AM I AFRICAN?
By: Khethukuthula Lembethe
The African continent is filled with diverse cultures, races, religions and languages. It has a rich history.
People question- what makes them African? Is it the colour of their skin? The geographic location of where they were born? The people in their family, or the language they speak?
Language is just a means of communication; it is not your identity.
Warwick Bruce Chapman, a local politician once probed: Are you really an African if you cannot speak an African language?
“Afrikaans and South African English have their roots almost entirely in German, Dutch, French and English. Can they fairly be considered to be African languages?”
This question raised many eyebrows, sarcastic remarks and defensive responses.
Leigh Reilly said, “They may not be African languages,but that does not make you any less of an African.”
Clinton Ramsbottom sarcastically asked, “So your African status is defined by the language you speak and not the continent of your birth?”
Councillor Francois Greyling can speak Setswana. “Does that make me an African then?” he asks.
“I studied Zulu for two years at Varsity. At what stage did my transformation happen?” questions Ivan Boniaszczuk.
Many people living in Africa have no desire to have the “I am African” title and prefer just to be referred to by their race or the country they are from.
Riaan Leeuwner strongly states, “I am not African, I am South African. To me there is a big difference. My country of birth is South Africa. I am therefore a South African. I don’t want to be associated with the rest of Africa.”
By the way what is an “African” language? Where did they develop from?” asks Peter Avis.
Many, like Peter Avis may ask, “What makes an African language, African then?
Even though some may argue that the most spoken language in Africa is French, in a country like South Africa, Nguni languages are regarded more African than French or English.
Peter Newmarch argues, “What if going back four generations my ancestors spoke Zulu, but currently I don’t? They are African but I am not? That cannot be the measure, as it implies that you and your offspring will always speak that language.”
Clinton Ramsbottom thinks that “It is also worth taking a look at South African English. While it is generally the same as English elsewhere, we have our little words and phrases that have been added over time to make it ours. Perhaps the English we speak is African after all.“
Many are pleased and satisfied with being called African, and are proud of the continent they were born in.
Esme Collins positively says, “I speak, read and write Xhosa but it does not make me feel more African. Does it make me more (South) African? One thing I have witnessed though is that one does garner more respect from the indigenous African.”
Wayne Hodgson said, “Being born in Africa makes me African… Despite having European parents… Just as that would make a Mozambican an African, despite speaking Portuguese… An American is such that he or she was born in America regardless of lineage.”
Terri Stander says, “I am an African by birth. However, I am learning an African language to supplement my non-African side.”
“I was born in Africa, which makes me African,” Gillian Jane Addams affirms.
Donna Stevenson says, “To call yourself a South African you need to share one or more of the following – language, culture or territory. I call myself a South African because I was born here, because I love my country and because I live here.”
Ivan Boniaszczuk says, ”Nationality should be ascribed only on where you call home, and with whom you identify.“
Andre Rautenbach says, ”I’m too ‘European’ to be an African, and too African too be a European,” and he adds that we should all learn more indigenous languages in order to understand more stories and gain different perspectives to a narrative.
Clinton Ramsbottom says, “I am an African, I am a South African, I am a Durbanite. Not one or the other, but all of them.”
Whatever it may be that defines “African”, one thing is evident; diversity is a gene we all possess.