CELEBRATING OUR HERITAGE
WHAT IS HERITAGE DAY?
September is Heritage Month in South Africa, with National Heritage Day celebrated 24 September. Heritage Day celebrates South Africa’s roots, their rich, vibrant, and diverse cultures. South Africa is called the ‘‘Rainbow Nation’’ due to its colour and diversity, which is why Heritage Day exists. Its goal is to nurture and embrace South African culture for what it truly is, accepting all races and genders. South Africans mark the day by wearing traditional outfits, eating traditional foods, learning about different cultures and spending time with friends and family.
The significance of 24 September as a day of celebration goes back more than a century to the Zulu King Shaka, who died in 1828. This date was celebrated as “Shaka Day” for many years until 1996, when it was declared Heritage Day.
The late former State President Nelson Mandela said, “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”
WHY DO WE BRAAI ON HERITAGE DAY?
National Heritage Day has become synonymous with National Braai (Barbecue) Day in recent years. Some call it Shisa Nyama or Ukosa, while others call it a braai, but whatever the occasion, nothing beats gathering around a wood fire to cook a meal and celebrate together.
Living heritage is the foundation of all communities and an essential source of identity and continuity. Aspects of living heritage include cultural tradition, oral history, performance, ritual, skills and techniques, indigenous knowledge system and the holistic approach to nature, society and social relationships. In South Africa, “intangible cultural heritage” is used interchangeably with the term “living heritage”.
Living heritage is vital in promoting cultural diversity, social cohesion, reconciliation, peace and economic development. In every community, living human treasures possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history about different aspects of diverse living heritage. Therefore, South Africans must reclaim, restore and preserve these various aspects of living heritage to accelerate the use of living legacy to address the challenges communities face today.