Rebirth of Black …

Remember when you finished high school? It was your first taste of how life calls on you to make decisions that don’t involve your friends. You realised that friendship is not necessarily forever. Pacts made about pursuing the same careers don’t work out. You realised that driving a Ferrari is easier said than bought. Your future was not as sparkly as it seemed when you wore uniform. Just like when you scribbled signatures, messages and penis drawings on your school shirt on the last day of high school. Just like back then, the time has come again for you to redefine yourself.

If you were born in the 80’s then you should be between 25 and 35 years or so. The club scene is now becoming a distant doof doof and dancing in a ‘sekele’ is not life anymore. The hangovers are murder and you Roux the night before because you took way to many shot, most probably leaving the bathroom a mess. You have some decisions to make. Decisions that can’t be Indaba’d via group chat with all your friends throwing in their two cents.

Who are we now? I am going to be more specific – who are we now as the current black generation? Why am I bringing race into it? I’ll explain later.

Allow me to make a farfetched analogy. When Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar, the intoxicating hype that followed was quiet a spectacle to behold. Throughout the ocean of press, pics and the lump of pride in the throat, something kept nagging me. I watched 12 Years A Slave. As an actress, miss Nyong’o deserved every ounce of that little gold dude. The adopted role she picked up as now the proverbial ambassador of dark skinned girls was also interesting. This also, I believed, she embodied and took into her petit stride. You know what was nagging me? Remember when Alek Wek won Face of Africa? Remember how many black people were like….hmm…ok…cool. The presentation of her as the ultimate image of black beauty needed some salt to swallow or something. It had nothing to do with her being dark skinned. As South Africans, images of the glittering eyes of Basetsana Makgalemele accepting the crown were still fresh in our minds. What the western money machine was pinning up was different from our understanding.

What’s my point? The metaphoric effigy of Alek Wek was “given” to us. We were told that this how a black woman should for her to be deemed beautiful by the “world”. Lupita Nyong’o “created” herself. Before her role as Patsy, she was a hardworking actress and director with a solid career.

Where am I going with this? As a generation, there are many “identities” that we have been given. There are “norms” we’ve been told we must uphold. These identities and norms usually have very little to do with how we see ourselves.

We are expected to carry on with the vision laid out by the “struggle generation”. They died for us. So we must live our lives according to the philosophies for which they died. Or must we?

We live a double life. One, we are these educated and upwardly mobile go getters living in technological global village. Two, we are those who have to work twice as hard to sit in the restaurant that Oscar fired a gun in. We are those who know that, had he been you, you’d be in jail. This very “knowing”, we were given as part of the identity we have to carry. To know that even if you are a well-respected “somebody”, fire a gun in a crowded restaurant, even accidentally, in that very moment you’d just be scumbag Maleven. It is with this knowledge we have been taught to ‘know our place’.

Writer: Vus Nqxande   Photographer: Khumbelo Makungo