Revisiting Culture

Decolonisation. This seems to be the word of the day. University  students throughout the country are fighting for a more Afro-centric  curriculum without the baggage of the colonial past. Relaxed hair is now  frowned upon by many, and natural hair is in. African print is en  vogue. Animals are being slaughtered in suburban backyards. Children are  being given long and hard to pronounce names.  Yellow bones are losing  to darker tones. Africa is coming back!

Now, this is a good thing. Sometimes. Anglo is no longer the  assumed standard, with other groups being seen as deviant. There is now a  rise in people making African print outfits, as you probably won’t find  dashiki fabric in H&M. BrownSense market has more vendors selling the same thing. People get to sound  intellectual by speaking of the ‘great African past’. All lovely.  Sometimes.

You see, in trying to rediscover our different identities, many have  created a picture of ‘Africanness’ which they then impose on  others. Recently with the tragic passing of Gugu Zulu, many people  commented that his wife, Letshego Zulu, was not mourning properly.  Apparently, she was not supposed to speak at the funeral. Gugu’s mother  should’ve spoken. She also shouldn’t talk to other people. And she  shouldn’t visit friends. And she should have her own plate and cup.  Because culture.

Similarly, recently my wife and I had a maternity photoshoot. One of  the pictures was of my wife wearing her traditional Xhosa garb. This  picture mysteriously landed on a Xhosa Culture Facebook page. Somebody  commented that it is improper for a pregnant woman to wear black.  Because culture.

Can people just live? Culture is a continuously evolving social  contract between people, and therefore it is not expected that what was  considered normal and acceptable to Nongqawuse is then a requirement until the return of Yeshua ben-Yosef.  And by the evolution of a culture, I do not mean becoming more  ‘western’ as if that is the heavenly standard to which we should all  aspire . I just mean continuously re-evalutating how we live as a  collective, and seeking to improve ourselves.

So can those who have relaxed hair, and weaves be comfortable in it  without being assumed shallow or compromised. Can those who want to wear  a suit instead of a dashiki or leopard print top to a function be  comfortable to do so. Can those of us who didn’t grow up drinking Epsom  salts be comfortable in knowing we also had a real African upbringing.  Can those who have their rural areas in Sandton, be allowed to go to  their rural areas without shame. Can the African identity be dynamic and  not a static myopic understanding of stories half-told and  half-remembered. Can we just live. Mayibuye! iAfrika!

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