I have always been amazed by the colours of Africa and especially South Africa. The diversity of our country is something I have never gotten used to and still marvel about.
As we celebrate our 19th Heritage Day, I can’t help reflecting on pre-1994 when the colours of our South African flag were divided and our country was in systematic chaos under a system called Apartheid designed to dehumanise and set apart one colour from the other. I am glad on some level that we went through that so that we can reflect and learn from our mistakes.
Heritage Day is a special day in my heart as it marks a day when we can come together and celebrate our differences. I offer a grand salute to the heroes such as, amongst others, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and Desmond Tutu who fought for liberation and invited all South Africans under one roof called ‘Reconciliation’.
Reconciliation is dependent on truth and it is true that we live with a tribal identity and mentality, ie: Xhosa, Zulu, Coloured or Sotho. And while this means that we function and survive better within a collective setting, it also means that if you are not one if us, you are not important and deserve less. Crimes against humanity such as Apartheid and Xenophobia were born out of tribal mentalities like this.
Because of these mentalities, we claim ownership of things which are not ours to begin with. In the context of South Africa, we claim ownership of our land and jobs we don’t have yet, and are ready to murder our brothers and sisters from other countries who are seeking refuge for it. Somewhere along the way, we have lost our human identity and stopped exercising our abilities to be truthful, responsible, loving, sharing and merciful citizens.
The problem lies with our values and attitudes. Instead of claiming ownership over land and jobs, we need to claim back our African values, the most important of which is one our late hero, Nelson Mandela, made account for: UBUNTU – you are because we are.
We are all different and will never be the same, which is why we need to find a way to live together harmoniously. Diversity is something very precious, a sacred gift to be cherished. Instead of fighting because of our differences, we need to embrace our diversity and not let our own cultural, tribal and other traditional practices or the colour of our skins form barriers that limit us from reaching out to each other.
Here is a quote from a movie I watched a couple of days ago, Noah’s Ark. “Let`s make sure the choices we make will lay a foundation for the future we ultimately want to live in”.
My message to you this Heritage Day is to look beyond our tribal identities, mentalities and individual attitudes and toward seeking a human identity.
Take some time to listen to the sounds and look at the sights around you. The beating of a drum, the stomping of dancing feet, the colours of traditional clothing worn by every nation. Look at the make-up on everyone’s faces as each pattern tells a different story. Maybe then we can learn to appreciate each other.
South Africa is a rich country in terms of culture and tradition and the world looks to us for inspiration. Let us build a model country which the global community will draw from. Let us look beyond the vials of our own brokenness and desires, take the hand of a foreign brother and sister – and by foreign, I don’t just mean from another country but a neighbour or fellow citizen you regard as a stranger – and walk away from discrimination and towards a world of curiosity.
Dancing towards sunset
BY: Sandile Mntungwa
The African Drum is never too loud,
It sounds like this and it sounds like that,
Our versatile nation rejoices to songs of a fading night
The songs of Hope and to the beat of love,
Holding hands dancing towards our sunset
Lavender, toned, black, white smooth creamy skins like the marula drink
Rubbing each other side on side,
Moving to the Rhythm of the beating drum
Fires blazing, chants of feet not a distance from each other
Chaa cha chaa, step step to the African beat
Different sounds uniting for one meaningful song
Young and old, none regarded as a stranger
Dancing towards a sunset
A Coloured tambourine filters watery yawning bird sound
Singing goodbye to the day awaiting for the new
A new heritage, stage of an African beat
Crooked root of an African child,
Dry lips that of the Sahara desert, whispering noises of unity
We dancing toward sunset
Rivers gushing, winds blowing, rain falling
Dancing towards our sunset.