We hope every South African enjoyed their long weekend and we also hope that you remember why it was a long weekend in the first place. Heritage Day is commonly known as National Braai Day and that’s perfectly fine but we decided to partner up with Culture Capital this year to highlight some of the different cultures in our incredibly diverse nation, focusing on the ‘heritage’ aspect of the public holiday.
We originally wanted to take beautiful pictures of each participant in their traditional clothing but Culture Capital took it a step further. Each participant was asked how they manage to incorporate their culture into their everyday and the results…better than we could’ve dreamed. Here are the results:
Heritage usually refers to when something; in this instance culture; that is handed down from one person’/generation to another. Heritage; I believe; forms a part of who we are. It shapes our minds, our culture, and the way in which we see ourselves. As a young black female, who is Zulu, the heritage which has been passed down is one that is based on a foundation of Respect, Pride and Ubuntu. The aesthetic of the cultural attire cultivates the pride, the manner in which we ought to treat our elders cultivates the respect, and last but not least, the way I have been taught to co-exist with my community is what makes Ubuntu, not just a flaky popular term for those who wish to ‘transform’ the nation; but an actual practiced art, a way of live. Sharing resources and labour has become a way of life. Each one reach one. Each one lend a helping hand; and we all get to go further. My culture has formed a way for those in my community to make it through the days.
My culture and heritage is mainly shaped by the knowledge passed down from my grandmother. This knowledge has influenced what I think it means to be a young Zulu lady. The irony is that the culture and language isn’t practiced daily in my home, but it’s prevalent in the moments I share with my grandmother during our Rooibos tea sessions. These tea sessions have explained several things. Things such as ‘ take heart; have courage, for there is no role as challenging as being a female of colour in this world’. ‘ Bend your back and be strong. It will come in handy in future.’ It has taught me to find beauty in my God-given image. It has taught me patience; humility and self- love. This cultural identity; despite being watered down by the Westernized way we choose to present ourselves to the world on a daily basis; is finally being given a bigger platform; and this excites me.
My identity, is shaped by several factors. My Faith in God, my cultural background; and my belief systems such as being an African Feminist are some to name a few. Being a Zulu lady does not exist in isolation from the latter, but rather gets weaved in through daily interactions, especially though conversations I have with friends and family.
Modern South Africa is moving into a space of acceptance, and pride in one’s own culture. Zulu attire is being worn casually; the language is one of the dominant and more commonly spoken discourse; and this in essence helps to shape a more concrete image of what being Zulu means to me.
‘ The world is full of people who push their own agendas. Be different. Be the one that provides the building blocks for others, and in turn, you will be blessed. Dare to be different mtana wam(my child) This is what the Zulu women in this family have sacrificed; less of you and more to the greater community’. – Grandmother Mbatha.
I am a proud South African Indian.
In the large spectrum of heterogenous Indian South Africans, I identify as Hindi.
The Hindi Indian culture is bedazzled with elegant attire, dreamy colours and delicious delicacies.
I found my passion for animals and vegetarianism within my culture- the values of caring for the communtiy and having compassion for all living creatures, is an important and profound morale embedded in the Indian culture.
The battles of breaking down sexism and colourism (being prejudiced against people based on skin colour) in the South African and Indian community has shaped me into a rugged and stoic feminist, and activist.
My practice in Ashtanga Yoga stems from my Hindi Indian heritage- connecting with my body and exercising, even in a busy gym is another way I identify with my heritage.
Being Indian has instilled the very many profound and congenial qualities in my identity, the diverse and colourful South African historical aspect has shaped me into an active revolutionary.
Coloured identity is something that I struggled with as a child and continue to struggle with as an adult, but in different ways. Having spent a chunk of my childhood in Toronto and the rest in Lyttelton, Pretoria my experience of being Coloured is slightly different. My parents are very politically conscious and that rubbed off on me. I identify coloured as another expression of blackness. The term coloured still feels like a catch all phrase for the odds and ends of our colonial past. The offspring of the oppressed and enslaved and the rasveraaier miscegenators and slave owners. There are so many ways to be coloured depending on where and how you grew up, but I think the universal coloured experiences are not found in customs and religion, even languages aren’t always shared. I’d say that food is the constant, be it Sunday meals of saffron yellowed rice with raisins, pickles beetroot, some type of roast with potatoes, or Koesisters made the way they were meant to be with spices and a delicate syrup and coconut coating or even Gatsbies stuffed with chips.
I’ve struggled all my life with what does it mean to be Tsonga. Can I claim that this is my Heritage because I speak the language? Anybody can learn to speak it, so it can’t be that. Is it the clothes I wear traditionally? The problem is the same as language. Anyone can wear a set of clothes and a non-Tsonga person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Is it the culture I was raised in? Living in South Africa, where every day means interacting with more cultures than you can easily remember, makes it difficult to believe that I was only influenced by Tsonga culture and thought to become who I am today (For example, I’ve never held a real spear in my life). So what does it mean to be Tsonga, especially in South Africa? It means nothing by itself; as part of the other aspects of myself is when it begins to become real. Being Tsonga, black, male, queer, South African; all these things I see as an address for where my mind resides. I carry them with me because if I were to change them, the address of my mind would change and I would be a wholly different person. Being Tsonga, to me, means something that I did not choose. But without which I could not be me.