Cradle of Coloured Identity: An ambiguous concept

The BA Students Council hosted a Coloured Identity panel discussion on 25 April. It raised many questions about the concept of the coloured identity in South Africa. Many of these questions went unanswered but sparked further discussion. The event was held at the Stellenbosch University Museum.

The panel may not have reached a conclusion but it may lead to more events to further unpack the questions raised on the evening.

The multimedia panel discussion which included film scenes, powerpoint slides and episodes out of a documentary series called Coloured Mentality stirred debate.

A scene from the 1991 film Boyz in the Hood examined the issue of  gentrification and the need to “keep everything in our neighbourhood black [and] black owned,” as said by Lawrence Fishburne’s character Jason “Furious” Styles Jr.

A clip of South African trade-unionist and regional secretary of the Western Cape region of COSATU Tony Ehrenreich shows him admitting that he may not understand particular people and their contexts due to their identity. He adds that it is important to understand the difference between self-identification and how others identify that individual.

In Conversation about Coloured Culture : UWC administrator, poet and writer Diana Ferrus, Stellenbosch University Sociology Master’s student Leza Soldaat, and Stellenbosch University English & Cultural Studies lecturer Dr Riaan Oppelt. PHOTO: AYDN PARROTT

The panelists opening remarks were punctuated with questions raised by clips from the series Coloured Mentality. These questions included whether Afrikaans is a white language or coloured language. This led to an interrogation of Kitchen Dutch and the extent to which the Cape Malays perfected Afrikaans academically before it was transported further inland by Voortrekkers who took the language with them as their own.

“Certain Afrikaans words were made up by brown bodies,” said an audience member who preferred not to be identified. Other questions raised by the Coloured Mentality series included whether or not coloured people are black, whether it is possible to be both and where Biko’s definition of black as all non-white races fits into this question.

The existence of coloured privilege and what that means, what coloured culture is and the relationship between coloured people and the Khoi and San peoples was also raised as a question.

The panelists included consisted of Diana Ferrus, a UWC administrator, poet and writer, Leza Soldaat, a Stellenbosch University Sociology Master’s student and Dr Riaan Oppelt who currently lectures English and Cultural Studies at Stellenbosch University. – Aydn Parrott