VALPARAISO | The Rainbow Nation was on stage Friday evening at the Valparaiso International Center, as Zanele Kutamo, originally from South Africa, was the guest presenter at the March Fourth Friday series.
Hugh McGuigan, VIC board member, introduced Kutamo, saying she came to the United States in 2003 as an au pair, graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2011, and took a position in admissions at Valparaiso University. After getting her master’s degree from VU in information technology last May, Kutamo took a position at NiSource.
“She’s made so many friends at Valpo and elsewhere,” said McGuigan. “We are very proud of Zanele’s achievements.”
Kutamo wore traditional Zulu garb, including an isiqholo, a special occasion hat, and a long dress with skirt ruffles in yellow, red, green, white, and blue -- the colors of the African flag -- that in Afrikaans would be described as leker, or lovely.
“Zulus are known for being hard-headed, their features -- having big cheeks -- and music and dancing,” said Kutamo.
South Africa is a country, “not just the southern part of a country,” with nine provinces, 11 official languages, and nine tribes of indigenous people, said Kutamo. About 50 million people live there, and the capital is Pretoria, while Johannesburg is the city with the most population.
When greeting each other, they shout “sanibonani” which means “I see you, I recognize you,” said Kutamo.
“That means you are important, you are special,” said Kutamo. “We’ve been greeting like this forever.”
Audience members sampled South African “comfort food,” a spicy ground beef stew with potatoes, carrots, onions, green peppers, and peas, and dombolo, a steamed white bread.
Kutamo demonstrated the use of the vuvuzela, a horn sports fans blow during soccer games “to give ‘oomph’ to the guys playing,” said Kutamo, and described how Nelson Mandela used sports to bring the country together.
South Africa is the “rainbow nation” because its people love colors, Kutamo said. The nation’s colorful flag of black, white, blue, green, red and yellow is very symbolic.
Kutamo said it is “human nature” to be “protective” when meeting someone from another country, but learning about other cultures quickly breaks down barriers.
“When you know me, you are more tolerant, because you understand me,” said Kutamo. “It makes me so happy because it gives me opportunity to share what’s close to my heart, my home country of South Africa.”