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Our shared foundation

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As South Africans we have a shared past, a history of oppression, from which we have all been liberated

Whatever your heritage, wear it proudly on Heritage Day, Monday, September 24. Photo: ANA

WHAT is heritage?

In a purely clinical sense, it is the sum total of our inherited objects, traditions, monuments and culture; customs.

But, in a broader sense, heritage is also our collective history, and in a country as diverse as ours, our history can be, and often is, defined and interpreted very differently.

Heritage to South Africa is not only our individual customs peculiar to our individual cultures, but the shared history and experiences that make us, ultimately, South African.

Whether experience is influenced by being Indian, Muslim, Khoisan, Xhosa, coloured, black, Zulu, white, Christian, Sotho, Afrikaans, Pedi, Asian, Tswana, European, or Venda, when defining who we are as people, we all describe ourselves as (fill in the blank) South African.

And as South Africans we have a shared past, a history of oppression, from which we have all been liberated.

This liberation, leading to the dawn of our democracy in 1994, has undoubtedly given us the ability to celebrate our individual heritage.

Whether yesterday we celebrated Shaka Zulu, Tuan Guru, Autshumato, or just slapped something on the braai, we could do so because our hard-fought freedom was fought for and died for.

That forms the foundation of our collective heritage, our shared history, and should provide the adhesive for our continued cohesion.

Our country’s motto, in the Xam language, is Unity in Diversity.

Heritage Day was first celebrated in South Africa in 1995 – a year after that watershed event when the country had its first democratic elections.

So the day should be used to celebrate the start of our collective heritage, rather than dwell on the individual pasts that led us to our aggregated starting point.

Long may the celebration of our collective heritage continue, where, like South Africa is the place where two oceans meet to the point where neither can be clearly defined, the resultant melting pot of the country’s people can unite to become a stronger, unified nation.