I’m new to Africa on the Blog, so while trying to think of ideas about what to start with, I derived inspiration from Emang’s ‘Who is African?’ post. Here is my response:
I am a South African-born woman whose family originated from various parts of India. My parents were born in South Africa and so were theirs. I am a proud, fourth-generation South African. While most South Africans of Indian decent still refer to themselves as ‘Indian’, I don’t believe this holds true for many, and definitely not for me. I don’t hesitate to correct others (including other black South Africans) when they refer to me as Indian. Having had a very multi-cultural upbringing, there is very little about Indian tradition or culture that I can identify with. Furthermore, I have never even been to India! But here’s where the problem comes in: if I’m not considered African, and I’m not Indian, then where do I belong? Are my people cursed to remain foreigners in their birth-land forever? “I am South African!” I adamantly declare whenever the opportunity presents itself.
After I graduated as an engineer from the University of Cape Town, I moved up to Steelpoort, Limpopo: a rural settlement 4 hours drive from Johannesburg, to work on a major project. When I arrived here and saw just how isolated it was, surrounded in all directions by bushveld, with goats and cows wandering freely everywhere, I was admittedly very nervous. Driving around the rural and unnamed roads, dangerously strewn with potholes the size of small craters, was a real change from the city. I was suddenly alone, alone with Africa and her people. And I felt like I was home.
I could hear the birds busy weaving nests (in the bush) behind the house. I could smell the grass, the earth and the rain before it came. I was breath-taken by the absolute beauty of the first sunset I witnessed here, then quickly realised that every sunset is as beautiful. I learnt to love the long drives to nearby towns and waving at the small children walking home from school. The stillness of the night slowly evaporated into a symphony of energetic voices.
So, who is African? Is it the colour of your skin that makes you African? The colour of my skin does not make me Indian. We now know that Africa is the cradle of humankind. It was out of Africa that every race was born. If you say your genetics alone make you African, then aren’t we all African? No, I think there is more to it than that. It is a connection you have to the place you came from. It is knowing the songs and the languages of the African people. It is feeling your heart swell with pride when your flag is raised and singing your anthem at the top of your lungs. It is knowing the warmth, the colours and the richness of this place, the texture, the earth and the sun. And most of all, it is loving Mother Africa in all her unequalled beauty and all her despairing woes. It is calling Africa ‘home’.
The SA band Dear Reader deals with this issue in their beautiful song, The Same on YouTube .
Land, land of my birth,
Are you my Mother?
Or am I an orphan?
Where, where do I belong?
Will I find a place in this world,
Or forever just wander around?
How did I end up here?
I have nowhere to go,
This is the only home that I know.
Such a great divide between you and I
How I wish it would go,
I live in a place in my mind.
No, I don’t listen to Kwaito,
Wasn’t born in Soweto.
I don’t understand you,
But I want to, you know.
Same, were both the same.
We share the same heart,
We’re made of the same parts.
…Does this land belong to the tribes
Who engraved her stones, with stories of old?
They’re long gone, you know.
Now this is our home…