Picture: Traditional African Dress (Pinterest.com)
“It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it” – Nelson Mandela
Year after year we enjoy the day we get off school and work to lounge in our homes and celebrate, with family and friends, a day set apart for the heritage of our people. We tell our children and siblings that we are celebrating our heritage, that they too must embrace their heritage and never forget where they came from but how often do we sit back and actually remember where it all began? Moreover, how often do we think about the heritage that shall belong to our great-grandchildren, the legacy we leave for them now?
Gone are the days of a united South Africa with a common goal and a unified front. Gone are the teachings of Tata Madiba, nothing left but the shadow of a memory. As a people, we have forgotten how to live together in harmony. The dark cloud of tribalism haunts us from the peripheries, staying somewhat hidden but always lurking in our midst. Youths isolate each other from social groups because “she is not culturally similar to me”. We try so hard to add modern ideals to a purely African culture, and in so doing forget the lessons we should have learnt from apartheid and the times that followed it. All we remember now is the pain and the freedom, not the journey, yet the South Africa we live in now requires us to learn from the past.
The name “rainbow nation” has resonated for decades in reference to this country that accepts all its diverse cultures and those too of the immigrants that come and settle. It has taken years of diligent effort to build a nation with as little racism as possible and to conquer the divisions within the people. On paper, we can even claim to have conquered xenophobia, racism and tribalism, but how often do we find people choosing to sit with those who share the same skin colour as them? How many of us would rather befriend a fellow Nigerian than a native South African? How many of us have felt cheated finding a foreign man or woman getting the job that we wanted?
The lack of unity lives on even amongst ourselves. Men killing women or each other and vice versa. So much has changed over the years and we have changed with it. Cultural rituals have either changed or died away and with every passing day, we lose more of ourselves and what we stood for before 1994. Perhaps we can say that change is inevitable, there is no growth without change, but it is we who determine what change we would like to see. It starts with the Xhosa man using the little Zulu he knows to talk to the non-Xhosa speaking taxi driver, or that group of black girls allowing the white girl into their space.
Heritage day stands not only for us to remember our history as individuals and as a nation. It is a time for us to consider too what we leave behind in the world and what our great grandchildren will be taught and what they will remember. May we remember, even on our worst days that we are one people with a common goal, to prosper and grow our nation. Let us dwell, in this month of heritage, on being the better person for innovation, for culture and for a better tomorrow, remembering always the wise words of Tata Madiba, “It is in your hands to create a better world for those who live in it”.