Killing sacred cows

At times I consider myself very lucky that we "coloureds" don’t have what could be considered a cohesive culture, something which defines us as a group of people. For clarity to international readers, "coloureds" are a community of about 6 million souls living all over South Africa - mostly in the Western Cape.

We are essentially a community of mixed race people, but were classified as "coloured" under the previous apartheid regime. So where is in the rest of the world "coloured" invariably means black, in SA you can be as white as the driven snow and still be classified as "coloured", like Herschelle Gibbs, the brilliant SA cricketer for example.

As a result of having been conceived about 400 years ago when the Dutch sailors arrived in the Cape and got jiggy with the local maidens, we don’t have any common thread of what you could call cultural expression that binds us, except of course being able to out-drink the Irish and wield a knife faster than the hombres in East LA.

Killing bulls with bare hands

There’s been a helluva drama going on about a particular ritual in Zulu culture which involves a group of young Zulu boys killing a young bull with their bare hands. The debate has been raging on television and radio with animal rights movements even taking the matter to court, but losing out against the Zulus’ right to express their culture.

According to a report, the killing of the bull is quite a protracted affair involving ripping out the animal’s tongue while still alive, and also apparently tying the beast’s penis into a knot?

Culture is one thing, barbarism is quite another. The ancient Aztecs apparently engaged in human sacrifice. The Romans had a gazillion different rituals that involved the killing of all kinds of animals. The Christians, not so long ago, used to burn “heretics” alive at the stake. The point I’m trying to make is that all of these cultures have since evolved to the point where blatant barbarism is excluded in their cultures these days.

A spokesman said on TV that it was a sacred ritual and no media were allowed to film it: ‘much the same as when the Catholics choose a new Pope’. I nearly choked to death on my indignation. I somehow can’t imagine a bunch of cardinals running around naked trying to kill each other and tying knots in each other’s penises behind close doors, although now that I think of it….

Culture to my mind is a living organic thing and surely it has to move with the times to remain relevant to the generations of today?

More and more black Africans are adopting Western ways; black African languages are under threat, you’d be lucky to find a black African kid under 20 who has an African accent these days. This kind of cultural throw back to the past will continue to drive the new generation away from what is probably a rich culture in most other respects.

And I wonder how a parent of a boy who has to maim and inflict excruciating pain on a living thing, in the glare of others, feels about it. I really would like to know, because I can’t imagine myself condoning my kids having to kill anything in the name of any culture!

Do traditional rituals have a role in passing culture from generation to generation?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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