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<nettime> Some Zulu words for white person
Kevin Murray on Wed, 22 Aug 2001 20:29:36 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Some Zulu words for white person

My name is Sabiye, and I live in the region of South Africa known as
Mpumalanga, which you might know according to its old name, the Transvaal. I
work at the Vulamehlo Arts Centre. 'Vulamehlo' is a phrase in my language
that means 'open your eyes'. We say 'vulamehlo' usually to tell the other
guy that something is happening - open your eyes so that you can see what
you can see.

Last week I met a white guy. He was standing in the clearing just outside
our building. He was just standing there looking up at the sun through a
pair of cardboard sunglasses. Just looking at the sun for about ten minutes.
These white guys we call 'indlebe zikhayi langa', people whose ears glow in
the sun.

After a long time he came over to our building and introduced himself.
'Sabuwona' he said, which means 'I see you'. It was nice that he used our
word, but he spoke it like a tourist, a bit stiff.

I must admit, I was curious about the glasses. He gave them to me and I too
looked at the sun. There was this black disk covering most of the sun. It
was a solar eclipse, very special. These white people we call 'umlungu',
which means people who practice magic. 'Umlungu' comes from the time when
Europeans first came here with mirrors, which our ancestors thought were
quite magic. They happily gave up their cattle and land for these little
pieces of glass. This guy had a few tricks up his sleeve too.

He asked to take my photograph. I stood beside the new cabinet I'd just
built, so he could get a good shot. After he took the photograph, he showed
me the back of the camera. There was this little screen and slowly rolling
down was this bright image of me from just a few second ago. It looked
really sharp, just like the television.

Funny how he could come from the other side of the world and just walk up
here. We have another phrase for white people: 'ipuma lemile', which means
those to leave the house upright. Traditionally, Zulu huts have very small
doorways, so we have to crawl to get in and out. Crawling is a sign of

He asked me what I knew of Australia. I didn't mean to offend him, but I had
to tell him that I'd heard Australia was like the old South Africa. Black
people in Australia still have to kneel down for the white man. That's why
so many of our whites have decided to move over to Australia. They won't
have to worry about black people there. He looked at little shocked at this.

I asked him what Australians know of South Africa. He started talking about
all these terrible things, AIDS, poverty, crime and corruption. They must
think we are really miserable. I said to him what a pity it was that they
think this. For so many years, the country had been isolated by apartheid,
when the world disowned us, and rightly so. But now we are our own people,
they look only for the bad things, as though if black people are in charge
then things must be pretty bad.

And I reminded him, it's not really accurate to call us 'black'. We're
really 'unsundu' -- brown people.

I guess I opened his eyes a little with this sort of talk. And I enjoyed his
so sharp 'umlungu' tricks. Then things got really dark outside.

Southern Exposure -- www.craftvic.asn.au/south


Precis Forecasts for Melbourne
Issued at 0505 on Wednesday the 15th of August 2001 for today and tonight
Fine.                                    Max 21

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