In a rather failed attempt to appeal to the notion of a “rainbow Stellenbosch University” the #IamStellenbosch movement, launched on the eve of Heritage Day, involved students holding up pieces of paper with statements scribbled on them about their identities. These proclamations were aimed at disarming the stereotypes associated with these identities.
The university of Stellenbosch is ranked highly among African Universities but is also notoriously known for segregation amongst its black and white students. During the campaign, the pieces of paper featured statements such as " I am Afrikaans but I listen to rap music" unconsciously meant to prove that cultural appreciation or assimilation automatically make one immune to racism or attain an "Not racist" badge on their sleeve. This caused much social media unrest amongst Black Twitter!
Amongst these were some black people who also held up placards, which read the following:
- I am Non-White And Prefer My Classes In Afrikaans.
- I Am A South African Before I Am Sesotho.
- I Am Non-White And I Am Afrikaans.
- I Am Coloured And Do No Fully Understand Apartheid.
This campaign I found was especially worrisome during the time we were celebrating Heritage Day. And it disturbed me because all the above statements, which were made by black people felt like they were separating themselves from their culture and blackness. First by calling themselves “non-white” and secondly by attempting to dilute who they are by aligning themselves to the majority.
This campaign also made me look at Heritage Day differently. As black people what then is your heritage if you dont see yourself as black or as MoSotho? If you dont fully understand apartheid then what history are you celebrating when it comes to Heritage Day. As black people we are for the most part made to “other” ourselves in order to fit into the bigger, whiter picture we were reluctantly assimilated into in the early nineties. And when we do this well enough we get ONE day a year where we can be our full African selves and take some pride in it. If Heritage Day is the one day that I get to be Xhosa, who the hell am I meant to be the other 364 days...non-white?
At this point most of the people around me had put down their boerie rolls at the daunting realisation of the vagueness of what we were actually celebrating. So how does one celebrate a holiday that amplifies cultural diversity in a country that finds the different cultures an abrasion and an irritation? It comes as no surprise that the holiday has been re-branded as "National Braai day" as it was false to claim that the nation was celebrating diversity when the only thing that brings South Africans together is a Braai.
To quote the psychologist Metacalfe from her presentation entitled 'Pluralism in education' in 1996: "They have not begun to fully engage the challenge of creating a new identity"
As a nation we will never create a new identity until we have shaken off our old identities. The challenge here is to fully transform into a rainbow nation. There are too many black and white lines that continue to taint our rainbow. Lines that were supposed to have been painted over in previous struggles were left incomplete. And for the younger generation I say put down the boerie roll and beer and get the paintbrushes there is still a lot of work to be done on the rainbow.