“What are you?”
What a question to be asked (on more than one occasion) growing up in the Free State and Gauteng. It was kind of obvious that the person was referring to my race (not my gender 😉 ) as I did not fit into the ‘box’ of what a so-called coloured should look like and how they should behave. I must blame this ‘adaptation’ to my upbringing. My family was moved to the Free State in 1993 (scary times), and subsequently life became about adapting, not necessarily growing in the roots I had from being born in Cape Town.
To the new crowd (Free State), I spoke funny. Constant ‘”jy’s and djou’s” would echo as I walk the corridors. I felt different, but not on purpose, not in a good way, not like Lady Gaga. So, as a 7 year old, I made a choice. To change the way I speak. I had some great ideas, a good, working brain and I was not going to let an accent stop me from being all I can be. That’s what I thought, back then.
In addition to this change, we never lived in coloured areas, and we visited Cape Town once every 2 years. Oh yeah, and the big one, we never spoke Afrikaans (only when we were shouted at). All these factors culminated in the morphed version of me- Yvette. I really thought that was ok- I didn’t feel like I missed anything major, except old school jazz etc, but other than that I was fine. Until we moved back to Cape Town in 2007.
In 2007, I was told I spoke funny. I was ‘mos’ more ‘white’ now. Also, if I summarize a few things I couldn’t do i.e catch a taxi from town to wherever, jazz (a type of dance), gooi ‘n kaart, drink black label, not know what a smokkie was, not know the difference between northern and southern suburbs, not know what Afrikaaps is, not understand the significance of Hip Hop,not know that Lavender Hill has nothing to do with flowers, and that my hair must be straight etc. (There are too few to mention here- so I will save myself the embarrassment of naming all the knowledge areas I need to improve on.)
I realized I just wasn’t quite coloured enough. Some dilemma I must say, because I knew I was coloured, but I began to doubt the ‘concentration’ of this coloured juice.
So, I did some research, read a bit (yes, only a bit) of a book “Not Black enough, Not White enough”, by Professor Mohammed Adhikari (UCT) and started asking a lot of questions to people of all races about this whole ‘coloured’ thing. The more questions I asked the more questions I got- but a journey unfolded. I was joined by 2 other lovely ladies, Mica La Vita and Michelle Olivier who have similar interests in opening spaces about coloured identity. This is another story though- I’m getting side tracked.
I don’t speak (Cape) Afrikaans, I speak boere Afrikaans. And yes, I do speak funny. It’s a habit, I admit (as God is my witness) I change the way I speak, but not because I feel inferior- I adapt to my surroundings so that those around me feel comfortable. I do not agree that I should be judged in that I’m trying to act like a certain race to seek approval. I know who I am, I know I am capable of great things- so it’s not about my accent. It’s in how I carry myself, it’s in my yearning to to be enriched with more cultures, it’s in my track record, it’s in how I respect you (especially for reading all the way to the end of this piece).
Therein lies my identity.
Salutasie (Jitsvinger Q, 2011)