Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Cool Nguni

The Cool Nguni
Writer: Maryanne Bester
Illustrator: Shayle Bester
Publisher: Jacana Media
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1-77009-264-1978
Cover price: R79.95

The Cool Nguni is a 20-page, well-written, richly illustrated story dealing with issues of identity, self-esteem and self-appreciation. The main character, the Little Nguni Calf, is a uniquely South African cow, but the issues the book raises are universal.


The Little Nguni Calf is unhappy because he’s doesn’t think he’s cool enough. He compares himself to Longhorn Cattle from the “wild, wild west,” Highland Cattle from Scotland and the Brahman Cattle from India, and in every case, he comes off short.“Those cattle from over the sea- they’re cool,” he says to his mother.

Baby enjoyed the book, and is still paging through to look at the colourful illustrations. I also hope the message that everyone has their own unique beauty had some impact on her. She has brown hair with dark orange streaks [long story] and I think her hair is lovely. But most kids around her have black hair, and sometimes they tease her too much and she insists we dye it so she blends in.

The book is a good, fun tool to explain to a child why being different is not a bad thing. And having grown up in a society where Black children were taught that it's NOT okay to be themselves, I can certainly appreciate why there is an acute need for The Cool Nguni.

New ways, new message

For the litttle girl in me, The Cool Nguni is the anti-thesis of a wedding song I heard many times when I was growing up. The song was sung at the beginning of wedding festivities, to call neighbours to come see the bride in all her glory:

Come out, come out
Come and see
Our beautiful girl is
as beautiful as a "Coloured" person!

[A Coloured person is a bi-racial person, and the reasoning was Black is ugly and aspiring to be White was too big a stretch. But with a bit of hard work- use of pigment removing cream applied for weeks preceding the event and spending days before the wedding indoors - you could at least pretend to pass for bi-racial.]

Since Apartheid was outlawed and the brainwashing has generally stopped, the song has also changed. "Our beautiful girl is as beautiful as the stars!"

Tlang tlang tlang,
Le boneng
Ngwana o tshwana le dinaledi!

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