A month to celebrate with pride
It’s a time that invokes memories of our liberation stalwarts
EVERY September, South Africans, and Africans in general, celebrate and remember their African civilisation, heritage, languages, rain-making ceremony, indigenous food, cultural music and poetry as a way to reconnect and remember their cultural heroes and heroines.
The heritage theme this year is historic and timely. For instance, it rekindles the spirit of OR Tambo’s centenary and marks the 40th year since the passing of Steve Bantu Biko. It is also the year of Veronica Zondeni Sobukwe’s 90th birthday, Amilcar Cabral would have been 94 and Kwame Nkrumah 108.
This month links the young generation of Africa from Angola to Zimbabwe, including the African diaspora.
It’s a month which reminds us to embrace Africa’s culture and heritage, encourage the reading and writing about our historical struggles, and remember our African heroes and their wise words of courage and intelligence.
As a street cultural diplomat, we must remember that this is a month in which people in the land of Haile Selassie, Ethiopia, celebrate the new season with humility and humanity.
In accordance with the African calendar cycle in South Africa, African traditional spiritual movements such as the Zion Christian Church, Kara Heritage Institute and the Rastafarian community are commemorating Heritage Month with cultural music, food and texts of African spirituality and heritage.
As a cultural activist and human rights defender in Africa, I’ve observed that during Heritage Month in South Africa we tend to be questioned and ridiculed about our cultural identity and languages in media.
As Biko once said: “One of the most difficult things to do these days is to talk with authority on anything to do with African culture. Somehow, Africans are not expected to have any deep understanding of their own culture or even of themselves. Other people have become authorities on all aspects of the African life or, to be more accurate, on Bantu life.”
As Amilcar Cabral, from Guinea-Bissau, said: “National culture is complex in Africa. In fact, from villages to towns, from one ethnic group to another, from one age group to another, from the peasant to the workman or to the indigenous intellectual who is more or less assimilated, and even from individual to individual within the same social group, the quantitative and qualitative level of culture varies significantly.”
The notion of acculturation, as defined by Biko, clearly stated that the period of colonisation and cultural capture by the settler, colonial regime, the apartheid system in South Africa, was an attempt to fuse only foreign cultures, to the exclusion of African indigenous cultures.
Therefore, our African cultures were neither protected nor promoted. Rather conquest and assimilation were the order of the day.
In retracing our African liberation paths and routes, we must appreciate the recognition that the AU has accorded Tanzania as the road to independence and freedom for many African countries, including South Africa.
Hence we request that the Department of Arts, Culture and Basic Education integrates the liberation heritage routes in the curriculum and encourages the cultural exchange visit programmes from rural provinces to urban provinces.
It is our desire and vision to see all the people of South Africa and Africa commemorating this Heritage Month with pride, without fear, invigorating the spirit of social cohesion and solidarity and remembering the words of Tambo, that the fight for freedom must go on until it is won…
Until the African continent is free, happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.
Mantula is a social cohesion advocate for the reggae and Rastafarian community in South Africa.