– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
We celebrate Heritage Day on the 24th of September every year to honour the diversity of our various cultures and beliefs in South Africa, fully embodying the ideal of the rainbow nation. Heritage Day (previously Shaka’s Day) is a national holiday that was established in 1996 to accommodate South African’s of all cultures and beliefs to celebrate their diversity. In more recent years, National Heritage Day has become synonymous with National Braai Day. Regardless of the occasion, a braai is an activity with the ability to remain relevant across social boundaries. Therefore, across the country, we can expect braai stands to be lit, in recognition of this strong South African tradition.
As a country, we are reminded to take ownership of our nation and to be proud of our land despite our differences. Many aspects make up our heritage such as tradition, indigenous knowledge systems, oral history, and rituals. These elements are the foundation of many communities across the country and play a significant role in shaping one’s identity and encouraging continuity. Acknowledging our past struggles against injustice as a country is a part of who we are, bringing about the valiance embedded in our DNA to rise to the challenge and overcome division and inequality.
Our heritage fosters cultural diversity, social cohesion, and peace. Thus, highlighting the importance of preserving these various aspects to help address the challenges that many communities face in the contemporary. Commemorating this day is just one of the efforts put forward in an attempt to heal the nation from its dark past, to introduce a new society moving towards cultural harmony. South Africa would not be what it is today if it weren’t for its history and seeing how far we have come from the pre-1994 era, we have every right to be proud of the transition to a country that prioritises democratic values, social justice, and fundamental human rights.
We, at UKZN Extended Learning, wish all our fellow South Africans a very happy Heritage Day!