Live your culture

2016-09-18 06:09
CULTURED Rhodes University student Tolakele Silo (22) being conferred a BA degree in journalism and media studies

CULTURED Rhodes University student Tolakele Silo (22) being conferred a BA degree in journalism and media studies

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Culture is a phenomenon that needs to be bequeathed.

In Sepedi, there is an adage that goes “Ngwana wa moshimane o tjea molao kgorong”.

This loosely translates that a boy should be taught morals by men in the family.

This is a patriarchal and primitive law that was made to prepare a young man to be a responsible future head of the family.

His mum might have been the one that endured the hardship of carrying him for nine months, but primary and fundamental moral instruction was the responsibility of the elderly men in the family.

I first observed this unorthodox traditional law when I used to visit my relatives during winter school breaks.

As soon as I arrived in the family yard, I would be summoned to kgorong (yard entrance) to give formal greetings to the elders.

This was sort of a visit initiation to me. The visit was an eye-opener, as the greeting formalities were so peculiar to me, considering my urban background.

Twice I was unwittingly given what is known as ntahla (a backhand klap) by my grandfather for not taking my hat off before entering the family yard. This was a comeuppance from the old man to his recalcitrant rascal, I think.

As absurd as it might seem now, being beaten by him was considered normal.

He reminded me that, the moment I set foot in his yard, I should be conscious that I was entering a homestead that was deeply rooted in its culture, where traditional protocol needed to be observed.

I had no choice but to remain subservient like a goat tied on a leash.

Informal as it was, the doctrine was important in my teenage stage, as I was sort of a cultural exponent to boys my age. It made me be proud of my culture.

This included taking part in almost everything that had to do with the traditional Pedi way of doing things.

That is where I learnt that this was part of my identity, culture and roots. Whether I forsake it or not, it will follow me wherever I go, like my shadow.

It shaped me into who I am today.

I was not surprised when I read about a young Xhosa woman, Tolakele Silo, who defied the norms of the graduation ceremony by performing a traditional Xhosa dance on stage when conferred her BA media studies degree.

Ululations of Xhosa clan names from Silo’s family dominated the space. Even the administrators, whom Silo was supposed to seek permission from, could not spoil her day.

It was reported that her family called out the family’s clan names as she danced on the stage, whip in hand, to the surprise of hundreds people in the hall who cheered and applauded her. This was part of her Xhosa ethos.

“I refused to ask because no one should stand in the way of my identity. People are so proud of me breaking the norms and actually getting them to get out of their comfort zones.

"So many people are not comfortable showing their identities and their culture to the world. I have managed to educate people about my culture and my identity, and encouraged them to come out and be more proud about who they are.

"It took me a while to realise how proud I should be about my culture,” said Silo during an interview with City Press about her captivating performance on stage.

While we are celebrating Heritage Day, it is an indisputable fact that, while we are diverse as a country, we have incarcerated our culture with the shackles of conformity.

What used to define us as Africans is now overshadowed by Western imperialism – our behaviour, idiosyncrasy, nomenclature and stereotypical view on one’s culture.

As we will be wearing our different cultural regalia on this day, it is incumbent on us as custodians of our own cultures to not only remember our identity on this particular day, but rather to bequeath it to the next generation.

As Jamaican leader Marcus Garvey once said: “A people without the knowledge of its history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Mogotlane is a public servant


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