So You Think You’re Modern?

I there, you look kinda familiar, I swear we’ve met before, though I’m not quite sure where. Hmmm, let me think…

An ‘AHA’ moment intervenes: you’re Jacob hey, we met kuphi-kuphi? “Actually, I’m Mojalefa now.”

“Mojalefa? Oh, I see.”

Nou die laas you were Jacob, and now you’re suddenly Mojalefa. Oh, OK. I’ll bet that you (yes, you reader) know of at least two people who’ve gone from their “slave names” to their indigenous, unpronounceable names. Most say it’s because they want to reconnect with their roots, but I don’t buy that. All a brother really needed to do was to tell mother and father that they no longer want to go by an English name; irrelevant of which great baas they were named after. So now, to the issue at hand: what makes The Modern Man?

Is it the signage on his office door, the way he dresses or perhaps the car he parks outside dusty Panyaza’s shisa-nyama spot in Rockville on Sundays? Maybe he’s all or none of the above.So I went out there, eKasi, emaBurbs, eNewscafe, you name it, in pursuit of this modern brotha of course – with the hope of finding the perfect one. (giggle giggle). And what an interesting journey that was, because with every guy I spoke to, they each confirmed that they were all modern men, and man o’ man how different they all were. Vele there are similarities and characteristics they have in common (excluding the physically obvious) but the desired status of being classified as one was evident in all of them.

TheModern  Man, the way I see it, is relative. Kuyangokuthi unguban’ ayoyoyo, uphila nobani. So you get out of high school, enter the varsity gates with nothing but a desire to learn and you make it out the exit door with a diploma/degree or whatever. Good job son. Now what? Well, in black culture, it’s obvious, really. You first have to do right by your parents. Even if, in your parent’s home, there is the aunt, uncle, their two kids, your paternal grandmother and of course your siblings. So, that’s finding number 1: Stay eKasi and do good by your parents. It turns out that some guys really are at home to make life better for the ou lady and timer (if he’s still around/alive) and that’s greatly noble and ever so humble of them. That, however, doesn’t mean that because their personal standards have risen, they can now remain the same men they were five odd years ago. No sir-ree, he’s more contemporary now and his conversations actually have a point. 10 points to a brother.

Then I went on to discover that his taste in food hasn’t necessarily changed, but matured. He still goes to emaKoteni and buys iLast number for R25 on Saturday afternoon, whether or not he still lives ekasi but when he goes to a business lunch with a client, he’ll definitely order something that he can just sommer point off of the menu than risk mispronouncing it. (That he does, while practising in his spare time at home). He’s now more open to exotic and unfamiliar foods rather than the ordinary, rice, papa, steak and custard and jelly. Hayi, he can afford it mos, so why not?

And this goes for his preference in women as well. Though that has somewhat changed. Most of our “Modern Men” in question can afford to have any woman they want. ’Stru. But this is two-fold, depending on iPersona ka guy phela. On the one hand you have the career focused, “have my own place”, and my smooth ride type of brother who wants to go far in life, not for show, but nje to achieve his short-, mid- and long-term goals. And he wants a woman like him. One who also has her own place and goals and together, they can become a team, playing the same game but winning different prizes.

And then there’s the brother who thinks he has something to prove. To people who don’t matter really. Make no mistake, this guy is just as modern naye, successful (or en route) and he can fairly manage his life. Kodwa ke, because image in everything to this gentleman, he will have a “steady baby mama” but always the “please __ me” chicks. These are young hot ones who just want to be maintained. “Please call me” (brother calls); “please fetch me” (the brother will oblige); “please buy me airtime” after that; “please take me out” (oh, here the man isn’t quite aware that it’s she and four of her girlfriends that are going out – on HIM). Again, he doesn’t mind because in the eyes of the world he’s made it: “bheka uMthunzi, upheth’abantwana”.

So where do these “modern men” live? Some ekasi – by choice or circumstance. It’s cheaper to stay ekasi, get a crib (once he’s handed his back room keys at home to the younger brother), extend and be merry. Others have cribs outside of ikasi, not necessarily in a townhouse (though MANY modern bachelors are payin’ rent), but in a great piece of property in which he’s invested in and stays for a while with the occasional drive on the freeway to ekasi to blomma with the majimbos.

My ideal Modern Man? Are you ready for it? Here it comes: Bonginkosi Dlamini, yes y’all uZola. Eish. Yah, ne. Anyway I say this because what you see on television is exactly what you see ekasi. I had the pleasure of chillin’ with Zola one weekend at an “after-tears even-if-it-was-an-unveiling” session eZola 2, Soweto. I attended an unveiling in the morning and the service/ function was opposite Zola’s home. WOW. I’m humbled! He rocked up in the morning, nicely dressed in his big mean personalised Zola 7 Chrysler machine which then translated to the family car for the elders. When we got back from the cemetery, he stood in the line, like the rest of the commoners and ate standing, leaning on umthangala wakubo namagenge. After that, you know, cooler boxes are filled with goodies and ice and it’s time to chill and catch up. So he quickly popped into the house, and came out with a T-shirt, jeans and takkies. And at home, he’s not a celebrity, though everyone (especially the older ladies and the young ones) treat him like one. All chairs were in a circle and there we were, chillin’ drinkin’ and chattin’ for the rest of the afternoon. When the sun set, he “ka’d” everyone with the kasi handshake, got into his expensive car and off he went back to his house.

So you see, being the Modern Man doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to speak English through your nose; date only hot and successful women; drive a nice car and drink Johnnie Walker every weekend. It’s deeper than that. Just because you’ve moved up the ladder and are now more privileged than you were growing up, doesn’t mean having a pompous “I’m the man” type of attitude. Sit on those expensive couches vele and wear your pricey cologne, you’ve worked hard for it and it’s yours, but do not lose your focus and most importantly maintain your humility and inner wealth.

I don’t know what the formula for success is. But I do know the formula for failure. And that is trying to please everyone. – Bill Cosby

So Modern Black Man, know who you are and stay true.

Be blessed. Ayoba!

Writer: Nokuthula Maseko                Photographer: Jeff Rikhotso