It is a really interesting time to be in South Africa, what with all the #Fallist talks and the different dialogues happening around race, culture and identity. Last week, I attended the Open Book Festival in Cape Town and happened to attend two talks that had me very excited.
The first related to decolonising institutions. Although most African countries obtained political and some level of economic independence, in the main very few countries embarked on that extra step to decolonise their culture, their thinking, their language and their identity. My personal view is that this is vital and regardless of the length of time that has passed from independence, no country is fully emancipated until they do this and I suppose this is where South Africa is at the moment. Slightly controversially, I think that it is the colonised
Black people that must fully lead in this process and set the agenda. Also, less clear to me is the question of language. Can a revolution led in the “colonisers” language ever be taken seriously? Or have that full acceptance and recognition? While I am not fully convinced it can be, I am not sure what the counterfactual is.
This talk also touched on the question of privilege which led me to think of my own story and my privilege. As I am obviously Black and female this makes class my privilege because through class, I can transcend some of the discrimination I would otherwise face. For example, I am really grateful that I am privileged to be able to outsource some of the things I don’t enjoy doing around the house to someone else and pay her to do them on my behalf. Some of the expectations that I am graciously excused from as a new wife by my extended family. I am extremely grateful but also, with privilege does responsibility also increase. To give back, to ensure justice and reduced inequality for others that are less fortunate. To do something.
The second talk was on feminism. The panel has become my ultimate girl/writer crush/ perfect dinner guest list/ people I must meet before I leave the earth. The moderator was Mohale Mashigo and the panelists were: Yewande Omotoso, Nnedi Okorafor and Pumla Dineo Gqola. After the session was over, I just wanted to sit and bask in the warm fuzzies generated by that session. Nothing I love more than passionate and educated women with a strong opinion that they are happy to share and loudly at that. For the hour that they spoke, it was nice to talk about common and sometimes not so common experiences we share as women. When did you first know that you were a feminist? How do the books that you read portray female characters? Media? TV? Is feminism for all? Is this brand of feminism accessible to all or are there some class privilege undertones? When the struggle is so tough, how do you reignite the joy and keep the focus? I am obviously not even summarising the discussion well but it was a very interesting discussion.