Heritage Day 2021 – “Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures”

Posted on September 24, 2021

As one of the top 10 most culturally diverse countries in the world, it is no wonder that South African has dedicated an entire month to heritage. The 24th of September is South Africa’s Heritage Day, but the South African government created the opportunity for the country to celebrate our heritage the entire month of September. The History of Heritage Day and how it originated is an interesting story and the first time it was fully embraced was in 2008 by the National Heritage Council. The idea behind this initiative was that the citizens can foster greater social cohesion and more importantly a shared national identity. The first celebration of Heritage Day in South Africa occurred in 1995. Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, was the national spokesperson for “Braaidag” in 2007 and expressed this initiative in simple terms. He noted that there are so many things pulling us apart, but on this day we can all come along around a shared fire and that it has the potential to bring us together. It poses the question to all South Africans – What other ways exist to create opportunities for building each other and our nation at large?

The International theme this year is “Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures”. South Africa is but one of numerous countries that have faced unrest and other forms of hurt within its country’s borders. The theme for Heritage Day was chosen specifically to emphasise the importance of not only cherishing your heritage, but also to preserve and share that colourful heritage with the future generations. Across the world, a lot is being done to preserve global heritages and heritage sites. Let us ponder for a moment on “Why?”.

Why should we celebrate our own heritage?

I don’t know about you, but to me there is something almost enchanting in hearing your grandparents’ telling stories and seeing them dabble in the past and in some way be there with them. Your heritage is your unique sense of belonging. Belonging to a certain family or group with shared values, tradition, culture and history passed down from generation to generation. It is a wonderful thing to be celebrated, because that which makes your heritage unique gives you a more complete picture of who you are and why you operate the way you do. It is also a powerful tool to enrich people from other cultures’ views, perspectives and lives.

Why should we celebrate other heritages?

The term “Rainbow nation” is now new concept to anyone living in South Africa. We have wonderful, diverse and rich cultures in south Africa. Let’s build on the idea of rainbow colours and view South Africa as our blank canvas. Now take the paintbrush of your own heritage in your hand. We have some passionate red lines from the Zulu nation, some royal blue splashes from the Tswana’s, vibrant pink from the Tsonga’s. Yellow and green contributed by the Xhosa and Ndebele cultures. Followed by gold and orange brush strokes from Afrikaans and English cultures. Each culture has its unique history, cuisine and language. Let’s choose not to live in monocolour. The future is bright and colourful. As a country we are united with beautiful landscapes, Table Mountain, Robin Island, the flowers of Namaqualand, the Big Five and many other South African trademarks. Let’s look at the past and where we came from and how we can use that to go forward and build our culturally diverse, rainbow nation!

What are you doing on this Heritage Day?

Before you light your fire, here are a few alternative ideas to celebrate your heritage this coming Heritage Day. If you are not familiar with the rich cultural diversity in South Africa, educate yourself by visiting one of South Africa heritage sites.

As we are nearing the end of the year, for some of us fatigue may be creeping in. May we use this coming Heritage Day to take a moment and pause on where we come from, what our currently reality is and how we can colour the remaining three months of 2021. Despite our complex past, we can use our diversity to truly create unity, through something we all have – Our Heritage!


“Alone we can go quickly, together we can go further.” – African Proverb

- Author Marguerite Nel
Published by Andrea du Toit

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