Zulu word of the post: bomvana/ipinki
isiNgisi: Pink (adjective)
Meaning: as in the color of a ljezi (jersey) that caused an interesting interaction this week.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to embarrass my dad and for his birthday purchased him a salmon pink shirt and pastel castle play set to try and make him more of a girl. Being an awesome dad, he played with the castle often and dutifully wore his “pink” shirt to work. As a result I started to realize how colors do not really have a gender, but it is people place things into pink and blue boxes.
Leave it to South Africa to show me that despite great parenting and fantastic Safe Zone training to support LGBTQ+ individuals at the University of Arizona last semester, I still have more progress to make when it comes to not assuming gender.
Many people in Zulu culture address each other by calling each other sisi and bruthi lto show respect. If they are older you can say gogo, kulu (grandfather), baba (father), or mama. I like this idea of a big AmaZulu family but was too shy to use bruthi or sisi in my daily greetings (except calling taxi drivers bruthi, because you need to win over taxi drivers). One morning on my way to work I saw a woman pushing a wheelbarrow with a toddler in a knitted salmon pink jumper (or sweater in South African English). I greeted the woman properly and then decided to be brave and greet the wheelbarrow occupant.
Zama: Sanibonani Sisi
Woman: looking amused, says something in isiZulu I cannot understand
Zama: Ngiyaxolisa Anguzwa (I am sorry but I did not hear/understand)
Woman: He is a boy!
Oops. However later on that afternoon, my Zulu supervisor made the same mistake so I am not the only one!
I thought about the time I came home two weeks ago, and saw my 8 year old host nephew running around in a blue stripped sweater with silver strands of glitter weaved through the patterns. I was slightly amused and thought he grabbed someone’s sweater as he hurried outside to play. Then I remembered that is the only 8 year old on the compound and that would be his sweater. In South Africa, a jumper is a jumper. If it keeps you warm in the Berg, then who cares if the sweater would only be worn by girls in America because of tiny flecks of glitter?
Also, the following day after the wheelbarrow incident, I was in the War Room (post coming on what that is) and was serving a frosted cake I made for my supervisor’s birthday. I dislike the texture sticky things and pulled out one of my mini American hand sanitizers so I would not have to leave the room to wash my hands. I was sitting next to two men who started to look at me. Granted I was the only non-Zulu in the room and I am sort of used to random stares. Then one of the men picks up the blue bottle of hand sanitizer, absolutely mesmerized. Maybe the men were also perplexed about how “Fresh Sparking Snow” has a smell (which according to Bath and Body Works it evidently does) but I have to laugh at how the two men were interested by the product, when most men in the States run away from the mere sight of a Bath and Body Works store!