Coloured or Brown?...either way, we are blessed to be diverse

2013-07-08 11:40

In the early 1990s at age five or so, sitting on my ‘bike’ in the road with my childhood associates; when I declared: ‘Ek is ‘n Bruinmense’ (I am a Brown Person), I was ‘corrected’ and told ‘Nee! Jy’s ‘n Kleurling Anneke’ (No! You’re a Coloured Anneke).

Since then it has been hard for me to identify with what I initially thought I was; until a recent conversation about this noise about coloured people needing to be called ‘brown.’ While I was making my case about how although the term coloured is oppressive, we should take ownership and invert it – claim it and then we can move forward because why bother with all this identity politics; I remembered the above mentioned childhood incident.

Where until then the term brown was logical to my immature and honest mind – but now it seem silly. Could this mean that my argument was false? If as a child I saw myself as just a regular average kid – and I decided I was brown but then was told no, it’s coloured. But what is coloured, what is brown and what am I?

I am Anneke, named after my mother Anne, who was named after my great grandmother, Anna Loxton. Anna was a farmer, her father was an Englishman but she did not inherit her land from him. Her mother – a Booysen - was a Baster woman whose father gave her and her husband land as a bridal gift. Basters are a group of people largely located in Namibia, who are a mix between the Nama people and the Germans – bushman and white mix. They have land because they inherited it from their German forefathers.

Throughout my lineage there is a strong nama-griqua influence. Although my grandmother falsely told me that she was white, my other great grandmother was a pureblood griqua woman. She married an Australian – Tyres was his name – who was here to fight in the Anglo- Boer war.

It was only at university while chatting with a friend, who is a very proud Baster woman from Nambia; that I discovered that I am ‘gebaster.’ As this friend explained what a Baster is. But although there is land attached to our identity that was not taken away because it did not fall in white designation during apartheid, I don’t have a distinctive connection to what it means to be a Baster, beyond being proud, almost to a fault.

I am fortunate that I can trace my identity back to Loxtonvale in the Northern Cape – between Keimoes and Kakamas. My Father, born in Namibia, to migrant farm workers, doesn’t know when he moved to the Keimoes, Kakamas region. While his siblings wear the features of a griqua lineage – he doesn’t.

Strangely, while my father has narrow eyes and high cheekbones, he also has fine jet black hair and olive skin. This leads me to think that there must have been a Malay influence as his late grandmother – who I met years ago had similar black hair and olive skin. Sadly there is no real record of migrant workers and much of this side of my bloodline is a mystery.

So I have a good understanding of where I come from, and I know what places gave rise to my existence. I understand the value that strong women who I only know in spirit as a namesake and this gives me confidence to move forward.

After thinking about my cultural background, and thinking about the political historic realities that took place in the Northern Cape and Namibian region that shaped my decent; perhaps five year old Anneke has a point. While the majority of us are spread beyond the Namaqualand and into Namibia: I am among the first generation of so called ‘Cape Tonian Coloureds’, in my family.

My uncertainty is a blessing. It means that I am blessed to have a lineage that is almost artwork in its vibrance and variance. The transborder transracial and transculturalism that it represents reinforces my belief that I am an African, I am proudly South African, a young upwardly mobile woman – and think we should do away with the need for racial classification but if I must check that box, I’ll draw a new one and call it brown like I did at age five.

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