THE heritage of a nation is its beacon for the future.
Conquerors over the ages targeted people’s heritage first, in order to subdue their subjects.
The word heritage is used interchangeably with legacy, tradition, custom, culture and inheritance.
Heritage refers to the way a group of people, whether a family, society, a nation or country does things, that is, things that are passed from preceding generations. Heritage is the way a particular group regulates its affairs over a prolonged period of time.
A people’s heritage is what glues a type of people together. Heritage is always valuable to its people. Heritage of others does not need the affirmation of others nor does it need to undermine what is dear to others. In our case our heritage diversity ought to be our strength rather than our weakness, and must be celebrated at all times. The United States of America is a powerful nation today precisely because it values its people’s diverse heritage regardless of one’s national, historical, racial or any other backgrounds.
A people’s heritage is in most cases carried in songs, dance, poems, literature, architecture, sport, food, medicine and language as well as the way we do things. It encompasses our value systems. In practical terms it includes everything from mqombothi, boerewors, settler cottages and many other things that are of no harm to anyone.
As a country we have a lot to celebrate since we are a product of a melting pot. It is for this very reason that I admired the late Terry Herbst in his zealous crusade to save our city’s architecture heritage.
Though society changes all the time and change is not necessarily a bad thing, we have needlessly lost some activities that our society enjoyed in the past. One thinks of the days when every school going child participated in some sporting activity such as rugby, cricket, athletics. In cultural activities we had regional, provincial and national school choral and ball room dancing competitions. The youth in those days was fully occupied with constructive activities.
Social decay will certainly blossom in the absence of trustworthy men and women that a society can look up to. A heritage must be spearheaded by role models that can be universally emulated. Heritage thrives when you have leading figures who are bounded by norms and rules. That is the only way to keep the fabric of society intact.
Sport used to prosper in the townships under black administrators even though they had no government support. Names of those great successes I know include Sipho Nozewu in rugby, Primrose in boxing, Michael Ngxokolo in music. There was no excuse for young people not to be involved in some form of activity. There was something for everyone. Engaging young people in these activities reduced the attractiveness of drugs and alcoholism to them.
At the unveiling of the Tiyo Soga Memorial this month, former president Thabo Mbeki proclaimed that Soga was a pioneer African intellectual who valued his African heritage despite his acceptance of what he considered as “constructive values from Westerners”. The inheritance bequeathed to us is intended to develop our nation to take its rightful place amongst nations.