What's in a face-slap?

2013-04-18 13:22

This man I saw last weekend was so furious he nearly klapped someone for what reason I don’t know; it was none of my business anyway. At the height of his fury, he fumed, swore and pointed his finger at a frightened guy who probably did something terribly wrong, something along the lines of farting inside a lift of a 50-floor building as it leaves the ground floor.

Whatever the case might have been, this provoked me to question why the man chose to threaten the guy with a klap of all forms of beatings in the world. What’s so special about a klap? (Note: I shall spell klap with a K just to avoid drowning you in ambiguity because spelling it with a C is quite problematic in this context: some might mistake it to mean ‘clapping’ hands in church or at a pre-school graduation ceremony. So we shall agree that spelling it with a K will surely drive the message across, like all klaps are essentially meant to do).

I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve all been klapped before. I mean, living in a country notorious for its violence is very telling. Whoever hasn’t been klapped before is either a three-day old baby who is yet to learn how to piss the next person off and get a klap; or a hermit who’s been locked up at their place all their life while occasionally witnessing someone getting klapped through the window; or they might have been living luckily in some far-flung, unheard of village where the word klap doesn’t exist because not even a single villager has a pair of hands to klap around with. But if anyone insists on having virgin cheeks (i.e. cheeks that have never been klapped before) then they surely deserve a special award.  Keep it up!

I still remember my set of klaps very well, all of them in their different types. Let’s look at the “Warm Klap” (Warm in Afrikaans) for instance:

One notorious primary school teacher known for his exceptional klapping skills than his ability to teach mathematics handed this type of klap to me in Standard 5 (Grade 7). It seems Teacher X was not that bad a math teacher after all if I can still remember how many klaps he gave away that day. My pen had run out of ink, a crime equivalent to treason to this scruffy chap. He had been going around checking if the answers we wrote were correct. “That’s good, excellent, well done, brilliant,” he said to each of my classmates who got it right.

I could already smell a klap coming and eventually, he got to me. “What did you write,” he probed, his yellow teeth exposed. Poor me couldn’t think of presenting a compelling justification. Instead, I just scratched my head, thinking of all the attention I was getting and the gossip juice I would become after this episode.

Teacher X gave me three hot klaps before moving on to the next victim. My right cheek became the warmest of all my body parts that winter morning and thus, I got to sadly discover what a “Warm Klap” is all about.

I know it was wrong of Teacher X to klap children, even illegal. But as absurd as it might seem now, being beaten up by a teacher was as normal as a kid who naively believes that every hospital has a canteen that sells babies to women.

And then I came to learn about another klap type one evening I spent with grandpa while roasting a wild rabbit his four dogs helped to catch in the bushes. The thing is, grandpa spoke to his dogs in Afrikaans – regularly throwing words like “voetsek”, “kom” and “sit” around – and that was a bit strange given our geography (a village in Bushbuckridge). So I asked: “No one speaks Afrikaans around here, where did you learn it?” I had pressed the right button, it seems. The old man took me eons back to when he used to unearth gold in Johannesburg. He went on and on about life in the hostels and other city stories and somewhere in between, he would mention something about the dreaded “Kaffir Klap”. This kind of klap, he hinted, was specially reserved for folks who committed “crimes” like walking around without a pass, or being caught drinking their burdens away in a shebeen, and so forth. I was probably too young to understand the nature of the “Kaffir Klap” but at some point I got to assume that it must’ve had a philosophical objective. Perhaps its unique selling point, when juxtaposed with other klap types, was to “keep one in their place”.

By the way, the type of klap that has always kept me intrigued is “molahlelo”, the “Back-hand Klap” – my personal favourite. Not that I’ve used it myself; I’m just amazed by the spontaneous creative process behind it.

The “Back-hand Klap” is so unorthodox. Conventionally, one would expect a standard klap coming from a klapper’s left hand to land on the klappee’s left cheek, for example. “Bank-hand klaps” break this rule, hence my fascination with it. By far, it is also the most brutal and strategic klap of them all because a chap who knows he’s about to get klapped would find it difficult to block it. So on behalf of irrational klappers out there, I sincerely apologise to anyone who’s been on the receiving end of the “Back-hand Klap”. Ouch!

Some argue that there’s even a fluffy type of klap – the “Soft Klap” AKA “b*tch slap”. Main characteristic: it makes a little sound that goes “twhaa!” I’m told it’s very popular on TV, as seen after a cheating dude has been caught by his girlfriend. I’ve never seen this type of klap in real life before and until then, it remains a far-fetched fantasy.

I’ll here-forth talk about things I’ve seen, like the “Double-Impact Klap”. It reminds me of Benny the cowardly kid. You see, in my childhood there were kids renowned for mastering the art of making stinging jokes on other kids. Benny was one of those; no self-respecting kid would dare challenge him in a “gwara-gwara” battle (something like a dissing contest). His brand of jokes was so spiteful that losers tended to want to klap him for the humiliation they would have suffered. But this verbal rascal had another talent; he could sprint away from a physical attack, stopping at a distance to shoot more thorny jokes to his audience’s delight.

One unlucky day Benny was caught off guard while chatting to a group of friends. His enemy – a kid who once lost a “gwara-gwara” game to him – sneaked on the verbally gifted boy from behind and planted a thunderous klap with on Benny’s cheeks using both hands, as if to kill an annoying mosquito. The klap must’ve had profound impact since it was served unexpectedly. Despite the electrifying “Double-Impact Klap” he got, Benny never stopped making nasty jokes anyway. No doubt it was talent pushing him.

There are many more klap types out there to talk about, like the “Take-5 Klap” – the one that prints a palm and five fingers especially on the cheeks of light-skinned people. But for now, I’m more concerned with the question at hand: What’s in a klap? Could it be that it has the ability to humiliate, like when a chap is laughed at more for being klapped than if he were kicked on the butt?

Whatever the case, my conclusion is that the act of klapping is wrong. A klap is involved in many cases of women abuse and for that matter, we should sign a petition calling for the banning of the klap. Wouldn’t it sound lekker for SA to be known around the world as the first country to ban klapping?

Surely this could even go down well to shake off our “Very Violent Country” reputation. We just never know.

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