New series questions what it means to be a coloured person in SA

A hot new web series exploring coloured identity, Coloured Mentality, went live in January – and we’re already obsessed. It garnered tens of thousands of views within a day, and it’s not difficult to see why. The Daily Vox team rounds up.

Identity politics in South Africa are always a contentious issue, and 20-something couple Kelly-Eve Koopman and Sarah Summers are on a journey to try and unpack what “coloured” identity is. The first episode of Coloured Mentality deals with the pair explaining their intentions, and asking a few prolific coloured South Africans to explain their take on what being coloured means to them.

“I don’t believe that it’s a homogenous group”, says writer and director Amy Jephta in the first episode. “The term coloured for me means an erasure of multiplicity of identities.”

“When I talk about a Cape coloured I’m talking more about an attitude than the colour of my skin. So yes, I am a Cape coloured,” says Brendon Daniels.

The six-part series documents the preparation that the two are doing ahead of the trip, and is a platform that has already sparked plenty of engagement among those who have watched the first episode.

“Besides being driven by the process of making the documentary, we also felt the urgent
need to negotiate this territory for ourselves and interrogate our own positionality,” the creators told The Daily Vox.

“We recognised that we were privileged enough to be given access to higher education and we also occupy spaces where we were safe and equipped to engage in these dialogues. So we felt responsibility to create a platform where our community could access and engage in critical and empowering discourse as well. We are also sensitive to our own limitations, the questions and debates raised are incredibly complex and potentially painful for many people. We do not see ourselves as authorities or owners of this project and our goal is to facilitate a participatory space that people can engage with and take ownership of.”

Some of the questions that the series aims to answer revolve around issues such as should people identify as coloured, what a coloured person is, where coloured people come from and what they find pride in, among others.

In addition to the research and soul-searching they’ll do, they plan on partaking in a 1, 000 kilometre walk from the Eastern Cape to the Castle in Cape Town, which Khoi activists annually stap (“walk” in Afrikaans) to reclaim their indigenous rights.

“The Indigenous Liberation walk is an annual walk that a group of Khoi activists, artists, [and] healers do. They stop off in various towns on the route and teach communities about Khoi heritage,” say Koopman and Summers. “For the activists it is an important spiritual quest. It’s a pursuit to revitalise the ancient grid that connects communities of indigenous ancestry to the land the culture and to each other. So the walk is part of a process of undoing the collective post-traumatic stress that colonised people carry.

“This year we commence in Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape on 18 February and end at The Castle in Cape Town on 1 March.”

On the show’s official Facebook page, the pair state that they are on both a spiritual and political quest to investigate their ancestry and identity, and to reconnect with Khoi culture, confront their privileges, and heal their mental illnesses – and also figure out how to merge all of this into their young, urban lifestyles. “The walk also campaigns for the implementation of the [United Nations] Bill of Indigenous Rights, which South Africa signed in 2007. So far, little has been done to ratify the bill,” say the couple.

In a tumultuous time in South Africa, when changes are happening all around and the youth are rising up to question the status quo, Coloured Mentality and projects like it are trying to help people make sense of themselves, and of the world that we live in – and we are 100% for that.

You can follow the series on Facebook or YouTube

Featured image via YouTube