‘Laaitie’ is a South African colloquialism used to refer to someone younger than oneself or a young person. It may also infer someone being younger in experience or intellectual ability. It may be used positively, as a term of endearment, or as a way of dismissing someone as inferior to oneself. Mostly, laaities are not taken seriously in the world. This has not, however, stopped laaities all over the globe from changing the paths of history. Today, too, in struggles from Soweto to Paris to Argentina, it is ‘laaities with lus’ (Koenraad De Buys, 2006) who speak out and act against authoritarian and exploitative relations, situations and regimes. While the term ‘laaitie’ is often used to dismiss the fighting, critical and unrestrained spirit of young people as being outside of the domain of ‘the rational’, and ‘the responsible’ (not yet mature enough for proper consideration), it is reappropriated here in celebration of the laaitie as that spirit of unbridled freedom and rigour of critique and action in life.
I am quite used to being treated like a laaitie. I was the youngest in all my classes at school, one of the younger cousins on the bigger side of the family, always amongst the younger members in organisations and movements, and it doesn’t help that I look like a laaitie. While I’m almost 34 years old, most days I’m mistaken for a school girl. While I’ve often become angry and frustrated by the treatment that comes with being a laaitie, I’ve come to sometimes enjoy the spaces and freedoms that the laaitie status can afford. Being a laaitie means there is little expected of you, allowing you to say what you think and feel, uncensored. There are no points to prove, agendas to fulfil, expectations to meet or deadlines to meet. In fact, there is usually the expectation of failure or disappointment. I use this blogspace, then, to share my uncensored thoughts and feelings about anything that I choose to write about, outside of the ordinary pressures that constrain my usual work. I hope, in this way, to preserve some bit of my own cherished laaitiness as caution, restraint and the fear of failure increase with age.
I currently live and work in Johannesburg, mainly as a researcher and writer. I am also a part-time student at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. In the real world people call me Prishani Naidoo.
P.S. The photograph on my banner is of a laaitie in the heat of a street battle in Argentina. I love the movie that it has come to be the face of – The Fourth World War – made by two of my own favourite laaities at bignoise films.