We’ll solve the riddle that is Braai Day
IT HAS no top or bottom, but it can hold flesh, bones and blood all at the same time. What is it? A ring.
This is one of the many riddles that the Barends family would tell around the fireplace in my grandmother’s kitchen, while devouring her home-made vegetable soup and bread, fresh out of the oven.
Although I never mastered any of her recipes, I did inherit her love for telling stories – and her wedding ring. Ouma gave it to me one Sunday morning before church, when she broke the news that her cancer had returned. Tears streamed down my cheeks at the thought of losing one of the most dynamic women I’d ever known and loved. But, the then-90-year-old would not have it. She gave me a firm tap on the arm and an even firmer “Moenie vir jou laf hou nie!” (“Don’t be silly!”)
Ouma was one of Stellenbosch’s first coloured social workers.
These days, I find myself touching, sometimes clenching, her wedding ring whenever I’m faced with something difficult.
I remember her strength, resolve, wit and humour, and that her blood runs through my veins. I felt a similar connection to Krotoa, after watching award-winning South African actress Crystal-Donna Roberts’ portrayal of the Khoi slave who served as Jan van Riebeeck’s translator.
Natives were stripped of their land, names, culture and traditions. We were taught to despise the click in our tongue and the kink in our hair, to assimilate “civilisation” and part from our “savage” ways.
This is why Braai Day will never cut it for me.
It is too straightforward, seeking to unite us by encouraging us to celebrate our different backgrounds in the same way. How does throwing meat on the coals encourage nation-building?
Heritage Day replaced Shaka Day, to create a day for all South Africans to celebrate their heritage.
It could be a wonderful opportunity for South Africans to learn about their heritage. Only then can we share stories and truly connect. We need to be honest about the past and its degrees of privilege and pain. Our history and heritage is both painful and beautiful. We are united, but we are also diverse – and this does not have to divide us.
Whether you’re braaing or not, how and who will you be remembering, commemorating and celebrating this Heritage Day? I’ll be rocking my grandmother’s wedding ring. Perhaps together we’ll solve the riddle that is Braai Day.
Sherlin Barends is a radio presenter on Kfm Mornings, a feminist, a writer and a master of ceremonies with a BA Honours (Journalism) from Stellenbosch University.