Martin van Rooyen, (Peter’s father) mentioned that his son probably speaks better Zulu than me over dinner. I laughed at a thought of a white child that can speak an African language better than me.
I met Peter the following day who proudly introduced himself as Jabulani (his Zulu name). My first Zulu sentence wasn’t good enough for Jabulani to understand, he kept on saying “Angizwa (sorry)”. He started speaking in Zulu. I felt ashamed calling myself black as I couldn’t speak fluent Zulu like Jabulani. I thought to myself how did he learn to speak deep Zulu?
Martin mentioned that he told his nanny, Dorris to never speak English with Jabulani, only Zulu. Dorris is Peter’s Zulu mom. In South Africa most white children grow up under the care of their nannies. Even Peter said Dorris is his best friend. Dorris cleans Peter’s room, makes him food and walks him outside while his parents are at work. It’s remarkable to see the bond he has with Dorris.
Dorris wasn’t just working there, but she was also introducing her culture to the family.
The past ten years of my life, I’ve watched my grandmother leaving the house at 5am to be early at the Madam’s house. I’ve always wondered what is her impact in Madam’s house beside cleaning the house.
I’ve come to realize that domestic workers in South Africa aren’t just cleaning white people’s houses. They are also breaking cultural barriers through teaching the children about African culture.