Value Different Cultures and the Riches They Bring

Cape Times (South Africa), July 9, 2007 | Go to article overview

Value Different Cultures and the Riches They Bring


BYLINE: CO van der Rheede

In order to effectively overcome racism in Cape Town, we cannot ignore the impact of cultural diversity on people's perceptions of one another.

Communities or people will continue to be at one another's throats if we do not deal creatively with cultural ignorance.

This requires us to identify and recognise the unique and diverse range of cultural drivers that underlie our divergent cultural practices, and provide communities with the expertise, infrastructure and money to translate these cultural drivers into sustainable and integrated creative industries at grass-roots level.

Cultural drivers are infinitely complex and have the potential to aggravate racial division and spur racism or to provide us with the content to design new strategies aimed at overcoming racial divisions.

Whether we like it or not, these cultural drivers form the bedrock of communities, and should not be regarded as a threat to greater social cohesion. People cannot simply detach themselves from these cultural drivers. Culture has a major influence on the way we think and act, and we will continue to define our cultural space in terms of specific cultural drivers.

Karl Marx maintains that "human beings cannot be separated from their social and economic circumstances - or from the chilly shades of their forebears".

This does not imply that we should foster apartheid-style cultural environments, but rather that we should create an enabling environment in which people can comfortably engage with their cultural drivers and engage cross-culturally.

Cultural drivers are embedded in social constructs. These came about as a result of migration and trading between indigenous peoples of southern Africa long before the Dutch East India Company arrived.

The arrival of the colonialists, slave trading, British imperialism, the introduction of apartheid and present-day neo-liberalism, however, brought about new social constructs according to race classification and economic stratification.

Present-day Cape Town, like any other city in South Africa, is no exception.

People live according to the race classification and social stratification systems of the past, and will continue to live like that in the future unless some form of |drastic social engineering occurs that will forbid us to speak any other language than English and ban our heterogeneous cultural practices.

This leaves us with little choice but to recognise the value of each community's unique and diverse range of cultural drivers, and use them to achieve greater social cohesion and overcome racism.

These cultural drivers include our unique and diverse range of languages, literature, poetry, drama, art, music, dance, food, traditions, medicine, architecture, design, fashion, entertainment and religion. …

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