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Her­itage Day came early this year. Well, at least that’s what it looked like at the pre­miere of the Nige­rian mu­si­cal Kakadu at The Joburg Theatre’s Man­dela stage. It’s al­ways re­fresh­ing when guests hon­our the dress code or theme of an event. And that’s ex­actly what Mpho Osei-Tutu, Rosie Motene and Nomsa Mazwai, among oth­ers, did.

Tra­di­tional African at­tire was the or­der of the day. From muted tones of Tswana ap­parel to loud Ghana­ian wear, African pride was on dis­play for all to see.

The most in­ter­est­ing part of the fash­ion is an is­sue that is play­ing out on so­cial me­dia right now: the ap­pro­pri­a­tion of cul­ture. There are al­ways un­der­cur­rents of dis­sat­is­fac­tion from the far left who main­tain that only Zu­lus can wear ib­heshu (loin cloth) and that the ux­akatha (a small and light­weight blan­ket) should be lim­ited to Xhosas. I say, boo!

What a re­fresh­ing sight it was to wit­ness white ladies rock­ing Swati tra­di­tional re­galia, while some Nde­bele folk chose to forgo their colour­ful prints and opted for Tsonga gear. It is when such African pride is vi­su­alised that you re­alise that we are all one, and it does not mat­ter where you come from or what you look like.

Cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion gives parts of our so­ci­ety a li­cence to try some­thing new and dif­fer­ent, with­out be­ing judged too harshly if they do not pull it off per­fectly. Think about our coloured broth­ers and sis­ters, what at­tire were they sup­posed to wear? We all know the on­go­ing de­bate about how mixe­drace folk sup­pos­edly have “no cul­ture”, so be­ing able to wear Tsonga tra­di­tional wear for some proved to be a stroke of cre­ative in­ge­nu­ity.

To give the night an au­then­tic feel of La­gos, the foyer of the Joburg Theatre was turned into a mini mar­ket, where ven­dors sold African-in­spired wares, in­clud­ing jewellery (neck­pieces, ban­gles, metal­lic hoops, rings and ear­rings), tra­di­tional clothes, bags and mul­ti­coloured scat­ter pil­lows.

The first show­ing of La­gos’ Kakadu proved to be the most fit­ting way for the priv­i­leged to be ex­posed to cu­rated, lim­ited and, dare I say, “civilised” African cul­ture, all within the safe con­fines of the Joburg Theatre.

Those in at­ten­dance seemed to en­joy it a whole lot more than they would have a few hours in, let’s say, Yeoville, Troyeville or any other “ville” that of­fers way more in terms of in­trigu­ing ac­cents, tra­di­tional food and a glimpse into dif­fer­ent ways of be­ing African. Kakadu runs un­til June 18.


AFRICAN PAL­ETTE Part of the Kakadu cast


BEAD THAT The foyer of the Joburg Theatre was turned into a mini mar­ket WIN­TER SWAG

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