Heritage Day: Celebrating SA’s rich tapestry of cultures
Today being Heritage Day South Africans are encouraged to embrace and celebrate their cultural diversity and to reflect on their traditions and shared history.
Heritage Month is an opportunity for all South Africans to reconnect with their roots and celebrate cultural diversity.
This is according to Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who was delivering the keynote address at this year’s Heritage Day celebrations at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Today’s celebrations take place under the theme, ‘Celebrating our cultural diversity in a democratic South Africa’, an important theme that asks us to reflect on our democratic journey, and also embrace the complexities that come with nation-building and social cohesion in the context of our past, present and future.
“[Our] theme shines the spotlight on South Africa’s rich and diverse cultural heritage incorporating African, Asian and European cultures and traditions. The preamble of the 1996 Constitution reminds us that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity, and calls upon us to heal past divisions and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights,” he said.
The Deputy President reflected on South Africa’s painful past, in which some cultural heritage and practices were “marginalised and demonised by colonisers”.
“We all know that many tribulations underscore our history because of both colonialism and apartheid, but also the triumph of the people against these oppressive regimes is noteworthy. Ours is a unique history that has inspired many nations towards embracing unity and diversity and showing that difference can be a platform for development and not destruction and divisions.
“People of South Africa, our democratic country, as we know it, emerged from centuries of colonialism and apartheid that ensured that social groups were hierarchically graded and that some had a heritage that was not freely appreciated and promoted.
“The cultural heritage of people indigenous to South Africa was in the past marginalised and demonised by colonisers, with this also affecting critical aspects of our traditions and heritage linked to land ownership, language use, livelihoods and social structures,” he said.
Mashatile said that despite this past, South Africa’s young democracy has seen significant gains.
“In democratising the heritage landscape after 1994, it has thus been very important to recognise, rehumanise and celebrate the significance of our diverse living heritage, safeguard it for future generations and harness it as the basis for social cohesion and nation-building.
“We are here to acknowledge and celebrate South Africa’s diverse heritage, which is being showcased and highlighted throughout September. Heritage Month holds immense cultural significance in South Africa, as it provides a platform for communities to celebrate and display their unique traditions, customs and languages.
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“This celebration of cultural diversity not only strengthens the identities of various communities but also helps preserve and promote their heritage for future generations. It provides an opportunity for our people to reconnect with their roots, honour their ancestors, and pass on important cultural practices and values,” Mashatile said.