It has occurred to me that Heritage Day on 24 September has been side-lined this year as many seem to have forgotten that September is South Africa’s heritage month and are replacing it with national braai (barbeque) day.
From what I understand September is a month to celebrate our history especially and rich backgrounds of slavery, colonisation and ethnic conflicts. As South Africans we know that there are many languages in this country with eleven of them being official languages – all those languages come with their own histories and cultures. While we have the Zulu, English, Tsonga, Afrikaaners, Xhosa, Ndebele, Tswana, Sotho, Venda, Swazi and Pedi people – there are also people who are of Indian descent and coloured people who are unique to South Africa as they came from a mixture of various race groups like the Cape Malay in the Western Cape whose descendents came as slaves from Malaysia. There are also San people who are the indigenous group of people found in South Africa. All these cultures need to be celebrated on Heritage Day.
With a democracy at just 17-years-old I do believe heritage day should remain a day of celebrating our different cultures and the diversity we have in this country. But it seems that is all taking a back seat for a national braai day coined by many in the commercial sector.
We live in times that the youth don’t even know their mother tongues and to prove this one should just ask any 20-year- old to write the months January to December in their home languages and chances are they will not even give you one. That is why it is so important to preserve Heritage Day for what it was meant to be so young people can at least learn a bit about who they are rather than imitate American music videos they see on television all the time.
Some seem to even disregard how Heritage Day came about. This was a day celebrated by Zulu people in KwaZulu-Natal and they would call it Shaka Day. When public holidays were being planned as South Africa was about to become a democratic state the predominantly Zulu political party, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) complained that the Zulu King Shaka was being sidelined as he was an important part of South African history. A compromise was reached and Heritage Day was added on 24 September, the day that was previously celebrated by the Zulu and Shaka Day.
All that has been forgotten with young people going to concerts with braai stands and meat to have a good time and celebrate what they now call a heritage that includes all South Africans. It’s good to see that South Africans of all races and ethnicities are trying to forge a new identity that includes all of them but celebrating their history, cultures and diversity is important too.
The youth is easily distracted in and as a result we will end up seeing the death of heritage day and the celebration of national braai day, which has no significance to me.
I hope people will celebrate their own heritage and teach young people the importance of culture and the history that is not just about a braai.
Happy Heritage Month!!!