We must recognise all cultures

2013-01-06 10:10

No society will ever be at peace with itself if it does not come to terms with the cultural tenets that define it. This applies especially to heterogeneous settings like South Africa.

The relationship between social groupings in a particular society requires cultural mediation for cohesion, and ultimately, the building of a common nationhood. The absence of commonality implies a lack of glue holding that society together.

History has shown that diverse social groupings cannot be held together superficially.

South Africa is a community of different ethnic groups, holding and practising different cultural beliefs. The multicultural nature of South African society is sealed in the country’s motto: !ke e: /xarra //ke. This literally means “diverse people unite”. Regrettably, no adequate provisions or guidelines are provided towards the expectation.

Actually, one of the founding tenets of the Constitution seems to contradict the objective of unity.

The notion of “non-racism” contained in the preamble of the Constitution, as one of the founding values of the state, seems diametrically to contradict cultural diversity, given the fact that diversity is precipitated on the recognition of cultural differences, whereas the prefix (non) in “non-racism” seems to obliterate ­racial (read, ethnic) dynamics.

Multiculturalism in South Africa is currently poised as a plural method that seeks to unite diverse cultures without necessarily providing a framework; almost like a metaphoric salad without a dressing, or dough that has no yeast.

The absence of adequate cultural policy frameworks is sometimes augmented by off-the-cuff political statements, as exemplified by President Jacob Zuma’s recent apparent association between domestic animals and hair-straightening with white culture. The furore over ­Zuma’s statement in the mainstream and social media signals that South Africa is far from reaching its multifaceted yet inclusive and tolerant cultural fulcrum.

This is unless it urgently revives and sustains the “national question” discourse to discover the cultural ­arbitration in and for its ethnic diversity, to achieve lasting and peaceful coexistence.

The consequences of leaving cultural intercession to fate are too ghastly to contemplate. South Africa’s history has illustrated the repercussions of allowing cultural misunderstandings, suspicions and tensions to simmer.

Certain cultural explosions in South Africa have actually come to punctuate particular historic moments, and have thus influenced the charting of new political trajectories.

South Africa’s cultural diversity requires some elements of local cultural relativity to prevent history repeating itself.

»?Nawa is an arts, culture and heritage specialist and director of Dashiki Cultural Resource

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