Celebrating Youth, Culture & Biodiversity: a personal reflection
Darius Salvester, Usiko Stelllenbosch
When it comes to culture and biodiversity, I feel personally that it is something that you don’t choose for yourselves, to go study cultures and biodiversity. The ancestors put it on your path, so that you will advocate for the culture and the land that nourishes us.
A few years back, identity and culture was something that was an apparition in my mind: not knowing what to do with these thoughts. This year, my thoughts became more prominent and somewhat a reality. Identity and culture were stripped away from my forefathers through colonisation. They were forced to become westernized, to forget who they were. What tribe or culture do I belong to? I would say I don’t know or I’m not sure, because being called a coloured is so complex and in a way derogative. My dream is to embrace my khoisan heritage and become free like the bushmen people of southern Africa. To be part of reviving the bushmen culture.
So what is culture? Culture is our indigenous language, beliefs, values, traditions, arts, food and our indigenous knowledge. Visiting Khonta [Ethiopia] truly enriched my soul because I felt I was home. I was part of a living celebration of different cultures. The first thing that stood out the most for me was that young people took part in the celebrations, embracing their culture, showcasing and teaching the rest of their country, Africa and the world: to come together as a nation. Ethiopia can be truly seen as mirror of how different cultures can come together, sharing and celebrating. And that is a way of how we can bring healing to our nations and lands that nourish us and feed us. The second thing that stood out for me was the way people live in harmony with the land, taking care of it and in return that the land takes care of them. I were astonished to see how people still farm in the same manner like 200 years ago and using no GMO products and fertilizer. Farmers use plants from nature to make fertilizers or pesticides that keep pests away.
I’ve also come to learn that butter and honey is a delicacy. I felt like royalty when I was fed honey and bread. The heart-warming welcome and hospitality will be engraved in my heart. I was inspired to become a warrior that will protect the rights of indigenous people and the land we live on, ensuring that indigenous peoples’ rights, culture and land will be protected.
I feel ashamed that I have to take young people to a museum to learn about indigenous cultures especially when that is your lineage. A museum is there for things that are no longer there. For example taking kids to learn about the Masaai people, why take them to a museum while they can learn from them hands on because the culture and language is still very much alive.
I want to thank the African Biodiversity Network for hosting me and the Institute For Sustainable Development for allowing me to be part the celebrations. I was enriched, enlightened and inspired to be a custodian of protecting indigenous cultures and our land.