Celebrating our collective memory
Each of our public holidays has a special meaning – a particular reason for its existence. Heritage Day, which South Africans celebrate every year on September 24, is no different. The day has been set aside to celebrate our diversity and culture.
As former president Nelson Mandela said: “When our first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”
The idea of heritage is a difficult one to define, but it is generally agreed that it includes things such as our languages. Often overlooked, these key identifiers of heritage are among the more important mediums through which our cultures are communicated.
Other aspects of heritage are the arts, our practices and our collective memories. This makes our heritage somewhat fluid – something that can be created or recreated, especially through the selection of information presented as public history.
Think about it – the cultural memories of the person standing on a street corner are as important as the memories of those who run our country. They are certainly as important as your own, simply because these memories play a part in our identity and how we act this out in our lives.
Knowing where others come from – how each of us came to be where we are today – will help us create a collective memory and public history that unites us. There was a time when the storytellers and bards would relate our stories around fires, capturing us with magical tales of our ancestors.
The Our Story series takes up the role of those who kept our memories and helped us remember our past.
Whether you choose to attend a formal celebration this Heritage Day, or sit around a fire and braai, take a moment to think about the way our pasts are linked.
Maybe you can listen to the stories of your grandmothers or grandfathers, or read this extract about Chief Mzilikazi.
Mzilikazi moved his royal kraal to Mosega