a full house. Attendees sat down and engaged in a two-hour open dialogue about being true, living authentically and empowering women (and men) to break down the barriers built over decades of gender conditioning.
One of the most notable insights that emerged from the conversation with the panel of inspirational speakers, Lelemba Phiri, Palesa Mobukung, Dave Duarte and Carl Wastie – and MC, Sibongile Mafu, was in response to a question by a young lady in the audience.
Briefly put, how does one be authentic in South African society where there is such a marked difference between the worlds of the privileged and underprivileged; where something as simple as going to school in an affluent area is in direct contrast to one’s home life?
Not only did the panel have advice, so did stakeholders and members of the audience…
Change the narrative
With real discussions like this, we have already made a start. Perhaps the millennial generation are more empowered to be authentic because they have been afforded more opportunity and been exposed to more open exchanges than Generation X. History shows us that it takes several generations to change ways of thinking and being. It will be interesting to observe the generational characteristics of Gen Z as they grow.
We can change the current narrative by teaching the younger generation to appreciate themselves and the value that they bring to the table, and by encouraging them to stay true to themselves and to take action for equality. In the words of Carl Wastie, “Too many people are falling into the trap of putting themselves in boxes because the only screens we tend to focus on is our social media, cell phones, TVs. Stereotypes are sustained by what the screens tell us but if we are truly going to contribute with our authenticity. We need to get comfortable with the only screen that matters and that’s a mirror”.
Phiri and Mobukung had similar sentiments – be grateful for what you have and accept where you come from. Don’t compare yourself to others, celebrate yourself. Introduce people to your life. Whilst Duarte commented, “Authenticity is about connection. People will follow you when you’re true”.
Recognize that you are valuable and put yourself first – in a healthy way. You only start living when you recognize who you truly are. So, find what makes you happy and do that. To quote Wastie, “It’s not about my car, it’s about what drives me”.
Remember that authenticity is based in positivity and all the wonderful traits that branch off it. For everyone, these are things that we must practise and continuously build on. We learn over time – it’s progress, not perfection.
Marketing Manager for Strawberry Lips, Vanessa Nel, was in attendance as the event sponsor. Working on a brand that aims to make a positive difference in the country, particularly when it comes to the female minority, Nel said, “We were really pleased to get involved with the inaugural Illumi.Nation event because we are passionate about being part of conversations for change and not merely sitting on the side-lines. We feel that being part of these discussions is what makes us authentic as a proudly South African brand”.
“There are very few places in the world today where the younger generation struggle to navigate such a difficult political, economic and societal landscape, and furthermore, voice their concerns around the challenges they face. Unfortunately, in South Africa, we are only now recognizing the difficulties our youth face in their constant struggles with identity issues brought on by this environment. In most other countries the youth can focus on being young adults without all these added dynamics. We believe that Illumi.Nation was a pivotal start on building the self-confidence of the young people in the audience. We will continue to work with like-minded organizations and events that aim to inspire young South Africans going forward”, Nel added.
Illumi.Nation co-founder, Claire Alexander said, “The purpose of Illumi.Nation was to create a bright, inspiring and less formal safe space that encouraged audience members to share authentically and engage in healthy, constructive dialogue. The event took the format of a live, interactive audience. Led by a panel of influential role models that SA youth could relate to, who are authentic in their interactions but are also achieving great things in their respective fields”.