Coloured Mentality: a 1 000km healing journey

By Leila Dougan

“We’re going on a journey to figure out our own heritage,” says Sarah Summers. The Cape Town based filmmaker, together with her partner, Kelly-Eve Koopman are putting together a Six-part webseries called Coloured Mentality. The webseries brings together celebrity guests including actress Denise Newman, rapper Jitsvinger and actor Brendon Daniels, who weigh in on controversial debates around the ‘coloured’ label.

Summers and Koopman have started an essential conversation on race and identity, which they describe as a “spiritual and political quest to investigate our ancestry and identity. To reconnect with Khoi culture, confront our own privileges, heal our own mental illnesses and also figure out how to merge all of this into our young, urban lifestyles.”

Summers and Koopman have both battled with the complex label ‘coloured’ throughout their lives.

“I was told by neighbours when I was about six that I was coloured. I wasn’t raised to be aware of race,” says Summers. “There was never a realisation that I was coloured. I grew up with it as part of my identity,” says Koopman.

Coloured Mentality , which has thus far racked up thousands of views, is about “indigenous rights, heritage and culture”, and each episode looks at central questions including: ‘Are coloured people black?’ ‘Is Afrikaans a white language?’ and ‘What is coloured?’

“I’m quite reluctant to use that term ‘mixed’ because it implies that other races are pure,” says actress Jill Levenberg, in the first episode. Radio presenter Sherlin Barends says she “almost feels embarrassed to say for the longest time I did not want to be associated with ‘coloured’… because the term was given to us”.

“[This] discussion has always been important. People have been researching this, writing about it, filming it for a long time. Coloured Mentality grew out of a personal need for it now,” says Summers. “I suffered multiple psychosis over the last few years. I also battle with depression. Kelly has terrible anxiety. [Through Coloured Mentality] we’re hoping to explore ancient understandings as alternative routes to self-healing.

Kapp toe stap

The filmmakers have produced the webseries in preparation for a 1 000km walk from Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape, to the castle in Cape Town. Together with a group of Khoi activists, Koopman and Summers will be walking for the Rights and Liberties of the Indigenous Peoples highlighted in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPS) in order to deliver a memorandum to the South African government to demand the implementaion of these basic rights. The walk will begin on 4 February.

Ten years ago, the South African government signed the UNDRIPS document, which states the basic 46 Rights of all Indigenous Peoples which “establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world,” according to the UN website. However the indigenous activists claim that these basic rights have not been met in South Africa.

Two decades of research by a UN working group on the oppression, marginalization and exploitation by indigenous peoples led to the UN General Assembly adopting the UNDRIP on 13 September 2007. In a press release following the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warmly welcomed the adoption, calling it “a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world.” He further noted that “this marks a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples reconciled with their painful histories and resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.”

“We were both brought up to believe that we have the power and responsibility to initiate change,” the filmmakers said in a recent interview with the Daily Maverick, “We seek experiences that will guide and ground us in this pursuit. The walk has always been perceived to be a spiritual exploration of ourselves to figure this out. Travelling throughout South Africa and connecting with the various communities we meet will be a formative experience in how best we choose to use ourselves.”

Watch their second episode on whether Afrikaans is a ‘white language’:

Check out the rest of their videos on Facebook and YouTube or join in the conversation and follow them on Twitter.

Contributors

Leila Dougan

Leila Dougan has worked as a journalist for the past eight years in cities around the world, starting out as an investigative broadcast reporter for Carte Blanche in Johannesburg in 2010. As a traveling documentary filmmaker, she has interviewed scientists in Uganda, entrepreneurs in Cuba and social justice workers in the heart of Los Angeles. […]

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