Celebrate South African cultural diversity

By: Irene Basson

South Africans celebrate Heritage Day on the 24th September. Originally the day commemorated King Shaka, and quite aptly, just as King Shaka was instrumental in uniting Zulu clans into a cohesive nation, Heritage Day encourages South Africans to come together to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and the diversity of our nation.

Freedom of cultural, religious and linguistic expression is now enshrined in the constitution. The term Ubuntu, meaning “I am because you are”, is used to engender respect for other people. On this day, South Africans visit heritage sites, acknowledge the different cultures, and celebrate the various aspects of our culture such as art, music, research and teaching.

Heritage day should not just be about South Africans celebrating South African heritage, we should endeavour to celebrate and educate ourselves about the heritage of our fellow Africans who have become part of our rich landscape. Embracing the rich diversity of South Africa’s people is a beautiful way of bringing the nation together, allowing us to move forward and become a nation that is truly reflective of the Constitution by which we are governed.

The day is also unofficially known as ‘Braai Day’ and families, friends and strangers unite at various events around the country celebrating South Africa’s unique heritage and building bridges to overcome its painful past by chucking a tjoppie on the fire.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela concisely explained it when he said the following in a Heritage Day speech: “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”.

Celebrate your own heritage in a special way this year by inviting someone from a differennt culture over for lunch, or try an Indian curry, or a traditional bobotie to celebrate a culture other than your own. And, of course, there is always the opportunity to have a braai!