My hair is not my heritage

My hair speaks to the ancestors and decidedly snubs me. It excludes me from the conversation because the language is post-paradise and pre-colonial. But that’s alright. I’m just happy that I get the privilege to third-wheel.

My tangerine tinted dreadlocks kiss Cape Town’s coast on my Africa tattoo situated on my strong mahogany coloured back. I only display the emblem of my identity on special occasions like Heritage day, Africa day and Afrocentric music festivals.  I like to think that I am proudly African but I don’t feel the might of my ancestors when I ball up my hand into a raised Black Power fist.

I envy the relationship my dreadfully natural locks have with ogogo and abamkhulu. I suppose it’s my own fault, I cannot expect my ancestors to twist their tongues and ears to the language of the noble savage.

I’m an African. I am an elegant African lioness, tearing into the misconceptions of blackness the same way she would tear into the tender flesh of a buffalo. I am a huntress, a Nubian queen, and a daughter of Africa. In short I am every conceivable stereotype of Africa that was splashed on Disney channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

My ancestors lived in Afrika and I live in Africa, it’s just a fact I must learn to accept. Besides, I enjoy listening to the cacophony of Zulu and Xhosa vernacular as I comprehend only the gist. Sometimes the chatter between my ancestors and locks of dread is drowned by the fermenting frothing of coconut milk.

The cultural references they make go right over my head and I feel embarrassed to ask them to slow down, repeat themselves or explain the joke. I’ve struggled through years of first Additional Language Zulu to pick up a few things on my own.

I heard them snicker at me once. I was giving a speech in front of my class, stammering through every click and phrase. When the five minute ordeal was done, my face burned from embarrassment. Not because my peers suppressed laughter, obviously unimpressed by my delivery, but because I felt like I had presented my speech to an audience in the spiritual realm. As if the room were crowded with all our ancestors and I had just let down every single relative I had as my un-African accent mangled my mother tongue.

Please do forgive her. You see she’s Zulu but she’s not Shaka Zulu Zulu.


Embarrassment melted and dripped off of my face like hot wax. It cooled and stuck to tips of hair-itage. I cut off communication and deafened my ears to the snickering.



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