Heritage Day: Celebration, meditation or reflection?

Apart from being the well-publicised National Braai Day, Monday is also Heritage Day, when South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their cultural heritage and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions. The public holiday is also meant to commemorate the past and the struggles of apartheid.

The Mail & Guardian Online asked some South Africans what Heritage Day is all about.

Tshepo Maseko, better known as Parsens Matabane from the SABC3 soap opera Isidingo, thinks that all holidays are commercialised and that the meaning of Heritage Day has been lost.

"A lot of young South Africans don't know the meaning of Heritage Day and the thing is that we don't have much good to inherit. There are too many negative things happening around us.
The only things we can inherit are the divorces that we see every day and crimes that we have seen over the years," he said.

Maseko, who is also a radio DJ for Motsweding FM, said he has issues with people's lack of understanding of Heritage Day. "I wish I could have a platform where I can air my beef about this."

Yusuf Desar (24) of Durban said that Heritage Day is just a day where he doesn't have to go to work. "I'll be catching up on some sleep. I'll just watch SABC2 for some Heritage Day insight because they always have such shows on public holidays," he said.

Celebrity Bonginkosi Dlamini, more famous as musician Zola, thinks that Heritage Day should be a day on which all South Africans reflect on their points of origin.

"I think that Heritage Day has been about political events and even though I think that some of it is about political events, there are other things about South Africans' heritage that we can reflect on. I just feel that we are swallowed by these Western lifestyle[s] every day of our lives, and the only time that we are allowed to acknowledge our cultures is on such days."

Renowned Sophiatown actress and singer Abigail Khubeka did not know that Monday was Heritage Day. "It is a fairly new holiday for South Africa; it is as old as our democracy and it's not that we don't appreciate it, it's just that it's taking some time to click," she said.

"I think having a braai would be a great idea and I'll probably add in some traditional beer to it, just to add some of my culture into it," she added.

Imaan Lau (25), of Greenside, Johannesburg, did not know anything about Heritage Day. "I didn't even know it was a holiday on Monday until you told me … What is it all about?"

Lucas Maringa (21), of Bramfischerville, Soweto, said that he would be happy if Heritage Day was celebrated by all South Africans. "If Zulus, Xhosas, Vendas and everyone else would come together at one big venue dressed up in their ethnic garments and just spend the whole day teaching each other about various cultures ... that would be a prefect Heritage Day for me."

"I'll be at home and catching up on house work," said Michelle Christian (43), of Durban. She said that her understanding of Heritage Day is "a time of reflecting on how far we've come as country and how far we are going. It is 14 years down the line and the question that we need to ask is: What did we not do that still needs to be done?"

Mbali Vilakazi, a student at the University of Johannesburg, said she is worried about the country's success in communicating to people the symbolism of Heritage Day. "It poses a lot of questions to me. Is it supposed to be a day of celebration, meditation or reflection? Maybe the fact that I'm even thinking about it is good," Vilakazi said.

Thembelihle Tshabalala

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