A cultured man in anyone's language

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am

Not many things can unite as well as divide - culture is one of them, Thivhilaeli Makatu believes.

In his home country, language - one of the common elements that constitute different cultures - was once used to decide where people lived, says the Hong Kong-based South African consul-general who speaks all 11 languages commonly used in his home country.

People once lived in different 'zones' depending on what language they spoke, he says.

Some people used to keep livestock and only moved when they had to find greener pastures, while others hunted and moved from place to place all the time to track down animals, Mr Makatu explains.

Because of their different ways of living, they developed different languages.

'But they still managed to live together on the same land when they needed to, and were attached to their lands,' he says.

'It's not right to take them away from their lands, to force them to live away from their homes.'

Diversity and different cultures should be a means to unite, not divide, he believes.

'We are all of the same people with the same roots ultimately.'

Together with his wife and three children, Mr Makatu arrived in Hong Kong nearly three years ago and has less than two to go.

'I applied to be posted here because I wanted to experience the oriental culture ... In Africa, the influence is western, in particular American,' he says.

'So many aspire to be what they see on TV and at the movies. But they're mostly things that aren't realisable ... We don't have to be materialistic to get back to our roots.'

Mr Makatu believes that only when we know our origins and cultures, will we be able to accept who we are.

'When we arrived in Hong Kong, we couldn't understand why all these people were out on the streets,' he says. 'Now I have come to understand that they go out to catch up with friends - it's the way Hong Kong people live.'


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