All in 3.5 Years

I’ve tried to remove myself from my blog posts as I, personally, don’t see any benefit for any reader of any kind to read anything about me.  Until now — perhaps.

So, for the first time I’m writing a blog post solely about me as opposed to my experiences and opinions.  I’ll spare the boring details about my actual assignments and general university work as I would rather focus on relationships, cultures and traditions.

The following is merely a perspective.  It is in no way intended as hateful text/speech, but is intended as a very direct, honest perspective, outlook and opinion.  I do understand that this is a very controversial topic, however I feel it my desire to share my experience(s) as honest and direct as possible.

Almost every student walking into a university campus for the first time experiences a “culture shock”.  This culture shock varies in magnitude depending on your upbringing, high school and past experiences; however, I strongly believe that the culture shock experienced by new students in Building 8 (studying either Architecture, Architectural Technology or Interior Design) is unchallenged.

Backtrack to 2015 when I, a very naive white boy, walked into Building 8 for the first time.  I came from an Afrikaans-speaking only high school where English was only uttered in English-class and the only interaction I had with black people was with one black kid in my year and he was Afrikaans — so that really doesn’t count.  Naturally my knowledge and awareness of black people, their culture and traditions was non-existent — I didn’t understand why we’re so different from one another.

While this notion of “difference” might repel some people, a great interest in different cultures, languages, traditions and relationships brewed within me.

I’d like to add at this point that I have a great fear.  A great fear of being ignorant and naive — generally about most things in life.

It so happened that by the end of my first year, my closest friend was, and still is, black — not because I wanted to learn more and more about culture and traditions, but because we truly got along as friends.  What unfolded thereafter was an extraordinary new world that I was introduced to.

I used to have a very ignorant outlook (perhaps some may say I still do — I’m working on it) on black people in South Africa due to obvious reasons stated above.  I though “black people are black people” and I’m sure some black students had the false perception of “white people are white people”.  My perception that all black people are the same (“black people are black people”) is the epitome of naivety and ignorance as I soon found out how many differences resides under one skin colour.

First and foremost, the most noticeable difference is in the background and upbringing:

township/rural vs. city

state school vs. private/semi-private school (model C)

traditional vs. religion

You might find someone grew up in a township, but was fortunate enough to attend a semi-private school, yet still believes in traditions rather than religion.  You might also find someone who grew up in a city or town, went to a semi-private school and is religious.  Soon one realises that just these three variables generates a vast amount of different kinds of people.  One can split it into two groups:

i.e. “cheese-boys” and “non cheese-boys”

(the term “cheese-boy” refers to a black person who is heavily influenced by Western (white) culture, traditions and religion — therefore a black person that attended a private/semi-private school, and has a knowledgeable understanding of Western culture)

On top of all this, there are various cultures separating black people like Xhosa; Zulu; Swazi; Shangaan-Tsonga; Venda; Pedi; Sotho; Ndebele, all dependant on where you are born, your parents’ origin and ancestors.  Each of these cultural groups has its own traditions, ethnic beliefs and characteristics.  It is also possible to find black people who came from mixed cultures i.e. where one parent is Sotho and the other is Swazi, for instance.

Only after knowing all of these  factors (and there are many more) one can truly understand (or at least try to comprehend) the challenges that black students face in a Westernised system such as university.  It is true that some find it easier (experience a lesser “culture shock”) than others; however, it has to be conceded that it cannot be without its hurdles.  Having the little knowledge I have acquired over the past three-and-a-half years, I conjure immense respect for black students, their various and vast cultures and their traditions.

In Building 8 one can decide to “go your go” or one can decide to embrace the diversity — its all dependant on you as an individual.  In my embracing of diversity, I’ve realised things, obtained a greater understanding of people who are vastly different from myself (or the things that I’ve been exposed to) and grown as an individual that would otherwise not be possible in any other course or building (working together in studios and computer-labs really aids to one’s growth due to interesting conversations and being in each other’s company).  I am grateful for the people I’ve had the privilege to meet and get to know on more personal levels.  These people made me a better me; a fuller me.



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