Friday, 13 March 2015

A tree with many roots

On paper, I'm 100% South African, AND 100% German. 
Duel citizenship has opened various doors for me, and on paper it is great. 

Born and bred in South Africa, I count myself as African. 
Culturally, though, it's complicated. 

I grew up with a combination of traditions from both my mom and dad's sides, yet in a South African context. There're plenty of things that I do, or thought patterns that I follow, or words that I use, which I would consider to be South African. 
Having a German passport in the drawer, and one German parent, did not automatically instill stereotypical traits like punctuality, a love of cheesecake, or the ability to ride a bike with no hands while holding an umbrella and a loaf of bread.  
A lot about life in Germany is totally foreign to me, and many things about the language and the way of doing things make me uncomfortable.
However, I am also aware that the education system I was in and the nature of my upbringing, is very European. There are things that I grew up with, things that I love, that are German. 
Introducing myself, I usually say that I'm South African. 
This usually requires an explanation and, often, it feels like people are trying to push me back into the box that I'm meant to identify as German, or at least European. Often times I feel like they're trying to fit me back into the mould that since my skin is a certain colour and I have German ancestory, I should just say I'm German, even if I have only just started living here. 
And yet, I am also German, and I think I've fitted into life here a lot easier than many others might have. 

This leaves me in a tricky situation when it comes to 'cultural dress'. My culture, in South Africa, has no typical dress. School uniform, maybe? I can't claim to be Zulu, and no German outfit captures my culture, either. 
What's a girl to do? 

Tired of wearing my shirt from the World Cup in South Africa, I decided while home for Christmas to sew myself something. 

A Shweshwe Dirndl. 

It's not actually a pattern for a dirndl, but it's close enough when a blouse and apron are added, and can also be worn simply as a Summer dress with a yellow bow. 


  1. Aren't you lovely? I am very impressed by your sewing skills! I can definitely see how dual citizenship could have some sweet benefits. And I can definitely relate to feeling quite 'mixed up' as far as roots go--I'm ethnically Dutch and Irish, born in the midwest America, and 'grew up' in SE Asia. By looks, I don't fit in anywhere in Asia, and by cultural priorities and values, I don't fit in in the midwest USA. Now, with this Mexican husband of mine added to the mix, and the probability that our future kids won't be born in America, I have no idea what they'll make of their identity. Muahaha, too bad for them...

  2. Wow, that dress is stunning! You did a great job! It also seems so versatile in the amount of ways you can wear it!

    I'm sure explaining your culture to those who see you as a German citizen have difficulty understanding how culturally you identify more with South Africa with some family cultural influences elsewhere. Even here in Oklahoma a lot many of us cannot identify with our ethnic history, or in many cases we don't even fully know what ethnicity we are. I've always been so jealous of friends who have well documented family histories, and who know how their ancestors arrived in America. I have been told that I am also part Cherokee and/or Choctaw from both my mom's and dad's side of the family, but due to the discrimination when those ancestors were alive, they did not register as Native Americans.

    I can really identify with the 'cultural dress' topic. Once, a Chinese friend once said to me that American's don't have a 'traditional' culture. I definitely understand where she was coming from when she said that, but I tend to think it isn't because we don't have one, it is just so many cultures that have come together that we cannot determine one particular cultural history to identify with.

  3. "Having a German passport in the drawer, and one German parent, did not automatically instill stereotypical traits like punctuality, a love of cheesecake, or the ability to ride a bike with no hands while holding an umbrella and a loaf of bread." that sentence belongs in a book. my husband's family is german and their love of cheesecake and biking is no joke. can he juggle an umbrella and a loaf of bread while riding? probably. gorgeous photos of you!!

  4. It's funny how some stereotypes really just are true ;)

  5. That's interesting that your Chinese friend said that. I guess that cultural dress really once just used to be the way people dressed, and because groups were fairly isolated, it sort of became a part of their tradition and set apart from others. I think that in cultures today it's so hard because of globalisation, we don't develop clothing that only we wear in our city anymore, and rather look to the global fashion trends.... makes it hard to develop a traditional dress.

  6. You are all mixed up, and your kids will definitely one-up you on the mixed up front ;)

  7. As a newbie to the world of dual citizenship I really feel this post. It is so hard to have to answer questions with set answers in words that do not really translate to feelings.