Things We Could Never Say: Secrets of Living in the “Rainbow Nation”

For our final project in “Culture, Identity, and Globalisation in Africa” we were asked to come up with a presentation outlining how we have come to think differently about Africa. That’s it. No guidelines as to which direction to aim towards, which themes to focus on, or how to express ourselves. Full creative freedom.

Here is what we came up with. Enjoy!


The idea for this project was born out of the concept of secrets. What do people choose to share or not? How much do people keep inside about their experiences? And is there a way we can share these secrets, which may be too hurtful or shameful or dishonorable to speak openly about? PostSecret became the obvious solution to this dilemma.

My group members and I decided we wanted to pose a similar structure to our fellow study abroad students about their time here in South Africa. It is clear that we are all having the times of our lives and we love South Africa, but we wanted to dig deeper. So we set up an anonymous electronic survey online and asked:

“Coming to a new country, especially one as diverse and complex as South Africa, leaves all of us international students with some thoughts or feelings that we don’t think we can share. Whether you keep it inside because you’re afraid of offending someone, seeming ignorant or being judged – we all have our secrets. What is a secret that you’ve been keeping about your time in South Africa?”

By now you have seen our video and viewed the responses. The secrets covered a variety of emotions and experiences. By creating such a video, we hoped to create a memorialization or archive of our experiences. Students abroad typically document their travels through photographs and trinkets from markets. But how does the story change with this type of archive? We have focused instead on the people and the emotions experienced, not the places and locations. Additionally, how does viewing these secrets affect those who view them? We believe that this project was not only a process of self-reflection for those who participated in sharing secrets, but also creating self-reflection in those who view the video. We hope that by participating in our project students will learn not only about other experiences of their peers, but also about themselves.


I would love to hear what you think about our project!

To my fellow study abroad students around the world – how are secrets affecting your time abroad? Do you have any similar feelings to those my peers and I from South Africa expressed?

One of the secrets not included in the video was: “There is no way my friends from home could handle living here. They are too close-minded and naive.” How does that secret make you feel? Do you think it’s true?

Does any secret particularly resonate with you?

As always, thank you for reading and supporting me!
Much love to all.

2 thoughts on “Things We Could Never Say: Secrets of Living in the “Rainbow Nation”

  1. Abbey, this is great. It’s been so cool to follow your experience (which has been completely different than mine) and I can see how much you’ve gotten out of your time in South Africa.

    I can’t wait to hear even more stories. Oh, and you’re definitely going to have to hook me up with some South African music when we return!

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