The Complexity of the Colored Id in Southern Africa – Opinion

On this article, southern Africa is used to consult with South Africa and Namibia due to the 2 nations’ intertwined histories.

Racial and ethnic categorisation took particular patterns in each nations due to the apartheid coverage of racial segregation.

These patterns had been distinctive and particular in each nations and, over time, got here to tell racial and ethnic identifications in each nations.
Colored individuals, with roughly the identical cultural background, are present in each nations.

In December 2023, the BBC reported on-line that “South Africa’s hottest music sensation, Tyla, was caught in a tradition of warfare or within the crossfire of a web based debate over the phrase she makes use of to explain her racial id as ‘Colored’.”

Tyla’s racial id appears to have stoked fires on social media, particularly within the US.

Within the US, the phrase goes again to the Jim Crow period within the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when racial legal guidelines had been instituted within the southern states to oppress African Individuals after slavery was abolished.

In South Africa, nonetheless, Colored individuals, to which Tyla proudly belongs, have a definite id that’s formally recognised.


Sadly, the strategy by some Individuals threatening to boycott her performances, and so forth, borders on cultural hegemony or cultural imperialism.

Cultural hegemony refers to domination by ideological or cultural means.

It’s normally achieved by social establishments, which permit these in energy to strongly affect the values, norms, concepts, expectations, world view, and behavior of the remainder of society or, on this case, the remainder of the world.

The truth that some Individuals, notably African Individuals on this case, take it as a right that the remainder of the world ought to settle for their paradigm or body of reference relating to defining sure race ideas or racial classifications, boils down to 1 factor: cultural hegemony.

I not too long ago spoke to a younger upcoming Namibian scholar and she or he put it this fashion: “The worldwide dominance of American cultural life is sort of a massive display the place the Individuals themselves are the principle actors and the remainder of the world is the viewers. Sadly, the principle actors don’t hassle to gauge the sentiments of the members of the viewers to attempt to discover out what the latter group thinks in regards to the play.”

And that is the place the “essential actors” appear to have misplaced the plot.

The cultural hegemony of the US is mirrored in some ways – by concepts, values, norms, leisure, faith, consumerism and so forth.

African Individuals have their very own distinctive subculture inside mainstream American tradition.

Nevertheless, their distinctive subculture continues to be a part of the principle hegemonic or expansionist American tradition. This can be a tradition based mostly on the notion of American “exceptionalism”.


The purpose I’m attempting to make is that as a lot as we should always enable African Individuals to outline themselves, they need to equally enable room for different individuals to outline themselves.

If Tyla is a South African Colored and that group is recognised as a definite group in South Africa, ought to she then name herself one thing else when she performs within the US?

In apartheid South Africa, the Inhabitants Registration Act of 1950 required individuals to be registered in one in all 4 racial classes – White, Black, Indian or Colored.

One other legislation designated residential areas in line with race.

The historical past of the Colored group in South Africa and Namibia is complicated, however quintessentially southern African. 

The group has disparate origins, being a mix of Black, White, and Asian however was introduced collectively below apartheid guidelines.

It was cast within the southern African geography in a method that no different group can declare.

This was how the Colored group has developed over time as a definite group.

The Coloureds could be described as an eclectic mixture of look, language, accents and heritage.


Out of this difficult historical past individuals like Tyla, who establish as Colored, have woven a wealthy cultural tapestry.

Tyla’s meteoric rise to fame might due to this fact be seen as a cultural assertion or imagery illustration that affirms the distinctive id of the Colored group – lots of them might need to use the Tyla sensation as a cultural device for self-definition and satisfaction.

I listened to a TV debate some time in the past the place some South African Colored intellectuals argued that it was incorrect for the ANC authorities to exclude Coloureds from the definition of who’s ‘African’ as a result of the Coloureds had been additionally African.

This goes to point out the complexity of the Colored id referred to above.

  • * Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna is a commissioner of elections. The views expressed listed here are his personal and never these of the ECN.

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