One of the benefits of democratic South Africa, is the recognition of the vast diversity in our nation. Every year on the 24thof September, since its first inception in 1995 we commemorate Heritage Day.
The officiating of Heritage Day was not just about adding an additional public holiday on the calendar, but it was strategically placed to cement the message around total inclusivity and appreciation for the diverse people of the land.
The official government definition for “heritage” is “things people inherit, such as culture, history, wildlife, monuments, artwork, literature, music, folklore, languages, culinary traditions, and more” (https://publicholidays.net.za/heritage-day/)
Based on the above definition, the word ‘inherit’ stands out for me most. I think we need to look broadly at how we commemorate Heritage Day. Usually when we celebrate Heritage Day, we dress up in our various traditional attires, eat traditional/cultural food and listen to traditional/cultural music. In this “woke” generation where everyone wants to live their truth, I have witnessed that more and more people are “going back” to their roots and attempting to live out more cultural practices than western practices.
But there is another layer to culture, which can get controversial and that feeds into things such as belief systems and spiritual/cultural practices.
The ongoing controversy can come from traditionalists who oppose the fusion of cultural practices with modernity. Spiritually, there can also be some controversy in that, while there are certain cultural elements we embrace in Christianity, there are others we don’t embrace. To some people being a believer means you have abandoned one’s culture.
I am a believer who happens to love her Zulu heritage and I think I am very ‘cultured’ just perhaps not in the way we have traditionally defined what it means to be ‘cultured’.
A definition that wraps up the differences beautifully for me, reads as follows: “Heritage refers to the things that we inherit, while culture is about what we create.” (https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-difference-culture-heritage-393504).
Culturally people are always doing things differently, culture is not cast in stone and how we define our contributions to our culture will vary.
Heritage gets given to us without much of a choice, (example- heritage of being Zulu-I was born Zulu and I can’t change that). Being Zulu, I have also inherited my language, the incredible Zulu history and the land of course… 🙂
In a nutshell, what I am saying is Culture is a choice and Heritage is not. Don’t allow people to impose on you how you should show up “culturally” in the world.
On a much lighter note, let me just say-Happy Heritage Day! 🙂 Enjoy…
Image courtesy: https://www.portfoliocollection.com