Category Archives: South African Culture

Emotional Scramble

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A short-term study abroad program offers many benefits for students and instructor alike, however the experience can be quite emotional for all involved. There’s quite a few articles written about what to expect as you enter a culture often referred to as the “stages of homesickness” but should more accurately be called the types of homesickness (just like the “stages of grief” bs should be re-named but that’s for another day!). Even if students are not feeling homesick they are still feeling a wealth of emotions that are complicated and often contradictory.  This is especially true when the topic and place is difficult.

I would not imagine that students going to London to study public relations would have the same difficult emotional journey that student going to South Africa to study social movements may face.  Yesterday was a difficult day for my students because we did a township tour in Khayelitsha. While students had spent the day in Soweto they hadn’t done a walking tour and the parts of Soweto we were in were quite wealthy compared to Khayelitsha. Honestly, I was surprised again by the townships and expected to find more areas of entrepreneurship.

The tour experience for the students was a high level of discomfort because they didn’t feel appropriate going into people’s houses on a Sunday afternoon without warning.  A couple of the students who were in the front of the group saw the woman heading the tour pay people to let us into their homes. We went into a barber shop and the men made appropriate comments to my female students. My students felt on display as much as the people in the townships were on display.  One of the girls was asked if someone could take their picture with her and she was uncomfortable because she was unsure what he was going to do when he posed for the picture.

At one point on the tour one of the men in a house we were visiting said that the girls looked scared. He compared the students to visitors from other countries who’ve visited the township and, evidently, are very flamboyant while they’re visiting the township. The girls weren’t at all scared but they felt like people’s private lives weren’t for touring. People don’t drive through our neighborhoods, want to come into our homes, and randomly take pictures.

Also, I felt like our tour guide wasn’t as passionate or considerate as her mother may have been if she’d been the one to take us on our tour.  The mother was the one who started the tour business and bed and breakfast about 15 years ago.  She briefly spoke to us before we went to church and she told us about studying in the United States in the 1990s.  She wanted to come back and help women start businesses. She wanted to be the one who would train them in entrepreneurship and help facilitate their start-ups. But when she came back to South Africa she wasn’t able to get loans from the banks to start that type of business. So, she started her B&B.  She was very proud of her house, which they’d expanded to a quite large home with a garage. She now works with a lot of universities from the US and hosts students in her home as they volunteer with NGOs in South Africa.  She really seemed to care deeply about the townships and giving people an experience. I didn’t get the same feeling from her daughter as she gave the tour. There seemed to be a class divide between her and the people whose homes she was asking to come in.

My students had a lot to say about the day too! Here’s links to a couple of  their blogs:

If you have thoughts about touring townships please leave your comments or feedback below! Do you think that tourists should go into these spots? Why or why not?

 

 

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South African Hippo

The hippo is Africa’s most dangerous mammal.  When I first learned this it went against everything I’d learned about hippos and seen from the docile animals in captivity.  Hippos are dangerous because they are highly territorial and do not want humans in their water territory.  As you can see from this video, they move a lot faster than you’d first imagine [click here for video]. It makes sense that South Africans would rename the Casspir, a hippo.

These vehicles were used by the South African police force to maintain their military hold over non-white South Africans during the Apartheid regime.  The casspirs were built are mine resistant vehicles and holds a total of 12 people (two crew members and 10 officers in the back) with remote operated gun turrets. As Trevor Noah writes in Born a Crime, the townships were military occupied zones build to control the population.

Now this machine that represents control, oppression, and death has been beaded in traditional Zulu style beads by artist Ralph Ziman. The Zulu culture uses beads to communicate, tell stories, and pass on their cultural heritage [click here to learn more]. This piece called “Afrika Four Seven” is on display in front of the South African National Gallery. This hippo is covered with 50 million glass beads that were all hand-threaded and then affixed to the vehicle.  The level of detail is absolutely stunning as you walk around the piece and see that every inch that could be beaded was.

There’s a public art piece in Maboneng that this reminded me of a bit.  Its a portrait of one of the early colonizers of South Africa.  He’s painted very traditionally, in period clothes/hair, but if you look below the collar you can see that current South Africa is about to consume him.  Our guide told us that “he was now being colonized by South Africa.” I think the same thing is happening to the hippo here.  The traditional Zulu bead work has consumed this vehicle and reclaimed it for South Africa by black South African culture.


Wordless Wednesday: Maboneng Edition


Meet South Africa

Meet South Africa and discover yourself.

After yesterday, I think my students feel like they are finally meeting South Africa.  Yesterday, we spent the day in Soweto and really saw the city. This was the first time I felt like I had an appreciation for the true span and scope of Soweto.  I’ve had the typical experience in the past of first the Apartheid Museum, then driving to Mandela’s house, taking a tour, and seeing the street performers who make a living from the tourist coming through. Then next it was Hector Pieterson Square.  But this time we took time to spend the day there.   The difference is like an appetizer sampler at a restaurant or sitting for a full meal.


First, I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time at the Apartheid Museum and so we blocked off 3 hours.  Our guide said that we could block off three hours and at the end of the three hours we would still want to come back another day.  I think some students definitely came away with that feeling. There’s an interview with Winnie Mandela that always amazes me. She’s asked by the interviewer if South Africa will ever have one man one vote and without a single hesitation she replied, “Yes.” Interviewer, “Who will be the first black president of South Africa?” Winnie Mandela, “Nelson Mandela.” Period. I believer this interview took place in the 1970s, when Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned on Robben Island. There were no signs then of the Apartheid government falling or letting Mandela out of prison. Her resolute response floors me.

Second, we went to lunch in Soweto at a lady’s house who does this as a business. On the itinerary it was simply labeled “lunch with locals”.  However, it was timed perfectly because I think we all needed this lunch after an intense and emotional morning at the museum.  When you’re in a museum space sometimes you only come away with the heaviness of the past. The oppressor can still reach through the exhibit and grab a hold of you and drag you back.  However, the South Africans that we meet lived through those experiences and are here, now, and looking forward.  The food was expertly prepared. The mamas were so warm and welcoming. After we finished eating we sat in the circle where we asked each other questions (the visitors and the hosts). It was an interesting dialogue. Like everyone else I’ve encountered they wanted to know about Trump…we all felt a little closer with both country’s political situation feeling disconnected from the people in the cities. By the time we left I didn’t realize we’d been there for several hours, but  I think we would have been happy to stay for several more!


The mamas talked openly to use about their experience with the xenophobic riots.  One of them had a migrant worker renting from her in 2014 when violence broke out. She said that she protected the man by telling the guys that they just were not going to harm him, period. This echos what I’d heard from Mama Aziba, when I stayed in the township in Cape Town. It was also interesting to hear how the women are all practicing Christians (some in church some not) but they all also honor/talk to their ancestors.  One lady said, “Why would I forget them? Without my ancestors I would not be here.” True for all of us. I’d asked them if they were Christian and still practiced their cultural traditions.  All of them said some degree of both. If they’d asked me I would not be able to answer the same way because my people assimilated too well.

Once the conversation reached a natural lull the mamas said that they were going to give us Zulu names.  I felt and still feel deeply uncomfortable with this. I talked to our guide about it, but communication was not clear between all the groups and it happened.  I haven’t completely sorted through the many reasons why I find this deeply problematic, but I know I will marinate on this, talk through my thoughts aloud with some friends, and write more about it later.

No matter what, when you leave South Africa you’ll be a different person than when you arrived. 


Nando’s Does it againt

side-cockerel_0Nando’s created another political advertisement posted to YouTube on 17 August 2016.  A slick :30 ad that sums up politics in South Africa, at the national level for 2016.  To view the ad click here

The advert shows three actors who represent the leaders of the three major political parties in South Africa-President Jacob Zuma of the ANC, Mmusi Maimane leader of the DA, and Julius Melema leader of the EFF

The ad is titled “Wing-Wing situation” and shows the three leaders spinning a bottle of peri-peri sauce and playing “truth or dare”. Zuma gets the first play and chooses “truth”. The Maimane character then asks, “Mr. President, are you really going to payback the money?” To that “Zuma” replies, “Dare. I meant dare.” Then you here an imitation of Zuma’s famous laugh.  The announcer voice over announces the deal and shows the awesome new Nando’s chicken.   The camera comes back to the table and “Zuma” reaches for a a wing, but suddenly gets his hand smacked away. The camera pans up slightly to reveal a female, which is supposed to represent South African public protector Thuli Madonsela who says, “I think you’ve had enough.”

While this ad is less subversive than The Last Dictator Standing  or #Diversity but more along the lines of Minister Ministers or Minister Gravy Train. Nando’s is known for its cheeky ads. Furthermore, Nando’s South Africa seamlessly uses their position to provide political satire in a country that is still getting comfortable with political satire and comedy more broadly. Nando’s continues to compel conversations through their advertising.

 

 


South Africa’s bestselling books are mostly about South Africa’s political dysfunction — Quartz

If South Africa’s non-fiction bestseller list is an indication of the zeitgeist, the country has had an anxious year. The nation’s bookstands reflect a country trying to make sense of a tumultuous political environment, high crime statistics, and an unreliable power grid. Apocalyptic titles like How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The looming crisis and…

via South Africa’s bestselling books are mostly about South Africa’s political dysfunction — Quartz


An “Uber for police” has been launched in South Africa — Quartz

In South Africa, it often feels like the speed at which crimes are committed are inversely proportional to the speed at which police react to them. It’s a major frustration in a country with some of the world’s highest crime rates. A new mobile phone app aims to cut the average police response time. Namola…

via An “Uber for police” has been launched in South Africa — Quartz


Cubata, where even Germans eat with their hands

Cubata Portuguese Grill was definitely an experience for the senses!  A big group of us went there last night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. `One of the girls who got there first and was familiar with the restaurant ordered for the whole group. The owner asks only how many people are in your group and what meat you want and then he takes it from there.
This is a picture of me with the owner.

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Here is a few pictures of our food. The consensus at my end of the table was that these were the best chips (fries) we’d had since landing in South Africa.

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It was quite a feast!

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Yes, photographic evidence of two of the Germans eating with their hands! We’ve been a good influence on them 😉

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Very happy and full group of people!

Oh, but we did have a little room left for ice-cream.

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Thirsty Thursday

Last night we went to the Colonial Kitchen for a wine tasting. It was R100 for 6 wines and snacks. We found out about the event on Sunday when we were there for brunch after being there on Friday night for dinner. Its got a really great vibe and the food is amaing!

The winery was Windfall and it is located 40kilometers outside of Port Elizabeth. They also brought olive oil grown on their property to sample last night. Everything was quite good. Below are a few pictures from the event!

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Guest post: The uniqueness of South African food

A Hungry African

Saffa Tradingis an online food shop that specialises in exporting authentic South African Food like Biltong, Boerewors, Groceries, Drinks, and SA Wines. They also stock various other unique South African essentials like SA Pharmaceuticals, weight loss products and even Springbok Memorabilia. All items can be shipped via trusted delivery companies such as DHL, Post Office Airmail and EMS. If you love South African produced food but can’t get it where you stay, this is the site for you!

Saffa Trading will be posting guest posts to “A Hungry African” regularly to get your taste buds going and maybe inspire you to try some South African dishes or order some South African delicacies. The first post is on the uniqueness of South African food, which dishes on the list have you tasted?

South African food is world-renowned amongst foodies, and our top-class restaurants and eateries delight the taste buds of countless tourists…

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