Voices

The #CliftonBeach slaughter – how the classism of ‘primitive’ and ‘enlightened’ played out

2018-12-31 08:31

iKoloni (the former Cape Colony) which stretches from the Western seaboard to the Eastern, is rich with history of resistance against invading colonisers and land thieves.

In fact, stories of renegade kings and warriors from the Colony fighting wars against Western invasion are not as colourfully told as those of the Zulu Empire.

So, in the era of social media and consumption of content of limited characters, I am left wondering if old historical content of words upon words is still being consumed.

Do people search for and engage with content on Makana Nxele, Hintsa, Maqoma and countless others, including many from the Khoi, who were taken across the Atlantic seaboard to incarceration, death or to be made a spectacle of?

Blame my bemoaning of history on the Clifton beach protest and the resulting social media engagement, largely from black twitterati.

What was meant to be a protest over the resurgence of apartheid styled Separate Amenities over the use of a beach, was made into a spectacle on social media. Activists had quickly organised for a “cleansing ceremony to wash away the spirit of racism”, granted that’s one demon this country needs to exorcise and strongly so.

The resultant social media engagement over the ceremony had me shaken.

Those who were for the ceremony organised all sorts, from transport to finger food in the form of kotas (Gatsbys), music and more.

There was even talk of upgrading the offering from a sheep to a cow.

On the other hand, you had jesters, the literati, the digital spiritualists and “influencers” of the social sphere having their field day.

Joking about offering animal (he was called Shaun the sheep and many other names); others were putting across academic arguments about primitivism; others asking questions on who’s spirit(s) will be called upon to intercede on this racial treatment.

Social media, especially Twitter, was abuzz during all this time the spectacle was taking place.

The “primitive” activists believing in this cause as well as the enlightened jesters, academics et al, all advancing their arguments.

It dawned on me that once again we are having an amabomvu and amagqobhoka spat in the middle of a milestone event – the protest over impending sponsored segregation.

In the days when colonialism was making inroads, aided by the missionary, those who had embraced religion and forsaken their “old” ways were seen as “enlightened” (amagqobhoka).

Those who shunned the so-called enlightenment and still believed in their ways were called ‘primitive’ (amabomvu) and were constantly at the ridicule of their “enlightened” countrymen.

How these two groups behave towards each other made them take their eyes off what was brewing – the start of the land grabs and entrenchment of colonialism.

The same with the Clifton beach protest, if we are to call it that.

It was easy to lose the plot and focus whilst we mocked each other over intricacies instead of empowering each other to make this protest highlight how from centuries ago, in the Colony, the seaboard has been used to subjugate blacks.

Instead of ridiculing and asking on whose spirit will the protestors intercede, offer an advice and say: invoke the spirit of Makana who preferred to die swimming the Atlantic rather than being incarcerated for fighting for his land.

Instead of mocking the sacrificial offerings others make, rather learn about the significance of such offerings and engage.

Instead of calling this the primitivism of the oppressed, rather offer advice on bringing symbolism into a protest.

We need to engage our history and learn from it. We cannot relieve the mess of frowning at and ridiculing one another just because of where we think we are in thought and belief.

There is a much greater cause that we are likely to lose sight of if we allow the quest for social media likes and comments to make us relieve the classism of amagqobhoka and amabomvu.

Those taking their activism to the frontlines and those opting to actively observe and commentate on social media should learn to find each other and engage on context and history, lest we end up knowing only how to ridicule each other.

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May 19 2019