Friends & Friction: As they insult your proud Afro, just smile

The landscape changes complexion with the seasons. Thirsty, bitten by frost and battered by unforgiving winds, the green pastures have taken on the colour of the king of the beasts.

We know from folklore that lions once roamed here, where masses of cows now feed fearlessly. If someone had been attracted to Ixopo on a pilgrimage to the setting of Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, that person would feel conned and unfairly accuse the great author of dishonesty.

It rains milk here, with more than 1.2 million litres produced per day.

Drive towards the sea, past Umzinto, and the black and fearsome forests that once swallowed mothers who went to gather wood now have signs that read Highflats, Sappi or Mondi.

It is no longer the cannibals who children have to be careful of, but logging trucks and flying taxis that whizz through the long and winding regional road.

It is always pleasing to see rural children in school uniform. They are a constellation of hope and I always have the feeling that I am looking at future Nobel laureates, like Chief Albert Luthuli or Nelson Mandela. I also know that if maths, science and economics were taught, I’d be looking at a melanined version of a future Albert Einstein or Joseph Stiglitz.

I worry when I see a boy holding a girl’s hand, because I know that soon there will be a baby in the making. The bush all around them, the hormones pumping and, with no condom in sight, experiments lead to bad results.

Good news for those with a sweet tooth, the sugar cane looks good.

The sun is on its knees and, in its weakness, it reveals the warmer colours of life when all people are photogenic and the landscape looks like a postcard.

If there is indeed nothing new under the sun, it is because the moonless sky is hiding it all. Darkness is good and so is ignorance. It affords men and women a chance to dream and see new visions without any distraction of truth.

So count yourself lucky if you ever find yourself unsure or confused by the situation you’re in.

It simply means the centre of your universe or sun is gone – and you have become that centre. It may well be the right time to make changes in your life.

Perhaps you’ve come to the cul-de-sac of the career you loved so much. Maybe your boss has reached his ceiling and so the only place available for you is under the table. So you have to change before the rust of time corrodes your soul.

In life there are two kinds of cooks. Those who see food as nourishment and those who seek out the taste of even the lowliest tripe.

So it is with work. There are those who work for money. They will die poor.

As for those who add flavour to their work, they will have a more fulfilled life, for their god is not a lifeless bank account and they are not slaves to all things that sleep in a garage.

Our work as contemporary Africans is to rebuild a continent ravaged and plundered by apartheid, colonialism and slavery; not with bricks and mortar alone, but with culture as well.

Currently, we seem to be concerned with constructing mounds and mounds of stomachs while our souls are starving. Regrettably, we are regressing.

In effect, transformation has meant more skin-lighteners and weaves in the workplace. We are copying everything white, including racism and xenophobia. It’s embarrassing how black executives make jokes about blacks to their white colleagues.

They’re inadvertently perpetuating prejudice, as they mistake self-deprecation with self-defecation.

The best you can do is to be yourself. The people you do business with will have no respect for you if they suspect you are a fake.

Remember, it is not by fluke that you are where you are, but because you are good. So keep your head high, wear that Afro and those ethnic earrings. If they complain about your attitude or complexion, smile, because you’re doing something right.

Kuzwayo is founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency
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