By Palesa Mlambo
When you hear the word heritage, what comes to mind? It is a known fact that the 24th of September is Heritage Day and the purpose of this day is to encourage the society to celebrate the diversity of their cultures and traditions.
On this day, South Africans enjoy and celebrate their heritage, embrace their culture and educate others about their roots. They all gather in different parts of the country, wear their traditional gear, sing their traditional songs and dance their cultural dances. It is safe to say that this is a very happy day for South Africans.
There is, however, an underlying issue in this. South African cultures are rich and valuable yet these very cultures are used to mock and belittle others. The very essence of culture is about unity and cooperation and Ubuntu, hence the saying “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (we all need each other). It has become prevalent to hear people saying ” Zulu speaking people are stubborn, Xhosa-speaking people are liars.”
The key issue is that these negative statements and myths about the different cultures are passed on from one generation to another, which doesn’t benefit the country and its people in any way.
An irony of these negative statements is that they only change during Heritage Day or when there are traditional ceremonies taking place. People start to compliment each other’s clothes, dance moves, and food during heritage celebrations. Why not do this daily? Why not embrace our differences and understand that change is good? Our different cultures are what make us unique and special because in those differences we are able to find common ground and celebrate the culture of humanity.
If we, as a nation do not protect and grow our heritage, it will take a completely different turn and eventually fade in the next generations. Therefore, it is important that the knowledge of traditions is preserved and its meaning is kept as it is.
People perceive “health” as a physical matter but it actually goes deeper than that because a healthy society ultimately produces a healthy individual. Caring for the society’s current well-being is actually investing in the future generations that will follow.
On this upcoming heritage, let us genuinely come together as a nation and celebrate our different cultures and then make it a daily habit to compliment instead of criticizing each other for being who we are. TOJ