Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween in South Africa?

"When did South Africans start observing Halloween?," a close female friend asked over dinner last Sunday night in Joburg.

"That is just so wrong," she added.

"I know.  It is so phony and totally not South African," I commented.

"Forget Halloween boet," said my boy D. who was sitting next to me.  "There are South Africans who celebrate Thanksgiving in South Africa without one American around."

"No way.  How the hell can any South African celebrate Thanksgiving?  It has nothing to do with us.  At the very least Halloween is a contrived American ritual made popular by movies.  But Thanksgiving?," I said.

"Yeah it is disturbing but it happens here," D. replied.

There is just so much wrong with celebrating and observing American rituals and holidays in a country where many folks refuse to celebrate our own public holidays.

August 9th was Heritage Day in South Africa.  One too many South Africans, particularly coloured, white, and Indian South Africans, refused to acknowledge the theme of Heritage and instead  dubbed the day "Braai Day" (Barbecue Day).

I bet a sizable number of the "Braai Day" day celebrants see nothing wrong with observing Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Just last week I was reading a print article by a South African political commentator that was entitled "Will South Africa step up to the plate?"

What plate does he want South Africa to step up to?

"Step up to the plate" is a quintessential American metaphor that references batting in baseball.  South Africa does not play baseball and the metaphor is absolutely amiss inside our popular and political culture.

Yet, if you asked some folks what it means I bet they will think it is 'stepping up to the braai' to get some food on your plate :0)

I have also heard another baseball metaphor used quite commonly.  This one refers to "a ballpark estimate" or "a ballpark figure".

What the hell hey?  We have no 'ballpark' nothing in South Africa.  Why is this Americanism becoming such a permanent part of our communication?

I guess one could deconstruct my rant here and ask why I even bother to speak English being that I am obviously not from England.

You know that answer.

What I don't want to accept is the manner in which most South Africans consume all kinds of foreign things and habits without thinking through the implications.

Halloween does not belong here.  Nor does Thanksgiving.  Neither are in the 'ballpark' of being South African and living here.

I will save my added rant on Hip Hop culture and South African youth for another post.

But please allow me to say to white South Africans that it does not make you 'hip' to say "cool" or "my bad" or "don't diss me" or to constantly refer to the ANC "bling" in your daily lamentations.

Like my boy Eugene might say: 'It just makes you look stupid that's all.'

So stop appropriating and mimicking just because you think you can, "pilgrim" ;0)



Eugene said...

YES! WE ARE VICTORIOUS! OUR AMERICAN INVASION HAS BEEN MORE THAN SUCCESSFUL! America doesn't always use bombs and guns in its invasions.

Halloween became an American holiday in the '50's, I think.

Thanksgiving became a holiday to celebrate killing Indians (not because of that fantasy feast which didn't fare so well for the invaders as they were eaten out of house and home). It became a holiday some years later after some colonists successfully slaughtered a bunch of unsuspecting Indians.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for bringing perspective to my rant Eugene.

The sad part is that most folks won't even see why we should resist observing Halloween and definitely more so, Thanksgiving.

These are the same folks who describe the Jeep Grand Cherokee as a symbol of American "red" Indians and the South African restaurant with its Indian mascot (Spur) as "cool".

A year or so ago I wrote to a South African motoring magazine and asked why they kept describing the "bling" inside a car?

"What is bling to you and why the fixation?," I asked.

They never responded.

I like also listening to folks talk about "owning up to" this or that, or my favourite, "owning your feelings and emotions".


We watch too much American TV in South Africa.

Peace to you Eugene. Be careful out there in the roads of Oregon.


eccentricyoruba said...

Like my boy Eugene might say: 'It just makes you look stupid that's all.'

Here in Nigeria, we have radio presenters and hip-hop celebrities speaking in 'American' accents. It really does make them look and sound stupid because the accents are obviously fake. Why anyone would think it is necessary to use a fake American accent to speak to a Nigerian audience is totally beyond me.

Ridwan said...

Hi eccentricyoruba:

Thanks for your comment.

The same is true here with certain radio and TV stations.

It is all stupid but unlikely to stop huh?

Be well up there in Nigeria.


desert demons said...

I often wonder if people are blinded by the American cultural invasion. Even those who protest the imperialistic military might, seem unconscious of their own adoption of americanism. Americans are not even subtle about their indoctrination - they see it as patriotism - but are we all expected to swallow the bitter poison that it is?

Ridwan said...

You cannot be more right desert demons.

It is an absolutely worrying trend that is hardly about the freedom it sometimes purports.

I have said here often that knowing the details is a very un-American trait.

Sadly, I see the same thing happening in South Africa and in no small part due to the americanisation of just about everything.

Peace to you.