Adjusting my colour

The SABC has launched what is likely to be a vociferous television buddy for two of the Western Cape’s most raucous tabloid newspapers, the Daily Voice and Kaapse Son.

It’s called Colour TV – and it’s a 13-part series about South Africa’s 9.1 percenters, or as a white auntie from Boksburg or some such place said so tellingly on radio the other day: ‘our coloured people’.

From what I’ve gathered, the series is a mix of everything – much like the masala mix that makes up the subject matter.

But its common thread is about coloured people being funny … in ‘that irrepressibly coloured way’.

Now, I’m a 9.1 percenter, a reluctant one, I would like to emphasise – which, perhaps, explains why I get so nervous when I hear talk of ‘coloured blocs’ or when I see (as in the case of the new series) ‘coloureds only television programmes aired by the public broadcaster.

Let me emphasize: I’m not against programmes for our country’s various language groups. In fact, I strongly support their production and rollout. But the last time I checked, ‘coloured’ was not one of South Africa’s official languages.

I’d like to stress too that I’m not a ranting old sourpuss.

A few years ago, I watched a pirated copy of one of Marc Lottering’s first comedy shows – and, I’m proud to say, I laughed … once or twice.

And I’ve even eaten a gatsby.

But enough’s enough. Over the years, I’ve seen enough gold teeth (or passion gaps) in comedy skits to last me a lifetime. I’ve also heard the joke – at least 10 times – about the mother and her two daughters who share the same bottle of carrot-red hair colouring. In case you’re wondering, yes, my mother did warn me that coloured men who are about to lie usually start a sentence with, ‘Daai’s nog niks.’ And, okay, I did laugh once when someone used a variation of, ‘Jou ma se p**s’ – a Zapiro cartoon, in which a vagrant stumbles across the Grand Parade on the morning after Cape Town had lost out to Athens for the right to stage the 2004 Olympics and says: ‘Athens se ma se p**s’.

Just as an aside, isn’t it weird how the vagrant’s curse has come to pass?

But back to the ‘coloured question’: coloured people are not a homogeneous group. And except for at the beginning of a sentence, coloured is not spelt with a capital C. Sadly, this hasn’t stopped people who call themselves coloured from trying to form themselves into a coloured racial bloc. I say ‘sadly’ because I really thought that by now we would have risen above this type of development.

As far as I’m concerned, ‘mini-nations’ in silos are a recipe for racial intolerance.

When the majority of us voted for the first time in 1994, we gave ourselves a second chance – a chance to transform our country from a racist basket case into a shining example of true democracy.

It’s a chance we dare not waste.

Of course, no one said it would be an easy task – and, certainly, the magnitude of the challenge we face has been borne out over the past 17 years. Progress towards that all-inclusive democracy has been painfully slow.

But good things are worth striving for.

South Africa needs policies that can break down the walls that separate Manenberg from Nyanga, or Khayelitsha from Mitchells Plain. It does not need a mindset that emphasises division and separateness – or, for that matter, a television programme that says: ‘Let’s do things that will make coloured people feel like, well, coloured people.’

I know TV programmes take time to be developed, but it seems to me that the SABC, by commissioning Colour TV is taking its cue from a new strategy by the national government for coloured people (following the whipping the ANC took in the local government elections in May this year).

It’s possible that I’m putting two and two together here and coming up with 22, but I wouldn’t be surprised if another season of the programme is commissioned – and then another … and another … right up to the next elections.

And thinking of the next elections – and the efforts some politicians make to get a vote, and their faces on TV….

Dear God – a frightening set of images has flashed through my mind.

I’ve just pictured Jacob Zuma being made an honorary coloured to enable him to get a walk-on part in ‘Give a Little Love’ (Colour TV’s soapie). And worse, I’ve also pictured ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman, resplendent in a kufija, spinning a wheel on the programme’s game show.

About Dougie Oakes

Dougie heads up Dougie Oakes Communications, a consultancy specialising in all facets of corporate communication, including strategy and public relations
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One Response to Adjusting my colour

  1. Nikki Davis says:

    On my last trip to Cape Town from my adopted country of Australia, it was hard not to be amused by the response from a man who was unhappy at my companion’s unwillingness to part with the bakery packet in her hand. ‘Jou ma se p**es!’ he repeatedly yelled at her. I hadn’t heard the expression for more than twenty years.

    But reading about ‘Colour TV’ reminds me of a scene in Jamie Uys’s ‘Funny People’ that has always left me feeling a little uncomfortable. It’s the one where a couple of coloured men, apparently a little under the weather from the night before, ‘stumble’ upon the helpless fellow standing alongside his homemade flying contraption on the Rondebosch Common. He says he has just flown there in the thing and needs some help to get it going again.While they are dubious at first, he finally manages to persuade them to give him a push in order to get him airborne again. What follows is simply agonising to watch.

    Yes, we laughed at lots of South Africans in the film, but this scene to me has always smacked of being ‘the coloured scene’. It needs to be remembered that ‘Funny people’ was made in 1977 and captures elements of a South Africa that have hopefully been buried. The advent of ‘Colour TV’ in 2011 makes you wonder.

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