Heritage Month Event 2021: Complex Pasts; Diverse Futures.

On the 29th of September, Africa Unite hosted a virtual Heritage Day event with the title: “Complex pasts, diverse futures”.

By celebrating Heritage Day, Africa Unite encourages young minds to engage on the topic of Heritage and get to know more about the different cultures present in South Africa and Africa as a whole.

The session was organized and moderated by learners from Africa Unite’s Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) who guided the 40 attendees though the agenda, which consisted of guest speakers, cultural exchange quiz and live performances of poetry, music and dance.

After giving a short introduction into the origin of Heritage Day, the first guest speaker, chairperson of the Congolese Civil Society, Isaiah Mombilo, educated the audience on the importance of the connection to the soil in Africa. Africa was rich with all types of minerals and culturally advanced, but slavery drained Africa and separated many from the soil and made them forget their own culture. The African people were removed from power and there was no longer any way of maintaining their own language and way of life.

Therefore, Heritage Day is a day of recovering one’s connection to the soil and the language, values and culture that accompany it. It is about asserting one’s own identity and self-perception as opposed to fulfilling the expectations and prejudices of others.

The powerful guest speech was followed by the announcement of the winners of the Heritage Month Poetry & Art Competition, who went on to perform their poems live in front of the audience. A special thanks to everyone who participated. The proud winners are:

Rudairo Mudarikwa, who is in Grade 10 at the Curro Hermanus High School, from Zimbabwe but was raised in South Africa and culture is Shona. The poems she submitted are named “Complex Past” and “Diverse Future”

Sinako Mphehlo, who is 16 years old, in Grade 11 at Dr Nelson R. Mandela High School. She is from South Africa and her culture is Xhosa. Her submission is a poem named “Heritage Day”.

Thabo Shibande, who is from South Africa and studies at the ABET Boksburg school. His culture is Zulu. Along with the Ubuhle Benhlangano Traditional Movement, of whom he is a founding member, Thabo submitted to this competition a show of dance and music. The dance is called Umzani, while the music played is called Iscathamiya.

Natasha Muberuka, who is 18 years old and in Grade 12, from Congo. Her poem is named “Roots Unspoken” and includes an illustration of a tree with the silhouette of a woman representing the gift of life.

The second part of the event was a cultural exchange quiz in which a series of questions were provided so that learners could talk about their culture and heritage as well as teach the audience how to say “I love you” in their respective home languages.

What was found throughout the event was that growing up with stereotypes can negatively impact one’s perceptions about their heritage so embracing the differences and unique elements of one’s own culture and that of others allows to break stereotypes and take pride in the mixed heritage of South Africa.

The importance of contact with family and the generations before us aids us in learning and preserving our culture. The preservation of language is also linked to preservation of culture. Furthermore, learning about other cultures and their differences and similarities helps in understanding better one’s own culture.

The second guest speaker, Keagan Gertse, argued for the importance of heritage in achieving inclusivity. Despite having inclusivity as the fundamental aim of the freedom charter of 1995, Africa is facing a downwards spiral, while the extorsion of its natural resources is continued by foreign powers. In addition, the African Union is weak and incapable of bringing decisiveness and prosperity since colonialism brought a sense of exclusion through the creation of borders and divisiveness. The only solution is to introduce new institutions and mechanisms to impulse a truly inclusive society free from the legacy of colonialism and the ideas people from other continents might have of Africa.

Recommendations

  • Connection to the soil is a way of preserving Africa’s mineral wealth, culture, language, and diversity without conceding to neo-colonialism
  • Sharing each other’s cultural heritage and taking pride in it is a way of promoting understanding and thus inclusivity
  • Inclusivity is a goal towards which South Africa and Africa at large strives towards
  • The divisions imposed by colonialism are an obstacle for prosperity within a more united Africa
  • Celebration of Heritage should be a permanent practice not limited to Heritage Day

Africa Unite is proud of the three learners, Jemima, Evidence Monde, Bradley Onverwacht who guided the audience through this educational and entertaining Heritage Day Event and we extend our gratitude to the people that attended. May this engagement have a positive ripple effect on the social cohesion in this country.

Jemima and Evidence moderating the heritage month event

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