AFRICA is free, we are told! Africa is rising, we are told! Yet we apologise for wearing an afro. We seek civilised words to justify our locks. We risk school detention, a visit to the principal’s office, hell, even police armed response, just for daring to have natural hair. Natural? If it is natural, why is it an issue? Why are we asking for permission to be who we are? But then again, we colonise our
tongues under a language that makes them forget we are who we are.
They reckon, if we can colonise our tongue, why can’t we colonise our scalps? We are all the same African people, see we speak English, Portuguese and French, but our own languages get stuck in our throats, like they aren’t native to us, like they aren’t in our blood. African languages come second in their own home and every passing generation lets it slide… until it shall be novelty to find a human that actually speaks our language. We, the “born free” South African generation, are in fact born captive to neo-colonization. It’s when you’re with your white, coloured or Indian friends and you have to explain your name in a language that barely recognises you as human. It’s when someone asks you what your subjects at school are and your mother tongue isn’t counted in, because government policy has gone and proclaimed two languages, but has not really specified, “ONE MUST BE AFRICAN”.
It’s when you teach yourself how to read and write and not just speak your mother tongue, it’s when
you have to adjust your blackness depending on the crowd you’re with, because in a so-called ‘Model C’ school you can get a demerit for speaking your language. It’s when an entire country, a
whole continent sees nothing wrong with this, that’s when you realize you are a neo-colonized citizen, part of the ja-baas agenda just like your parents, grandparents, great grandparents who have walked before you believing they are free.
It’s on the days when you can’t speak that you feel what “born free” actually means, it’s when the pronunciation of your ever so black name is irrelevant to your non-black teachers, it’s when after years of friendship, your nonblack friends still don’t know your ethnicity and what it means to you, it’s when Kingdoms are even belittled to be called ethnicities, that’s when you realize your existence is everything and nothing.
We Africans are so used to colonizing and emancipating our tongues on a daily basis it is culture, it is the norm. Here we are, a liberated population of Africa with volcanic rubble for words, speaking like our colonizers, sometimes even better… this is us, and this is “African culture.” It’s a culture we’ve allowed to spread like wild fire; we’ve evolved into a “white culture society” without the necessary structure of a culture. We have a form of culture without the potency of customs and traditions that hold the fabric together. We are the generation of Africans who attack white supremacy from the confines of expensive restaurants, sipping expensive liquids, eating sushi… doing that flip with our Indian, Peruvian, Brazilian… you know what I mean. With the independence of every African country came the further perfection of assimilation, our colonizers won. What’s independence without decolonization? We want so bad to be like our colonizers we’ve kept everything they left… their god, borders, social, political, economic, and education systems and their perception of our traditions. We even call our continent the way they do. Scarcely do we say,
Alkebu-lan. My Africans we are assimilation vultures.
Nobashengu Kemet Tshabalala is a 15-year-old ardent Pan Africanist who loves nothing more than the unity of the African people under their true identity. She aspires to be an author, storyteller and spokesperson for the true unity of Africans away from the colonial script.