Afrika on My Sleeve is a multi-platform online social enterprise that combines digital storytelling and content with third culture narratives, self-care as a form of resistance and empowerment.
If I was asked to describe myself in a private/social setting I would state that my name is Rowen Paul Alexander, I am 41-years old with no children, I do not smoke, I occasionally like to have a drink, I enjoy surfing and my business is my passion.
When I moved to New Zealand I had just turned 31 and was moving from South Africa because of affirmative action. My electrician business had tendered for work and we ended up not getting the job because I wasn’t black enough. To think 20 years ago I wasn’t white enough and I guess that is one of the problems of being what is called “coloured”. I remember finishing high school in 1992 with dreams of being a pilot so I took my high school certificate with university entrance to the air force. It was 1993 and I went there to Cape Town and was informed by a white lady that I couldn’t apply because the scheme was for white people. I thought to myself, that’s fine and I went and found work as a labourer and later on as an electric labourer. In 1995 I decided to go back to the same air force in Cape Town, to the same building and the same desk but this time there was a black lady sitting behind the desk. She informed me that I couldn’t apply because the scheme was for black people.
We fought during the struggle, we fought for the freedom and when we got the freedom the ruling government said “f*uck you”. I remember being in high school in the 90’s and getting shot at by the police, being told you aren’t allowed to go to this beach, you can’t go to that university and your girlfriend can’t be of a certain colour. I would say living through all that has turned me into a person that doesn’t trust anyone in power because of the treatment we received as a people. As a result I don’t prescribe to any religion, I treat you how you treat me.
Now being out of South Africa we can make jokes about it, we have lived through it. I have learnt that you play with the cards you are dealt with in life and you do whatever it takes to survive. I have played my cards and I have come to New Zealand and I am now fortunate. I wasn’t blessed, I worked my ass off to get to this position with nobody’s help. Awhile ago I was thinking about moving back to South Africa but then I remind myself of the crime and everything else that comes with it then I realised that I am better off depressed in NZ than being happy and unsafe in South Africa. When I went back home 6 years ago, I was glad I went back because you do get lonely here, you also get frustrated at the way the system is slow. Everything in New Zealand is at a slower pace but going back and witnessing the crime and corruption made me realize that I am fortunate to be here. Financially, I would have been better off in South Africa but I would have probably been shot again. As a result I feel I am much better off being in New Zealand from a social point of view.
I chose to be in New Zealand, I love being in New Zealand, I haven’t been shot, I haven’t been mugged, I haven’t been stabbed and I haven’t been robbed. Yes I am lucky to be in New Zealand but I paid $25,000 to be here and yes I am fortunate to be in New Zealand but I also met the criteria and have the required skillset to be here.