We are all Colouredby Nathan Zeno / 04.06.2009
While the equal rights or gay marker flag has rainbow colours, it is not a true representation of a rainbow. Its edges are defined. In a true rainbow, the colour lines are blurred. Moreover, in a true multi-cultural society, so are the definitions of race and identity. South Africa is a nation of mixed descent, one where, supposedly, the idea of race has been abandoned and cultural identity is re-enforced. If cultural identity defines our colour, then we are all a mixed breed of Scottish quadroons, Dutch pentaroons, Zulu sextoons, and so forth. Essentially, we are all coloured now. But we are all individuals with, like all humans before us, mixed heritage. Embracing your heritage is part of defining your identity, no matter how dark or bright.
What Zulu doesn’t have a little Xhosa? What Afrikaner in Oranje doesn’t have a hidden Malay great grandparent? I was struck by these thoughts when I witnessed a certain inconsistency of thinking. I was driving in a car with two friends – one proud of her mixed descent, the other proud of his Zulu heritage, myself a bastard Scot, French, Jew Methodist agnostic, mostly bemused. Now these definitions don’t really cover who these people are and certainly are only laid down in retrospect, for instruction. I am discussing a philosopher from the 1800s, who I quote. In the quote the word “kaffir” is used; this skims past my coloured friend and offends my Zulu friend (note – I am here defining them).
Later in the conversation we are discussing where to go out. My Zulu friend wants to go somewhere where there are “drunk white girls.” This amuses me, and offends my coloured friend. After all, what is wrong with drunk girls of all colours?
What I am trying to illustrate is that we are a nation of individuals, each one made up of their own specific heritage and we all respond according to those experiences and choices that have made us. It is pointless to try and clearly define these things, as it is pointless to not accept where we come from. We are a nation of drifters and bastards, hewn in the hard sun and cold winters.
Made by joy and regret, like any other nation or grouping of people. There will always be someone to offend and someone to amuse. Sometimes we say horrible things in innocence; sometimes we reveal our innocence when we are most horrible. Being defensive or offensive really doesn’t work. Acceptance of the past is a way forward, trying to change it is just impossible, so then why do we fight about who we are? Surely. the facts of where we come from are unchangeable and even quite beautiful in dissecting the tangents that connect us all?
Images courtesy Levi’s® Original Music © Ian Engelbrecht – shot at Oppikoppi 2008.