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Heritage Day 2020 – A Look at South Africa’s Diverse Cultures

Heritage Day is a recognition that having so many cultures coexisting in one country has the potential to divide; so rather than focusing on what makes us different, why not celebrate all the things that unite us despite our differences?

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Heritage Day 2020 - A Look at South Africa's Diverse Cultures Asante Afrika Magazine
Heritage Month
55 / 100

Hazel Lifa

The 24th of September is formerly known as Shaka Day in KwaZulu, a day where the Zulu people commemorate the legendary Zulu king; a day the Zulu clan felt was worthy of becoming a public holiday. Unfortunately, the new South African Parliament thought it best to omit Shaka Day altogether from the Public Holidays Bill.  The decision was a source of conflict as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) which has a predominantly Zulu membership, objected to it. A compromise was reached and thus the birth of Heritage Day. The need to preserve Shaka Day by the Zulu people showed how they valued their heritage and individuality, a principle that inspired a nation with diverse cultures to celebrate both their individuality and shared cultures too. South Africans were given a day where they could celebrate their uniqueness, but also appreciate the beautiful melting pot that is their nation.

Former President Nelson Mandela stated; “When our first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.” Heritage Day is a recognition that having so many cultures coexisting in one country has the potential to divide; so rather than focusing on what makes us different, why not celebrate all the things that unite us despite our differences?

The purpose of the day according to the South African government’s website is; “Heritage Day on 24 September recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation. South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.”

Taking on this stride makes the Rainbow Nation an example for the African continent that mirrors the country in the vastness of cultures. The relevance of this day this year is elevated by the past alarming and dividing transgressions over the past few months besides the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A few months ago we saw Miss South Africa hopeful Bianca Schoombee under fire for racist comments which she tweeted as far back as 2014. The 21-year-old model’s odds were promising until twitter ‘investigators’ found the controversial tweets.

Heritage Day 2020 - A Look at South Africa's Diverse Cultures Asante Afrika Magazine
One of Bianca Schoombee’s controversial racial tweets

Schoombee’s online trail points to a possible issue with the youth’s perception of those who are different from their peers – the very opposite of what Heritage Day seeks to accomplish. It is concerning to say the least, to think that some South Africans are fostering such a negative mentality. 

As we mull over these counterproductive sentiments, let us look forward to the braai culture that has been tied to National Heritage Day. Many can argue that there is nothing more South African than lighting up a fire and having a good old fashioned braai. The National Braai Day initiative was developed by Jan Scannell, who believed in it so much that he quit his job in finance to focus on this initiative.

Happy National Heritage Day, let us come together and celebrate our vast cultures this Braai Day.

Below: Heritage Day Picture Exhibition showcasing South Africa’s rich and diverse cultures.

Heritage Day 2020 - A Look at South Africa's Diverse Cultures Asante Afrika Magazine
XiTsonga Traditional Attire

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Lifestyle

The Black Experience

If I today were to go to the U.S., issues like police brutality would be a cross I would have to bear due to the colour of my skin.

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The Black Experience Asante Afrika Magazine
Ulric Cross, World War II Hero, Trinidadian jurist, Diplomat and Royal Air Force Navigator

Hazel Lifa

I recently came across a disturbing piece of information – ‘African Americans hold a monopoly on all black experiences’. Now, what do I mean by this? I was tasked with writing articles about topics African women would be interested in or affected by. Through liaising with my boss I often got the comments, “Don’t go mainstream,” and, “…purely African flavour”. After a while, I realised what this white man meant was that my content was too African American.

Naturally, I was offended, being an African woman who had thought of what she called ‘relevant content’ which was appropriate for her demographic. But I know better, I took the criticism in an attempt to evolve and grow. It is through this process I have come to realise something; the issue here was with what my boss thought was ‘African American’ and ‘African’.

“Just like any other group of black women, African women have the same dilemma as to what constitutes professional or well-kept hair.”

My content on colourism, hair and the hyper-sexualisation of the African woman’s body came off as a bit too familiar for him. In his mind, he thought he had a clear idea of what African content looked like, but he never considered what race most Africans are, and that’s… black.

Granted, maybe some phenomenons like colourism were identified and further studied by the African American community, but does it mean they are the only BLACK people that go through it? There is a reason why African American content seems similar to some African content, and that is a matter of race. Historical events like colonisation and slave trade separated black people and threw them in an array of directions that make up today’s geological locations of black populations.

But at the end of the day, we share some issues, grievances and trials based on the colour of our skin, the texture of our hair and the shared experiences that come with the territory. For instance; where I’m from, many don’t know anything about colourism, yet it is alive and very well in indigenous derogatory terms like, “black wadada” that poke fun at darker-skinned individuals.

Another example is seen in how we approach the topic of the African woman’s hair. Just like any other group of black women, African women have the same dilemma as to what constitutes professional or well-kept hair. Many chemical relaxers have been welcomed into African households for decades and damaged African women’s hair, just like in America. But because such topics are covered more in the West, or dare I say communities in the West have more time and tools at their disposal to dissect such topics, does this make them the only black people who can claim them?

Once upon a time the white man came with a religion and attempted to save us, as he assumed we didn’t have a god. The other time, Africa had to be saved from its barbaric ways, because we ‘had no community structures’. We have come to know that both statements are untrue! Sure, Africans might have not known the words religion or community, but we did have an understanding and structure of both concepts within our societies. Point being, just because someone names something or identifies it first, doesn’t necessarily give them a monopoly over it.

If anything, I think this flawed lens of looking at things, in a way gives us a false sense of diversity. Not to say there isn’t any diversity in the world, but in certain situations like this particular one, we are the same due to shared experiences. If I today were to go to the U.S., issues like police brutality would be a cross I would have to bear due to the colour of my skin.

However, with all that said, we today more than ever aren’t aware of this deep and valid connection we share. After the years and efforts put into ending oppressive atrocities like slavery that aided in the division and displacement of black people, we the black people still propel such divisions in a failed attempt to establish historical currency.

“…we don’t own lions as pets, nor hunt for our food. We have supermarkets like in the West, iPhones, and drones.”

Yes, certain experiences like apartheid, slavery and colonisation are personal to certain subgroups of black people, but that’s not where the history of those black people begins. Rather, that is a mere drop in the ocean of culture, traditions and history that is abundant in the black race. Disregarding the shared experiences and identity that connects all black people only reinforces the divisions thrust upon us by historical events. It screams we have no history or identity, other than the stories written for us by slave traders, colonialists, racists, etc.

Putting so much value in mental shackles and focusing on how and where we ended up looks down on the aid African countries gave each other as they fought for independence. It disregards efforts made by individuals like Ulric Cross, a World War II hero and lawyer who had no affiliation with Africa, but related with her plight as a black man who also came from a colonised land. There is more uniting us than the differences we choose to honour.

Furthermore, I think how the world views Africa particularly is very narrow and one-dimensional. Africa is forever put in a box where she represents the wild, animals, and for a lack of better words, a primitive environment of sorts, an idea that got a technology boost in blockbusters like Black Panther. But in reality, many will tell you that we don’t own lions as pets, nor hunt for our food. We have supermarkets like in the West, iPhones, and drones.

Connect with Hazel:

Email: hazel@asanteafrika.net

Instagram: @word_smith96

LinkedIn: Hazel Lifa

Twitter: @Hazel_Lifa

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Lifestyle

Chiropractic – An Alternative To Medicine

This avenue of pain relief is estimated to be a cheaper alternative of treatment, as it reduces the need for pain relief medications, and in some cases, high-risk surgery.

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Chiropractic - An Alternative To Medicine Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Spinal Cord. Image Source - https://hr.umich.edu/

Hazel Lifa

We all get aches and pains – it is a key component of the human experience, hence the goldmine that is the pharmaceutical industry. While the miracle of modern medicine cannot be denied, it is important to note that it comes with its fair share of cons. Taking simple painkillers for elongated periods of time has negative effects on an individual. It is not uncommon for some medications to solve one problem, and leave patients with another. With that said, there is a solution in the pseudoscience that is, chiropractic.

What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a pseudoscience that focuses on the treatment of disorders on the musculoskeletal system, particularly of the spine, that originated in the U.S. This treatment involves the manual manipulation of the spine, joints and other soft tissues to ease discomfort and pain, and improve function in the body. Chiropractic also involves an array of areas like exercise, acupuncture, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and health and lifestyle advising.

Chiropractic - An Alternative To Medicine Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Chiropractic Treatment

How the Treatment Works

The practice is based on the premise that the body can heal itself with the aid of these manipulations which are intended to align one’s bones, muscles, joints and cartilage. Practitioners of chiropractic, called chiropractors, may hold a Doctor of Chiropractic D.C degree and be referred to as a Chiropractor Physician.

Early chiropractors believed that musculoskeletal disorders affected one’s general health through the nervous system. Chiropractic treatments treat pain in the lower back, neck, knee, shoulders, headaches, whiplash and menstrual cramps, to mention but just a few. Chiropractic also aids in an individual’s lack of focus, and with allergies.

It is known to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis, a condition caused by the erosion of cartilage between the joints that causes bones to rub against each other. Symptoms of scoliosis can also be aided by the help of chiropractors, as well as the general posture of an individual.

Athletes can also benefit from the practice; the treatment improves joint movement, lessens tissue restriction and aids injuries. This avenue of pain relief is estimated to be a cheaper alternative of treatment, as it reduces the need for pain relief medications, and in some cases, high-risk surgery. The treatment usually doesn’t hurt, but aching much like the one felt after exercise can occur.

Chiropractic - An Alternative To Medicine Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Benefits of Chiropractic Care: Image Source – Radiant Life Chiropractic

Treatment varies from patient to patient; it depends on details like age and type of pain one feels. Patients are screened before treatment to ensure they are good candidates. For instance, an elderly patient may be referred elsewhere due to the softening of bones that comes with aging, which makes joint manipulation a risky option. An individual on blood-thinning medication also isn’t a candidate for chiropractic.

It is because of this that chiropractors do due diligence before treating clients. They will inquire about one’s medical history, do a physical examination, and demand that tests like X-Rays and CT scans are done, so as to create a treatment plan tailored to an individual. Chiropractic treatment aims at giving patients long-term relief as opposed to a quick fix. Chiropractors will ask how a patient lives; if they spend long periods of time sitting, staring at a computer, or standing, to get to the root of the problem.

The practice is still new to the African scene, but an avenue worth looking into. It’s not to say modern medicine isn’t effective, but at times it might not be as effective or appropriate. As the case with medical doctors, patients must also make sure to deal with a professional and qualified chiropractor, so as to avoid poor service that could lead to serious complications.

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Colourism, The Daughter Of Racism

While the mixed-race offspring of black and white parents were considered less than for being half black, their lighter complexion granted them favour and positioned them somewhat better on the spectrum.

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Colourism, The Daughter Of Racism Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Colourism; Image Source - unsplash.com
7 / 100

Hazel Lifa

Colourism is this ugly family secret that everyone knows about, but doesn’t care to discuss; a droning sound in the background we have become accustomed to, and can’t remember a time without it. It is described as prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

This colourist mentality has deep-seated roots in the racial pecking order of black and white people, which have seeped into other ethnic groups with the same premise of, ‘the lighter the better’. During the colonial and slavery eras, white settlers/slave owners made it a point to establish white superiority, and deemed black less than.

This idea created a ‘spectrum’ per se, where black was the extreme negative, and white the extreme positive. While the mixed-race offspring of black and white parents were considered less than for being half black, their lighter complexion granted them favour and positioned them somewhat better on this spectrum.

This prejudice is very subtle in its appearance, but has lethal and life-changing effects. It can be seen in the praise of lighter-skinned individuals and the undesirable label given to dark-skinned black people, all under the guise of preference. Looking closer at the situation, it is undeniable that colourism has a close relationship with racism, a by-product, or as I have said, a child of racism. Like racism, colourism is taught. No one is born with this idea, but rather has it drummed into them through channels like media.

Furthermore, it is important to note that this taught preference is more directed towards black women, hence making the situation gendered. We see this learned preference in areas like dating and the entertainment industry. Hail the ‘yellow bone’ that seems to have it easier and seen as more of a desirable woman than her darker sisters. This very notion is what drives the billion-dollar business that is bleaching; this colourist standard of a black women’s beauty has fuelled the market of dangerous creams, lotions, pills and treatments, all in the pursuit of fairer skin.

Black women in entertainment have attested to the fact that this public secret exists, from South African entertainer Khanyi Mbau, to Lupita Nyong’o all the way in Hollywood. Mbau has never been secretive about her bleaching, among other elective cosmetic procedures she has had done. She spoke to her bleaching being mainly a ‘maintenance issue’, rather than for her job in an interview. She also spoke on the favour which fairer-skinned performers like Pearl Thusi get because of their looks.

Colourism, The Daughter Of Racism Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Khanyi Mbau, before and after bleaching her skin

Across the globe, Lupita Nyong’o claims she has been told at an audition that she is too dark for television, but stayed true to her talent. Simply watching television, one can see the living and breathing examples that in my opinion perpetuate the self-hate that is colourism. Because we have become so used to it, we fail to recognise that this mindset is essentially making us hate ourselves. We have young men flooding the internet with how much black women disgust them, to careers judged on skin tone rather than the actual talent, to little black girls who grow up feeling ugly.

Colourism, The Daughter Of Racism Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Lupita Nyong’o

At the end of the day, we are subscribing to a white man’s opinion of our beauty, not ours. Looking down on your own race speaks volumes to just how embedded this construct of self-hate is drilled into the African’s psyche; he/she feels she sees the world through his/her own lens, yet it is clearly not the case.

Colourism is just another one of the ugly invisible chains of colonisation that still live within us, generations after the fact. Think to yourself before you label a darker-skinned individual unattractive, less intelligent or any other negative label. What is so bad about their features or performance or mannerisms, whether it be in everyday life or in front of the camera, besides their skin tone? When you can do that honestly, then you are thinking for yourself, and not following someone else’s lead.

Connect with Hazel:

Email: hazel@asanteafrika.net

Instagram: @word_smith96

LinkedIn: Hazel Lifa

Twitter: @Hazel_Lifa

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