On the wet Johannesburg evening of January 10th, I attended the NERDAFRICA book club meeting. I came across the event on their Facebook page and the book that was to being discussed was one that brought back fond memories of UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, Ngugi waThiongo’s “Decolonising the mind”. The book had been recommended for a module I did during my years at the University. This brought back all the memories of my young and ignorant self. Having spent the better part of an hour searching for the venue, I arrived with the discussions having progressed. I had to get on board this conversation as those men running alongside a train would. To my surprise, the conversation was still in the early stages.
It was the idea that the “black middle class” is never concerned with the revolution but rather enjoys philosophising about it.
I looked around the group, noticing my peers dressed as though they’d just come back from the office. To my relief, none of them were dressed in the dashikis that have become uniform among the pseudo-intellectual “woke” black community of South African youth.
The glare of the irony of us having a conversation in English about a book that deals with black people’s language and the use of English in their oppression was too bright for me to ignore. Nonetheless, the content of the conversation was rather fruitful. Often in spaces like book clubs the discussions are spoiled by those who enjoy the sound of their own voices. Like any other book club meeting, this one, too, had that ilk. Be that as it may, the exchange of ideas on Ngugi and decoloniality fared quite well. One got the sense that many of the ideas that were being passed around were refined in thought.
The refreshing part was that there was none of that “intellectual superiority complex” that generally comes with “woke” people.
There were a number of inspiring thoughts within that conversation. In our conversation the subject of the authorship of the Xhosa Bible by Appleyard came up. A contending view was that it is plausible that the Xhosa Bible was not actually translated by Appleyard, as many believe, but by some other Xhosa author who may have not been credited for their work. After all, colonialism had the tendency of usurping the work of the black man. This view pushed me to dig into the authorship of the Xhosa bible to searching for those black people that may have not been credited for their work by the missionaries of the 19th century. Sadly, I have not yet begun the digging, thanks to a beautiful woman called Procrastination.
In the course of the discussion someone raised a point that has been engraved in my thoughts. It was the idea that the “black middle class” is never concerned with the revolution but rather enjoys philosophising about it. This is mainly because that idea gave me a reflection of myself. So ingrained was the thought in my mind that I even wrote a blog about it.
It was very refreshing to come across a group of young people in Johannesburg grappling with the lived realities of the black experience in a spirit that sought to transform society and its norms. The refreshing part was that there was none of that “intellectual superiority complex” that generally comes with “woke” people. This was just a conversation that sought to reflect on some of the imprints that colonialism has left behind. The kind of conversation that inspires one to delve into diverse avenues of thought. How lovely it is to know that I am not the only one that thinks about such issues in this day and age.