Elements of Culture

August 28, 3:46pm

As part of my placement in South Africa and for all the international interns from York University we are required to complete a few blog assignments asking us to critically reflect on what were are doing here, how we have changed in the process along with charting some interesting cultural elements which stood out. I’m choosing to pick some lighter topics as my other post have covered some heavier cultural pieces. I have chosen to look at Fashion and beauty (dear I link the two) pop-culture and time.
Fashion and Beauty:

    • Whenever I travel there are always a few specific things I look for and try to gage how well I could blend in with the local community or if I would immediately be considered a foreigner. One of the key indicators of this has always been the presence of a black community, and the style of black women’s hair. I have always worn my hair naturally and it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the political connotations it could have.  Because of this my awareness of natural hair is often heightened. It’s really interesting in an African context to notice that young black women, around my age tend to have a fro or wear their hair naturally in box braids. I’ve been wondering if that is a recent trend here, as it has been in Canada, where we continuously see an increase in naturalistas. It’s also interesting to notice that natural hair is prominent mainly in this age group, where older black women have relaxed hair along with younger girls, some as young as 3 or 4 years.cape-town-street-style-south-africa-street-style-blue-suede-shoes
      Disclaimer: This is not my shot but sadly I downloaded it from a SA fashion blog earlier this year and now cannot find the link.
    • South Africans have style. Like not just a regular exciting fashion find, but a slew of young people, with incredibly unique, creative styles that have my mouth agape. Sometimes when I go out I just get stuck steering at people and wondering how they pulled that off or thought about that outfit –everything from a blend in African fabric to dandy boys styles and recycled school uniforms. I wish I had my camera with me everyday doing street photography, cause really now.
    • Since I arrived, I had noticed that many people seemed to be missing their four front teeth. I thought maybe it had something to do with lack of dental care or level of income. What an awesome way to check my ‘international-development-student-assumptions’, especially after learning that people actually elected to remove their four front teeth as a fashion statement. Tell me this isn’t insane. Apparently it is most prominent in the colored community, among men however I’ve seen a lot of women with their teeth removed as well. Some people replace it with dentures when they are older but many, many don’t. I read up on it and found that dentist are forbidden to remove healthy teeth from a mouth but some still do it.

Snoek on the front

Pop culture:

  • Afro-pop and deep house are the most popular music in the clubs here, particularly mixes by DJ Fresh and DJ Kent, who are beyond phenomenal. I never thought I could get into house music the way I have here but it creates a party vibe like no other. You’d have to imagine house music being danced to like a combination of R&B and Soca beats, I’ve been collecting artists work.
  • The only place you will likely not hear many South African artists is on the radio. American popular culture is a serpent over the SA airwaves, in fact before you’ll even hear the weather, you’ll learn all to know about what’s going on with American celebrities. In the car ride to and from work, could easily feel like a top 40 station in TO.
  • I’m not sure how far the reach is for this show, but I seem to always meet people, my SA family included, who are absolutely obsessed with Big Brother Africa. I really, really, really do not like that show. It’s very different from most reality shows I’ve seen in the past. There are two channels for the show, each watching one of the two big brother houses and these channels are dedicated ONLY to big brother, so it shows 24/7, as in the cameras never turn off so viewers can watch the BB characters any time they want, episodes aren’t cut, so the characters lives, if you watch it enough, can become part of your life. It scary. Say I woke up in the middle of the night at say 4 am, I could turn on the TV and watch the characters sleeping.  ….  ….


  • I wasn’t going to include time as a part of this as I think people talking about Africa or the Caribbean always comment on three things: The relationship between animals and humans, how children are raised and time. But I decided to comment since my experience here shows the exact opposite of ‘African Time’, a phrase I sincerely dislike now. I have found that most if not all the people I have met or worked with have always been on time. But not on time like a few minute late or early but on time like arriving to the exact minute they said they would arrive. I have gotten so used to this that I’ve even become far more punctual.

4 thoughts on “Elements of Culture

  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is
    rare to see a great blog like this one these days.


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