Heritage Day is Braai Day in South Africa. Should Heritage Day be Braai Day? Or is this trivialising our environmental and cultural birthrights? How should we celebrate our history and our background as South Africans? Most South Africans love to braai – of all races and colours and classes! So why not all do it on one special day of the year, together?
A person who was born in South Africa, for instance, has both a national South African heritage, as well as a more personal and private one. Such a person might also be considered to have an African heritage too, because they were born on the continent of Africa.
When we all celebrate Heritage Day on 24 September every year, we remember all our cultures and people, our diverse population! And we throw the meat on the braai, gather around and have a great time. We teach our families about our fantastic national symbols and we full our souls with HOPE for our future in our land, our beloved land.
A country’s natural heritage is its beautiful environment and natural resources, like gold and water. Areas that are very special and where animals or plants are in danger of extinction like the St. Lucia Wetlands and uKhahlamba Drakensberg Parks in KwaZulu Natal are said to be World Heritage Sites, because they are considered to be so unique that they are internationally respected and protected against harm.
Cultural heritage might include natural resources or land formations, but is also formed of those things that are symbollic of the creativity and livelihoods of a group of people. For instance, it could include special monuments, buildings, sculptures, paintings, cave dwellings or anything else deemed important because of its history, artistic or scientific value. The style of buildings can also be considered part of one’s cultural heritage because of their specific type of architecture, where they are built or what they are used for. Therefore, Robben Island, the Cradle of Humankind at the caves of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai in Gauteng, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and the ancient city of Mapungubwe in Limpopo are all examples of South African cultural heritage.
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, popular memory, skills and techniques, indigenous knowledge system and the holistic approach to nature, society and social relationships. In South Africa the term “intangible cultural heritage” is used interchangeably with the term “living heritage”.
Living heritage plays an important role in promoting cultural diversity, social cohesion, reconciliation, peace and economic development. In every community there are living human treasures who possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history pertaining to different aspects of diverse living heritage.
Happy Heritage Day!
Heritage Day is one of the newly created South African public holidays. It is a day in which all are encouraged to celebrate their cultural traditions in the wider context of the great diversity of cultures, beliefs, and traditions that make up the nation of South Africa.
South Africa has been famously referred to as the rainbow nation because it is made up of so many diverse cultures and religions. Contained within South Africa’s borders are Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Tswana, Ndebele, Khoisan, Hindu, Muslim, and Afrikaner people to name but a few. All of these people are united by calling South Africa home, and therefore their lives all contribute to forming a part of the country’s heritage, identity and culture. Understanding that South Africa is composed of all these various influences is essential for helping South Africans to understand and respect each other and to learn from each other’s cultural practices. This is part of the healing that democracy has brought after culture was used to divide South Africans in the past.
In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, former President Nelson Mandela stated: “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.”
It was an innovative man who decided that we needed to have Braai Day on Heritage Day. Jan Scannell – also called Jan Braai – asked all South Africans to have a braai on Heritage Day. We all love to braai and we all braai in unique ways. Even the notable Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said:
“We’re going to have this wonderful thing on the 24th of this month… when we all gather round one fire…It’s a fantastic thing, a very simple idea. Irrespective of your politics, of your culture, of your race, of your whatever, hierdie ding doen ons saam [‘we do this thing together’]… just South Africans doing one thing together, and recognizing that we are a fantastic nation.”