“Uyazazi izaci?” the taxi conductor asked. Though this question was not directed to me, I strongly wanted to answer. But the strange thing is, I wanted to answer him in Afrikaans! I’m not entirely sure what my answer was going to be but everything in me wanted to tear him apart with some Van Riebeeck lingo. This question was directed to a young girl that attends Umtata High School who, at the time, had caught the attention of a rather enthusiastic and surprisingly well-mannered sliding door operator (SDO’s). Now this school is a well-known model-c school in Mthatha. While it is a highly sought after school, it is notorious for its articulate and good accented students who are, most of the time, mistaken for being snobs hence my desire to respond to this fella.
For as long as I can remember, I have been on the receiving end of young black on black discrimination. Growing up, some of my best friends were white…well actually just one of them was. Beyond that, I had the undeniable privilege to attend an excellent primary school; Transkei Primary School. According to psychologists, the first seven years of a child are really important in terms of all-rounded development, so combining the aforementioned with the fact that I was a quiet, shy and nerd looking girl that loved reading, I could not but turn out a defeated coconut. This is something I have come to accept and embrace but it wasn’t always so. Funny enough, my first encounter of discrimination was from my siblings. While helping my mother with the dishes, my brother and my little sister freely expressed how much of an oreo I was. I cannot remember the entire conversation but I vividly remember being told that I was white on the inside and black on the outside. It wasn’t long before my dad got involved and bailed me out of that situation. Little did I know that that was the first of many encounters.
Soon after enrolling in high school, I was, for the first time, made aware of my accent. I didn’t know myself as a person with an accent more than just a girl with a really lovely way of stringing words together. Furthermore, during my matric year, I found out that most of my fellow mates had me painted as a diva, and trust me, it wasn’t because of girly tendencies because in my case, it should be the lack thereof. To top that all off, first year, and really just throughout varsity, I was greeted, yet again, by people who were focused on finding out why I had an accent and chose to take up rowing as an extra curricula activity than they did in trying to get to know me. Truth is, like every other living being, I’m different. I was not raised in a highly cultural environment and to a certain extent, I understand why.
Ostensibly, my parents didn’t find it necessary to give my siblings and I rich lali experiences and considering the person I have become, I have absolutely no regrets about the decision they made for us. I do, however, wish I had not added ignorance to my list of imperfections. Originating from the Eastern Cape, there are certain areas of my life where I have failed myself when it comes to being cultured. An example of such areas would be the inability to express myself above and beyond the ordinary everyday speech.
I completed my undergraduate degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. For me that wasn’t just a change of geographical scenery, but it was also a change in language. Xhosa spoken in Port Elizabeth is nothing like the Xhosa spoken in Mthatha and this difference somehow made me want to learn more about my mother tongue language. It’s a language that sometimes leaves me wondering why people are so onset on making life difficult for us Xhosa speaking people that took Afrikaans as a second language therefore have no knowledge of izaci namaqhalo. Even so, it is a language that I have slowly grown eager to learn. A couple of minutes ago I almost cracked my skull trying to figure out what the word “responsibility” is in Xhosa. I must admit, one reason why I’m really eager to learn Xhosa is because of my senior pastor’s wife. When she begins to pray in Xhosa…yho! When she says, “Uyawelwa lo mwonyo!” I don’t know what a mwonyo is but I will. As for izaci namaqhalo…geen kommentaar.
P.S: responsibility=uxanduva (not entirely sure about the spelling though)