It is said that when Jan Van Riebeeck first encountered the KhoiSan on the shores of Cape Town, he thought of them as a lazy people always high in spirits; it is unknown whether he means they were drunk, high on cannabis or just jovial people. Jan van Riebeeck did not stop to think that maybe the KhoiSan were resting from a long journey or hard hunt, to his colonialist eyes he saw a people spread out on the shore having a good time without a care in the world. And why would there have any cares, the land belonged to them, so too did the time, they had no bosses; the only responsibilities were to ensure that all members of the clan ate, were healthy and were safe.
In today’s time every action and event is determined by time and this is not a problem, only it is based on Western notion of time. The adage goes that black Africans, wherever they are, cannot keep time; in the United States of America they call it coloured people time; cpt for short. The question for me, always, is whose time are we keeping and why?
Psychologists have, through numerous studies, allocated periods of time for child development and school development– should the child fray from the median they are deemed abnormal or slow. I walked at eighteen months, because I knew I was in Africa and there was no pressure or so I thought. My mother said she was not worried about my development because I had a full set of teeth and could utter some words- she figured I would walk when I felt like it.
Today much of the youth of the country is pressurised to achieve certain goals at a certain time, people go into depressions because unlike their peers their achievements are lacking but this is not so. Everyone is on their own path and timing; it makes a minute difference should one get their degree at twenty-eight instead of the usual twenty-two or twenty-one, or if they have their first baby at thirty-three instead of twenty-five; I hate to sound like radical pan Africanist who has gone of their rails but these achievements are new and Western. Everything in the continent of Africa went well and according to its time before white settlers arrived. I often lament travelling from my home in Soweto to work in the northern Suburbs, the trek is not only long and arduous but also a constant reminder of spatial apartheid, making me feel unsettled, unwanted and not belonging once I arrive at work. Were it not for the Queen’s people arrivals, boarder gates, watches, work hours and traffic would not be factors that add to our stresses in life.
When we truly look at our cultures we realise our ancestors were quite organised. There was a time for everything; a time for sowing, a time for reaping, a time to initiate both young womxn and men in preparation for marriage, a time to mate, a time to be apart, a time to celebrate and a time to mourn. We, Africans, were not sitting on our behinds not knowing which time of the day or year it was. To this day my grandmother knows when the various season equinoxes are without having to look at the calendar, time itself does not even abide to the Gregorian calendar we use. African time like everything else in Africa was colonised by the colonisers.
I think it is important that we as black people rethink the concept of time because of the socio-economic conditions within which we exist, time like many factors in this white cis heterosexual world is oppressive. This is not to say one should not be organised or goal oriented; it just means relax and persevere should you not reach them; as long as you are breathing there is still time.