My 5 year old daughter asked me the other day, “Mama, why are we called Indian if we live in Africa? Aren’t we Africans?” Which is a very valid point. So I explained that our great-grandparents were born in India and came to South Africa many years ago (when the world was in black and white she added without any pun intended). And this I guess is what Heritage Day is all about – a celebration of the diverse cultures and traditions we are so lucky to have in South Africa.
I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people who celebrate their cultures or traditions specifically on this day. I think that’s an ongoing thing, it’s part of daily life, you can’t really separate it. There are perhaps many people who actually don’t have a culture or tradition that they uphold too. What I do know is that many people enjoy the day off with a good braai and good company and our president usually delivers a speech about diversity, tolerance and other positive notions to aspire to. (I’m not being cynical at all here) So the best idea would be to highlight the things we do and have as South Africans that other countries don’t.
1. We have great weather.
2. We were voted the number 1 most beautiful country in the world by a Buzzfeed community group called Travelguru and I agree. Best beaches, mountains, rivers and even deserts. We have it all.
3. According to my family we have great fishing spots!
4. The assortment of people gives us a good understanding and tolerance of the differences in tradition, backgrounds and cultures.
5. I’d say we have terribly funny comedians who use our rainbow nation as a basis for their humour. Because our differences makes us a funny nation of people too.
6. We have a constitution that allows us, amongst other things, the freedom of religion. For me this is important because it allows me to be identified as a Muslim in the way that I dress and pray which in turn shows that I’m so far off from a person out to terrorise anyone!
7. I’d be doing my country a disservice by not mentioning the fabulous local foods like milk tart, biltong, bobotie, Hertzoggies and Ouma rusks.
8. We have the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Need I say more?
9. We have great cricket and rugby national teams… And Bafana Bafana.
10. We have the big 5 and giraffes and zebras… and people with rhino horns on their cars to show their solidarity.
11. We are a country so rich in history that that any story told about South Africa is bound to make you feel patriotic, proud and reaching for your vuvuzela.
No doubt we have many issues in this country too. But we also have come a long way from where we were and people have changed in their thinking and attitudes about each other. That’s a big deal.
So this year Heritage Day appropriately coincides with the day of Eid-ul-Adha for Muslims which signifies the end of the holy days of Hajj (the pilgrimage Muslims take to Mecca) and honours the day on which the prophet Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son for the sake of God. (Thankfully he didn’t have to). It’s bound to be a day of celebration with near and dear ones, plenty of food, giving to those less fortunate and altogether a true Heritage Day commemoration.
This article was originally written for Jozikids by Fatima Kazee in 2015.
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