Has the ‘Heritage Day’ lost its meaning in this generation?

It’s a day that is supposed to be celebrated by all South Africans embracing their diverse cultures and traditions across the country. It’s a day where people from different tribes and nations commemorate the cultural heritage of all the cultures that make up this beautiful ‘rainbow nation’.

As a student who’s staying in residence, I walked around campus on the Heritage Day just to see the vibe on the day.  The noise at the pool house welcomed me, girls giggling non-stop, while guys were braaing and holding beers, eyes sparkling, chatting so loudly and music pumping.

“Hey girl, It’s a National Braai Day, loosen up come have fun with us,” said one of the guys inviting me to join in. I thanked him for the offer and told him that I was only there for my assignment and I wouldn’t know if he really understood me because I could tell that he was already drunk.

I sat there, asking myself questions…wondering if this is how people, specifically young people think the day is all about? Is it about boozing and braaing only? What about the past, the present and the future of our heritage?

Siyavuya Ketshengana (21) a third year who’s doing his National Diploma in accounting believes that there’s more to Heritage Day than drinking and having fun. “We’re supposed to be celebrating our cultural traditions, our unity in diversity as the country and obviously as time goes by, everything is evolving and we have to try by all means to keep and maintain our different traditions,” he said.

With a debate that has been going on for a while about the day being re-branded or renamed to “National Braai Day”, Ketshengana stressed that the day might lose its meaning. “Look around you, young people are starting to forget their roots, think about what’s going to happen in 5-10 years’ time? This day only comes once in a year what’s so hard in forgetting about ‘Western stuff’ and come together as ‘Africans’ to just embrace and enjoy it?” he added.

However, 19-year-old Zimkhitha feels like the heritage day is a waste of her ‘precious’ time. “Who cares about these ancient traditions anyway? Time is ticking and life goes on we can’t be going backwards all the time, people need to F***en move on,” she said as she flicked her 16-18 inch weave.

I also had a privilege of talking to an elder, Sibongiseni Mkhive who works as a security officer on campus. He insinuated that the current generation is lost and the national braai day is an insult to Africans. He believes that after this generation our cultures and traditions will be extinct. He said, “Our fathers have tried to pass this onto us and we also tried to pass it to this generation but it’s hard because of the things like this braai day.”

Mkhive went on to say that people are trying to destroy our traditions because Heritage Day will no longer have a meaning and that will have a negative impact on people because tradition teaches us humanity and there’s no way that a braai day will do that.

One of the most influential people on twitter Khaya Dlanga tweeted: “I am concerned that years down the line, children will think that #HeritageDay is about braais and not history.” I’m not sure if it’s true but I believe that time will tell.

Sinazo Mkoko

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