Addressing cultural clashes

2008-10-02 08:05

COCONUT is the third winner of the European Union Literary Award - last year it went jointly to Fred Khumalo's Bitches Brew and Gerald Kraak's Ice in the Lungs, while in 2005 the winner was Ishtiyaq Shukri's The Silent Minaret. The award was launched at the 2004 National Arts Festival by the embassies of the European Union in South Africa as a way of encouraging new writing from this country, with Jacana Media as the publishing partner, guaranteeing the winner publication.

This is sassy, in-your-face, intelligent writing. Not didactic, not preaching, but laying out the problems faced by an important sector of society - upwardly mobile black youth. Cultural cringe has long been used as a convenient shorthand for the attitude that sees everything as superior if it comes from “overseas”. But Coconut shows an even more local version - the anguish that apeing white manners and customs can cause for young blacks. Why must they speak as if they they grew up in some South African concept of the Home Counties? Why must they lose touch with their own traditions? Because they are being told, overtly and covertly, that this is the way to succeed.

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