Heritage is something that is handed down from the past as a tradition. A nation’s heritage could be a lot of things – especially if that nation is like ours. According to SA History Online, our country is heir to a legacy of native livelihoods such as the Khoi and the San, as well as Bantu immigration; slavery; colonisation; settler economies; and liberation movements.
Our nation has seen a plethora of histories, ethnicities, and influences come together and evolve over time – we can tell through our rainbow of cultures, yet somehow, instead of multiple heritages, there seems to be a golden thread that goes through all these things, making everything truly South African.
Heritage is passed down from the past through the youth. From the very first generation, down to our own – it is the youth who have, and continue to pass on the national heritage of honour, pride, and courage of the previous generation – while shaping out a new one for the next generation.
Each generation receives a heritage from the previous, and it is up to them to either change, or embrace it; their choice is what they leave for the next generation – therefore, it is an ongoing thing. What my mother received from my grandmother, and what I received from my mother, as well as what I am passing on to my daughter are very different things. Things that are telling of each generation.
My mother received a heritage of repression. The generation before hers was taught compliance, to always keep their heads down, and to not cause any trouble. It was an era that shaped South Africa to what it is today. My mother’s generation lived through the emergence of African nationalism and the working-class, as well as popular resistance. Their choice was change through the armed struggle and popular resistance – which resulted in freedom.
My generation received a heritage of courage; of uprisings that led to freedom. We embraced education, and specialisation and studying further. We believed that through education, we could be successful and get a seat at the table – and most of us did. My generation’s response to the heritage they received was ensuring that liberation was upheld, and that anyone who wants to make it, can – through education.
My daughter is still living under the heritage of freedom, but in a new era. Unlike me, she has no comprehension of the struggle. 26 years into freedom, and life is completely different. Her heritage is diversity and acceptance of all the different individuals, eras and histories of this country. This generation is dealing with issues of gender, ethnicity, and race – the outcomes of these issues will be a heritage to the next generation.
This shows that heritage evolves, just like our cultures and individual selves. What success is today is not what it was during my era, and my mother’s era. My daughter has the freedom and the means to do anything she wishes. The youth today is bold, and brave in who they are, they are not battling against any entity that is trying to hold them back or force them to conform. Instead, for the first time in ages, success is measured by how much the individual is willing to work on their dreams.
Through a combination of globalisation, the internet and everything that is happening today, the youth is working on a history that will shape the future heritage. But we can rest assured that the golden thread that goes through all these things that makes us South African will continue weaving through everything that happens for ages to come.
As we celebrate Heritage Day this month, may we take time to look back at the role each generation has played in order for us to have what we call a rainbow nation today. May we also look at the present and ponder on how it will affect future generation’s heritage and how they will celebrate this day.
Happy braai day everyone. I hope that you spend the month discovering and exploring all that our fellow South Africans have to offer. Be it learning a phrase from a new language, buying from and/or supporting local brands, or even having a Proudly South African dish once a week – make this a month of living your true South African heritage.