Saturday, 4 February 2012

Colonised little minds

An observation from Reading Club today which saddens me...

Our students painted some lovely cushion covers for our reading room for something to sit on and be comfy with when reading. Some of the choices of images included:

* a Union Jack (!)
* Goku (from Dragon-Ball Z)
* Hello Kitty

This isn't really problematic in and of itself: television is obviously a major cultural contributor to teenagers, and even more so for those who lack other stimulus in their lives e.g. books! That's why we're there! BUT, when I read them a poem which was cleverly made up of the titles of some of the most famous books written by African authors--which even ignorami like I had heard of at school (my sheltered middle-class Model C white christian school)--... the students had not heard of one. Not one! Not 'I write like what I like' by Steven Biko (they didn't know who he was!!!!!). Not 'When Rain Clouds Gather' by Bessie Head. Not 'The Famished Road' by Ben Okri. Not even 'The Wrath of the Ancestors' by A.C. Jordan, possibly the most famous Xhosa novel published ever. Nope, they hadn't even heard of his son, Pallo, a current and very vocal ANC minister who is regularly on the radio, in the newspapers and quoted by journalists nationwide.

How sad then, is it that they know how to paint a Union Jack accurately?

Knowing the Union Jack, Goku, Hello Kitty, Disney or any other stereotypical anglophone western cultural icons is not--in and of itself--like I said, a problem. We are all bombarded with them daily.  And I'm not expecting them to want to paint something South African necessarily. But they don't know what it is that they are not choosing, and that's the sign of a colonised mind, a mind unaware that there are other options.

How very sad.

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