27 June 2009

Conversations with Ororiseng

So the other day I was doing dishes and Ororiseng, my 9-year-old host sister, came up to me:

O: I have a fur coat.
Me: Oh, that's cool, I had one when I was young too.
O: My grandma has a whole lot of fur coats.
Me: Oh, cool.
O: Do you like fur coats?
Me: I don't believe in fur.
O: (blank look)
Me: When I was young, I thought they made fur coats from the fur when animals passed away. But when I got older, I found out they kill the animals to get their fur and sell it. I don't like the thought of hurting animals, so I don't believe in wearing fur coats.
O: But mine's pink.


I realize that maybe the fur conversation may have been a bit too much, but I take every opportunity I can to teach Ororiseng something or show her another point of view since she is always looking for information. I think she really listens to me, and I believe in treating youth like growing people and not "little kids" so I am pretty honest with her. She asks me a lot of questions and I think she's really thirsty to learn.

I also think youth retain tons of stuff so I'm also really careful what I say because I know she'll soak it up like a sponge. She's just so special and she wants to learn, which is a fine quality in any growing (or grown!) person.

Ororiseng, my host sister, and me

This situation is also different because of culture. I'm honestly not sure about Ororiseng's culture, Tswana, if they kill animals for purposes other than eating. Another one of the South African tribes, Ndebele, kills animals to wear their hides as a power thing to show that the hunter is fast enough to kill a cheetah, lion, what-what. Makes sense, but I'm still not excited about it.

I think Tswanas are more utilitarian and do things for very practical purposes like eating and surviving. But, if wearing animal hides is part of Ororiseng's culture, I don't want to influence her away from that. I still won't believe in killing animals for domination and sport to wear their fur, but I understand it's a realistic part of many cultures worldwide and I respect that.

It's also very different for someone to uphold their heritage in wearing a pelt of an animal sacred to their culture than some starlet wearing fur at a Hollywood event with no connection to anything other than fashion. Anyway, that was a lot about fur. And fur isn't even on my top ten list of issues I advocate for, so I'll wrap this up : )

Sala sentle (stay well),



Lisa Gibala Warren said...

You didn't think you could write this and not hear from little ole me now. Fur is a fashion statement in any culture. Acceptance is just as bad as accepting any other cultural difference you find moral conflict with. So if the culture says girls don't go to school, women are a comodity, and fur equals powerful, then it just is. Can't things all be symbolic dancing, songs and stories, why do we have to bring pelts into it?

Casey Frazee said...

Haha! SO true! You totally need to be a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa. Those are issues we see ALL the time about the role of certain members of the community, like girls.