Saturday, August 04, 2007


Just over a year ago I remember saying to someone that English-speaking South Africans (I guess I meant myself) have no culture. I have changed my mind.

It seems forever ago, but it was just less than three months that I spent some time at our District Local Preachers Convention. This is an event attended by predominantly black South Africans. Well, there were two white people and about 300 black people. The rule for the LP Association is that preachers wear the 'black and white' - pretty much formal western dress, including ties for both men and women. Now, I went to this thing as an expression of solidarity and a desire that we as cultures move together. But the thought of dressing like that did not appeal. So - well, actually I did sort of try to fit in, within the bounds of my wardrobe, but I didn't do too well - I decided if anyone asked I would say that my clothing was an expression of my culture, just as theirs was of their culture. Kind people that they are, I was warmly welcomed regardless of my lack of uniform and in fact only one person mentioned my clothes. She looked totally taken aback at my explanation. White people aren't supposed to use culture as a reason for behaviour! But I think that my culture values individuality, while traditional black culture values community and conformity. And, for now, I stand by my culture. I think it is Biblical (eg every man shall die for his own sin) and I think it is logical. I make my own choices. I am an individual. And, of course, I honour your choice and as far as possible your culture.

I have learnt more about my own culture, but maybe that will be in another post. We have quarterly Local Preachers' Executive meetings which are amazingly open and frank in discussions of race and culture. We are three blacks and three whites. The 'power balance' is fair and we hear each other. I'm just realising how much I do learn from them. Thanks guys!


David Barbour said...

It was very brave of you and well done. As long as everybody respect each other no matter what cloth they where. You read my Harris Tweed (not the group) affair at Hilton. Same thing, felt rather out when everybody else was wearing their gowns. It wasn't even a formal service, just a normal Sunday pm happening. Race is divided in many ways it would seem. Good to have you visit the blog now and again. David

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks for your comment David. I am having fun with the concept of defining my own culture. Or perhaps explaining it. And I agree that race and culture is not altogether about black and white anymore. Makes life interesting!