Johannesburg – The ghost of Western colonialism dusted itself off and walked into a mall in Gauteng this week.
A proud African man entered a shop resplendent in Ndebele traditional attire and was confronted by one of apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoed’s protégés A black manager in a red jacket was offended that an African would walk the aisles clad in African garb.
The right of admission is reserved and customers must “dress decently”, he protested. This ticks off a lady accompanying the man and she immediately counsels the manager about traditional African clothes and their place in society.
When the manager confirms that he is of Tswana descent, the lady was incredulous. In the video clip, it’s not immediately clear what offends the manager’s post-colonial and imperialist Western sensibilities.
He is a boss throwing his uppity weight around. I have always found it an anomaly that indigenous people of our land only come out to wear their traditional clothes on one day of the year, on Heritage Day on September 24.
As the lady in the video insists: This is Africa! I was immensely impressed by two developments affecting our culture and heritage this month. The late King Goodwill Zwelithini was given a befitting send-off last week by amabutho wearing amabheshu.
It was a sight to behold when they strutted their dance routine near KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace where His Majesty’s body was kept.
Last month, my chest swelled when Ghana restored African pride by decreeing that school uniforms be made of African print such as the Kente cloth.
The first African country to attain independence set an example for the rest of the continent to emulate.
The designs I saw are a departure from the gaudy dungarees and bermudas of Western origin.
To be sure, we are still generations away from disentangling the continent from the clutches of Western imperialism, but every little step helps Perhaps unknown to the offended manager in a red suit is that the Basotho blanket and seshweshwe have been appropriated by the big fashion houses in Europe.
Gucci was called out for appropriating cultural African clothing without compensation. Louis Vuitton shamelessly paired a giraffe-painted shirt featuring an abstract Basotho blanket.
Unfortunately, the Basotho blanket is frowned upon by some ignoramuses who deem it to be backwards although it is at the centre of their culture and was introduced by no less a figure than King Moshoeshoe.
It is a shame that in 2021 we have an African manager who’s completely clueless about Africa.
Often times when race debates flare up, white people are quick to remind us (Africans) to go back to wearing animal skins and ditch “their” shirts and suits. How does the manager reprimand a proud son of the soil for compliance?
Verwoed must be smiling but this is not a perfect opportunity to worship the manager and his ilk of our heritage.
I strongly advise him to brew umqombothi to appease his ancestors for his moment of ignorance.