11.16.2012

The Diversity & Controversities of Black Cultures from this Asian's Perspective (II of V)

NOTE: My apologies dear readers. The nightmare that was my finals is now over, my academic war concluded, albeit semi-successfully. I realize it's been almost two months since my last post, and as promised, here's the second part of five. Out of habit, I must reiterate that I do not speak as an academic, a political scientist or a social analyst with qualifications. Only as one whose interest in human nature runs deep, and would rather spend more time studying it than blasting my enemies online (yes, I'm a gaming addict).

     When I asked most people what they thought of Africa (firstly it was well-off Malaysians in relative comparison, and later white folk, just for the lulz of their reactions) the response(s) were overwhelmingly in the negative. Poverty, constant warfare, famine, child soldiers, bla bla bla ad nauseam. But as we all know this could not be further from the truth in many cases. While I don't doubt the existence of these issues, nonetheless they were, are & never will be the sole & only face of Africa to the outside world. In that respect, it's a pitiable situation when non-PoC believe this to be so. It simply renders their perceptions invalid, disabling them from seeing what beauty the continent holds if they would only look beyond their vapid ideas of what constitutes Africa & instead lies beneath. But I digress.

   Africa, as I would discover in the coming years, was a continent so chock full of life & culture that this post can scarcely do it justice in description (but the again, dear readers, we of all people need no further explanation) So I will do my best in that respect by discussing one nation in each cardinal region whilst touching on others if possible. For one, sub-Saharan Africa. This region is the most international part of the continent, mostly due to the struggles against the South African / Rhodesian apartheid rule. Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) itself is a curious paradox. Despite the brutality that occurred in the decade up to the establishment of Zimbabwe, the country itself was economically stable, prosperous even when contrasted against her border neighbors. Certainly this remained the case even when Robert Mugabe assumed the presidency in 1987 & abolished the post of Prime Minister. I cannot clearly identify a singular cause as to what when wrong after 1992, but I suspect that the death of Mugabe's first wife was a turning point in the misrule of the country. Yet numerous Zimbabweans of our generation are socially mobile & constitute a sizable middle-class, albeit one that exists outside her borders in lieu of a nonexistent local economy. But what is tragic in many sense (call me the devil's advocate here) are the land reforms, which have had devastating consequences. The appropriation of white-owned farms & passing it into black hands would seem like poetic justice, but ultimately proved to be detrimental. The white farmers possessed the necessary skills to grow crops & to sustain the national breadbasket, whereas by redistributing these farms to people who lacked the required agricultural abilities to develop the lands & instead let it lie fallow has been a contentious point for many Zimbabweans, who would rather much see the lands in white hands than to leave it in abeyance. In turn, this has affected the relationship between Zimbabwe & her neighbors, such as Botswana. The contrast is startling. Botswana was often regarded by Zimbabweans as their poorer cousins, but at present Gaborone has a sizable population of Zimbabwean expatriates. Economic considerations notwithstanding, methinks the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana has more to do with the likelihood that they face little to no political suppression there. Something Mugabe's government is aware of when it accused Botswana of harboring political rebels. Unsurprising, but untrue. Seretse Khama, Botswana's first president was determined to keep out foreign militants from her borders until his last days in office. That would have included, at the time, Robert Mugabe's Marxist-leaning ZANU party. Despite President Khama's pivotal role in the negotiations to end the Rhodesian Bush War / Zimbabwe Liberation War, old Bob still resented the preventions from using Botswana as staging grounds from which to wage his battles against both Ian Smith & Joshua Nkomo.

     What I found intriguing was the social cultures that sprang up in the years after the Liberation War, and during the first decade of Robert Mugabe's rule. Despite (or rather in spite of) the economic collapse of the country, widespread corruption, and severe political repression (a hallmark of both Africa & Asia) the Zimbabweans are by & large a cheerful people. True, disillusionment with the old guard is there (many had high hopes for Mugabe when he started out in 1980) and yet the people do not allow it to affect them. The arts for one flourished quite well, as did her education system (the University of Zimbabwe is one of the most prestigious centers of learning in the continent, and is still a force to be reckoned with) Until the economic collapse, Zimbabwe had a moderately high standard of living. Understandably enough, the local populace has developed a sharp but quite subtle sense of humor, ranging from the tongue-in-cheek to the borderline gallows humor. Linguistically I must note a degree of distrust between Shona & Ndebele speakers, although I've been informed that it was far more acrimonious in the past. Again, Mugabe takes the cake on this one. Had he not attempted to contain and supress Nkomo's followers & slaughtered 20,000 people (nearly all of whom were non-combatants) this would not be an issue today. His excesses are not contained within Zimbabwe alone. During a trip to Kuala Lumpur in 2009 / 2010, roughly a hundred Zimbabwean students were at the airport to greet him, all of whom he gave US$ 1,000. Each.

    As noted earlier, I will discuss in brief several other nations in southern Africa. Botswana is for one a success story of the region, seeing as how she was removed from the list of failed states in 1994 & has now managed to stand on her own economic feet, in part due to the rich diamond mines in the northwesterly sector. The university in Malaysia where I'm a former student opened up an oversea campus in Gaborone, bringing in a large influx of students from Botswana, the region & the continent. Swaziland is a curiosity in itself, with King Mswati III spending outrageously at the cost of his own people. Yet the Umhlanga, or the Reed Dance Ceremony is a sight to behold. And of course, South Africa. I decided to discuss Zimbabwe rather than SA mainly due to a higher degree of familiarity with the former. But she definitely deserves a mention. Since the end of apartheid rule in 1994, SA has gone through its ups & downs. For one, the feared widespread violence in which the blacks would attack the whites never took place. But at the same time the issue of white flight takes place, with many White South Africans choosing to live outside rather than back home, if only because of economic reasons. But that is neither here nor there. Since I'm more familiar with the struggles of black Africans as opposed to white ones, I'll avoid discussing.    

I welcome criticism, be it constructive or ragging (must be the sadomasochist in me) and corrections if necessary. Especially from anyone who is from, or has family, in southern Africa. With regards.

10 comments:

  1. Great article, Zydar. As always, good to have you back.

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    1. It's good to be back sister Ankhesen =) Btw, am I allowed to put a rant-esque post? :p

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    2. Stuff that caught my attention. Something between a rant & an observation.

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  2. Very insightful and intriguing I look forward to your posts. "Africa, as I would discover in the coming years, was a continent so chock full of life & culture" I wish others think this way too. Sadly Haitians get as much bad reps as Africa even though we are full of culture and livelihood and mega festivals. No one really takes the time to actually look into the people and stand behind false ideas created by the medias "Donate money to starving children" It only shows the bad part! What about the good parts! Anyways well thought out. I have no disagreements. However did you know that there are Marvel characters from Africa? Back in my comic book days I collected all those comics. Pretty interesting.

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    1. Oh there is a blasian marvel character. Not really mixed but it was a African boy in a Chinese family. I liked it. Here's a link.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_Sun_%28comics%29

      Sorry for getting off topic. >.<

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    2. the constant negative media is intentional of course, then they can justify imperialism and military invasion as being "for their own good", I mean look at that KONY nonsense

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    3. Thanks for the link Kesia! Midnight Sun sounds interesting, but otherwise have you heard of the new martial arts movie/documentary coming out that centres on the story of a Malawian boy raised in a Chinese orphanage?

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  3. Zydar...this ability you have to consistently reach Top Post status...*shakes head*.

    Keep up the good work.

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