Scatterlings of Africa

I think what South Africa needs is more people like Johnny Clegg.
Johnny Clegg & Juluka – Scatterlings of
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We need people to be able to embrace their inner Zulu.

The face paint, the insane leg kicks, the language, look how into it Johnny is. He is one with his inner Zulu.

I’m not saying that everyone has to embrace their inner Zulu, or that everyone even has an inner Zulu, but I’m sure that everyone has an inner “insert culture/tribe of choice” they can embrace. And they should. Harmony will reign in the land. There should be clinics. “How to embrace your inner Basotho in 12 easy steps.” “You may not realise how much you actually love sokkie dancing and koeksusters til you embrace your inner Afrikaner.” “Embrace your inner English speaking South African. They have no culture, but they need a hug too.”

I personally think I have an inner Zulu, being brought up in Kwa Zulu Natal and all. I learned very little of the language, but I love it. There are so many expressive words, like

istimela – train
shongololo – millipede – how awesome is this word?
amazambane – potato. I love this word so much.
skabenga – not 100% sure if this is Zuu but I love the word, it just sounds like a dodgy person. I’m guessing it’s a bastardised version of the Zulu word “isigebengu” meaning criminal? Interestingly it seems South Africans have loads of words for “dodgy person”; skollie, skelm, skabenga, (others?). It’s quite fitting cos all my overseas friends call us the dodgy South Africans.
cha – no. I love saying this word. I probably say it incorrectly since I learned it when I was 12,  but no one over here knows any better, and no one can say it. The best they can manage is “Na!”

If anyone can add to my list of awesome Zulu words please do, my memory of the language is dim, but I remember there were so many cool descriptive and onomatopoeic words.

Me and my inner Zulu. We’re tight.


19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tamara
    Apr 08, 2010 @ 09:54:57

    Jeepers, I can remember so little Zulu! Mainly the things Gogo used to say to me. “Woza lapa”, “Hlala pansi” etc. And the basic conversational stuff. “Sawubona”, “Unjani?”, “Igama lami nguTamara” etc.

    If I ever have the time and money I’d love to do a conversational Zulu class. It’s such an expressive language, although it’s as flipping complicated as French.


  2. MomAgain@40
    Apr 08, 2010 @ 12:43:19

    Lovely thought. Embrace your inner Zulu! :D
    “Hamba Kahle” (good bye) is beautiful as well.
    I am an Afrikaans speaking South African, but not that in touch with my inner “Afrikaner”… a bit of a maverick. ;-)


  3. DelBoy
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 02:45:51

    Love this post.

    Both my kids were born in Australia. I was born in PE. But I call my kids skabengas and they both call millipedes shongololos much to the delight of their Zimbabwean teacher at pre-school!

    It’s good to hang on to some things from the Olde Country.


  4. sonnyvsdan
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 04:31:18

    can’t help you with the Zulu, but in Nepali, chha means yes/is and chhaina (like China) is no/is not. Two of my favourite words ever.

    put chhaina with my other favourite: “chinni chhaina” and you get “no sugar”


  5. Po
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 08:49:49

    Tamara: I have a Zulu tape course somewhere, maybe I should bring it out again. My dad grew up in Zululand and he can speak Zulu. But I’m too lazy to learn from him <= difficult daughter.
    Mom again: well maybe now is the time to embrace that inner Afrikaner?
    Delboy:hehe do they confuse the poor Aussies with directions involving robots too?
    sonnyvsdan: haha in South Africa china means "friend".


  6. Po
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 09:46:25

    Aaaaaargh noooo people how am I goin to survive today, I am so tired and unmotivated, I feel like I am crawling through mud. These four day weeks are just too flippin long!


  7. prixie
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 13:58:54

    you know, these sorta songs used to bring me to tears when i was away. i have this intense love/hate thing going on with SA!


  8. Po
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 15:52:01

    prixie: don’t we all? I know I do.


  9. Lady Fi
    Apr 10, 2010 @ 05:36:14

    I think everyone should embrace an inner Zulu – even if they are not South African. Oh, the music, the joy, the dancing… Wouldn’t the world be a better place?


  10. Tamara
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 09:14:14

    @sonnyvsdan: And in South Africa, China means “mate”. As in, “I’ll check you later, China.” (see you later, mate).


  11. Paula
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 19:31:48

    As a Zulu/Sotho original. I am embracing my inner Afrikaaner- I really am fond of the language to be frank. I like the people too. Well. Not the racist ones but the others are for real the nicest people ever.


  12. Po
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 22:16:04

    Paula: Ja boet, they’re lekker :)


  13. Trackback: The ‘Skabengas’ | The Bok and Roo Blog
  14. Trackback: The ‘Skabengas’ | The Bok and Roo Blog
  15. Helen
    Oct 17, 2010 @ 05:53:29

    My 6 year old loves to dance to this!! (And has not yet kicked herself in the head, but I’m standing by with the ice pack.) She is clearly in touch with her inner Zulu, but I wish I could understand what’s being said, as I only know the English part of the lyrics. (Which, I think, can be interpreted on several levels and are quite profound as well as catchy!) Help, anyone?


  16. Po
    Oct 17, 2010 @ 09:33:31

    Helen: I can’t be of much help here I am afraid! I know when you look up the song they only transcribe the English lyrics. I do have a Zulu reader lurking around, but she is young, not sure she really listens to Johnny, but maybe she could translate for us! Paula? You there? I’ll ask her.


  17. Lesley
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 18:00:35

    I learnt that skabenga should be sikabenga, but I don’t see many examples.
    Hot, tshisha, is great too I think.
    Angazi for dunno

    Sala kahle :)


    • Lesley
      Apr 07, 2014 @ 18:05:36

      Btw ‘china’ is from the famous Cockney Rhyming Slang. Like Apples and Pears for stairs, Use your Loaf. loaf of bread – head. have a butcher’s, for have a look, from butcher’s hook. loads of them :)


  18. Lesley
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 18:05:49

    Btw ‘china’ is from the famous Cockney Rhyming Slang. Like Apples and Pears for stairs, Use your Loaf. loaf of bread – head. have a butcher’s, for have a look, from butcher’s hook. loads of them :)


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