September marks the annual Heritage Month in South Africa. Heritage Day on 24 September recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation. South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa.
Minister Nathi Mthethwa launched Heritage Month 2014 in Gauteng on 31 August under the theme: “Celebrating 20 Years of Democracy: Tell Your Story that Moves South Africa Forward”.
Among the projects identified to advance the “Tell Your Story” campaign are the reburials of Nat Nakasa and Moses Kotane. Repatriations of unsung heroes provide South Africans with an opportunity to learn more about their personal struggles, the circumstances that led to them living in exile and the impact they had on the liberation of our country.
Other events include National Book Week from 1 to 7 September under the theme: “Going Places” focusing on the power of books and how they can ‘figuratively’ and ‘literally’ take South Africans to places. Events are planned in all the provinces and will include reading in indigenous languages, storytelling and motivational talks, word-a-thons, poetry sessions and book debates.
Heritage Month recognises aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and intangible: creative expression such as music and performances, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the popular memory.
Various heritage sites and infrastructures in South Africa are named after the liberation struggle icons, e.g.:
The Sol Plaatjie Municipality in the Northern Cape
The Nelson Mandela Museum in the Eastern Cape
Luthuli House in Gauteng
Shaka Zulu Airport in KwaZulu-Natal
Tshwane Municipality in Gauteng
Steve Biko Memorial in the Eastern Cape.
South Africa is also home to eight of the 981 World Heritage Sites which are recognised by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation as places of outstanding cultural and historical importance.
These sites are:
iSimangaliso Wetlands Park
the hominid sites at Swartkrans, Sterkfontein and Kromdraai (known as the Cradle of Humankind)
Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park (mixed natural and cultural)
Mapungubwe Heritage Site
Cape Floral Kingdom
Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape.
The sites offer a diversity and abundance of cultural and natural values that encapsulate the value systems of the country.
In addition to these sites, the country has 17 national heritage sites and the country is taking steps to protect more of its heritage sites.
Government has set in motion the process of declaring another historic place in the history of South Africa, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, a heritage site.
Speaking at the 50th commemoration of the Liliesleaf Farm raid by the apartheid police President Jacob Zuma said preserving the site would contribute to the on-going process of national healing and the building of a more cohesive society.
During the commemoration, President Zuma said it’s our joint responsibility to tell the story of the farm. “We all have a responsibility to ensure that the story of Liliesleaf and the Rivonia Trial is told in full for the benefit of current and future generations and that to ensure that the ideas born on this farm live forever”.
So join in and help preserve and spread awareness of our heritage resources. They are not just symbols of our past, but they are the foundation for our future as well.