African Diaspora Khoe San Staff Writer  

What is “cultural chauvinism” and why is it important for Khoe San Twa people?

In Patric Mellet’s book The Lie of 1652, he makes mention of the term “cultural chauvinism”. This is an important concept for descendants of the Khoe San Twa people and all Africans who are starting to re-discover the value of the history and culture of their ancestors – as related to how we live today.

Photo by Gina Tigere

Briefly, “chauvenism” is: “exaggerated or aggressive patriotism” (source). “Cultural chauvenism” is when people become arrogant, proud in a vain sense and possibly “separatist” in their thinking about how their “own” communities should interact with others.

Photo by Artem Page

There are many examples of cultural chauvenism in Africa and around the globe. For example, around 1994, there was genocide and war in Rwanda. Hutu and Tutsi people clashed because of seeing each other as being culturally different. Thousands lost their lives.

During the Apartheid era, the descendants of the Voortrekkers and other Europeans believed their economic, scientific and cultural ways of life to be superior to the Khoe San and Africans. This cultural chauvenism lead to dispossession of land and human rights by Khoe, San and African ancestors. Verwoerd (source), one of the designers of Apartheid, stated:

“… the present Government adopts the attitude that it concedes and wishes to give to others precisely what it demands for itself. It believes in the supremacy (baaskap) of the European in his sphere, but, then, it also believes equally in the supremacy (baaskap) of the Bantu in his own sphere. For the European child it wishes to create all the possible opportunities for its own development, prosperity and national service in its own sphere; but for the Bantu it also wishes to create all the opportunities for the realisation of ambitions and the rendering of service to their own people.

As we can see, cultural chauvenism is dangerous. Verwoerd believed it was culturally justified to strip Africans of land and make them employees on European farms and in European businesses. His goal was to culturally separate a “supreme” European system from what in his view were inferior African ways of life.

Photo by Clay Banks

Cultural chauvenism is revealed through language and social violence. When we use language to exclude others we are being culturally chauvinistic.

When we deliberately make people who do not share our culture and history feel unwelcome we are being culturally chauvinistic. When we are physically violent, xenophobic (nasty to people from other nations) and ethnocentric (meaning we cannot see beyond our own cultures and understanding) we are culturally chauvinistic.

This is why all Khoe San Twa and African people must remember that our ancestors welcomed everyone to the South of the continent. We fed them, gave them water, sheltered them, helped them farm and taught them about local medicines. This is the opposite of being culturally chauvinistic.