A Lesson in Geography

 

Africa is gigantic, and South Africa, just a small slice of that continental pie, is also mind-boggling massive.  It is the 25th largest country in the world, with 53 million people.  It is an extremely multiethnic country, apparent in the 11 official languages recognized by the government- the most official languages of any country in the world.

I got to say, I knew it was diverse here- I knew there were a good amount of European descendants, and a good amount of Indians, but I am shocked at the diversity here.  Nearly everything is stemmed from the Dutch language, and it is abound everywhere.  I cannot even pretend to say the simplest of words.  No, I cannot say good morning, I can hardly say thanks.  Thankfully English is spoken by just about everyone, although the countrymen of South Africa are more accustomed to the British style accent.

Afrikaans is the widely used, second after English, a language derived from the Dutch language, and from what I gather, it is easier to speak then that heavily throaty and consonant ridden father language.  This language is spoken by the upper people, and the servant class the interacts with the people in power.  Although Zulu is spoken by the highest percentage of the population, all street signs, highway signs, and advertisements are in both Afrikaans and English.

The remaining 9 official languages are Congo derived languages, stemmed from the aboriginal tribes that are spoken within the local cultural contexts: Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Tsonga, Tswana, Swazi, Sotho, Northern Sotho, and Ndebele.

Given that the majority of the population is black, and that 9 out of 11 official languages are of the indigenous people, I am surprised at the lack of black faces I have seen around- in the streets, in the stores, when I look around the community.  The culture has been overrun by the Dutch, German, and British, heavily influenced by Indian and Asian cultures.  I am not finding Africa inspired art or food, I am not hearing African centric music, I am not seeing different textiles and languages, I am not seeing the culture.  I am seeing a charming English countryside with Dutch street names and white faces everywhere I look.  I see shopping malls with Western fashion, I see grocery stores with imported fruit, I see restaurants that are inspired by the French cuisine.

It’s not like the situation back in the States, when the European settlers came and systematically destroyed all of the native people once they settled on the sandy shores.  80% of the population are descendants of the Sub- Sahara ancestry, but this is the invisible class.  These are the people who are pumping your gas, waiting your tables, picking up your trash, cooking your food, checking you out at the grocery store.  These are the people that are living in shack communities with tiny house that are so close to one another that the outside walls seem to be seamless, that are hidden behind tall walls as to not disrupt your Kodak view of the surrounding beautiful countryside with the ocean view.

Apartheid, a government regulated legislation that enforced segregation, that kept the white skin in power and the black skin in poverty, existed until 1990.  That is a mere 25 years of trying to balance out a system that has been unfair since 1662.  Up until 1990 the indigenous languages were not even considered official languages- only English and Afrikaans were recognized.

South Africa is considered to be a modern industrial economy, earning the 7th highest percentage of income in all of Africa.  The money is found almost completely in the hands that burn easily in the sun, while the people who inherit this land are left in poverty, under educated, without a fighting chance in hell to catch up.  This system of unbalance is not doing justice to anyone- it is robbing the country of the diverse cultures and flavors that make this beautiful country interesting, unique, colorful, inspiring, and world class. The identity of this place is in the hands of people who have imposed their own set of culture, it is time to focus on what the majority of the population have to contribute.

 

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