DAY

Cel­e­brat­ing our col­lec­tive mem­ory

CityPress - - Voices -

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

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