Decolonising your Heritage

Today is heritage day in South Africa, which for me just means a day off (and for most white people it is “braai dag”.) While all sorts of cultural wear appears, I wonder at the lack of real discussion on the continuing cultural oppression towards indigenous culture and heritage in this country… a good read, about heritage day, language and decolonising culture.


Context for my international readers: today South Africa celebrates Heritage Day

Decolonise open1

Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiongo once told of a gruelling tale on language in post-independent Kenyan primary schools. In his Decolonising the Mind he writes about early days of independence where primary school children would be encouraged, and even forced to speak only English on the school ground, and would furthermore be punished if they were found to speak Kikuyu or any of their mother tongues. The exercise that the teachers employed to single out the naughty ones speaking their ‘foul’ languages involved a stick. Not the kind you are thinking. The teacher would catch one student speaking his/her mother tongue, then hand him/her a stick. For the course of the day the student would detect another student with the same misdemeanour, and pass the stick to him/her. That student would also expose another, and so forth. At the…

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