Message from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal: Heritage Day

Posted on September 21, 2018

Heritage Day is the day when South Africans celebrate our country’s rich diversity. It’s a day that on the surface is largely about the past – a day for celebrating where we come from, for acknowledging all the important aspects of our past that make us who we are.

South Africa is known for its many cultures, races, and religious groups, and the largely peaceful ways in which we coexist. But our divided and painful past has meant we are often driven to approach challenges facing our country today through the filters of our often opposing histories.

Our divided past also meant we were denied the opportunity to really know each other. To experience the joy of learning about a different culture, a different religion, cuisine or ways of marking the rites of births and deaths and life’s great joys between.

The University of Pretoria is a microcosm of South Africa, and our different campuses reflect the great diversity for which we as a country are known. We, as an institution of higher learning, have made significant inroads in transforming ourselves to live up to the ideals and aspirations that the founders of our democracy set out in 1994.

It has given me profound joy to see, year after year, our students from across our beautiful country – from all its provinces, race and language groups, religions, and cultures – change what it means to celebrate “South African-ness”. Nearly 25 years into our united story, we are seeing those once highly divided strands of our personal histories being rewoven, into something that is becoming a shared South African heritage. A foundation which future generations will build upon to create the dream country envisioned in our Constitution.

As we approach our 25th birthday as a united country, it is important to remember that what defines us as South Africans is constantly changing – but with just a quarter-century of unified history behind us, South Africans are already known worldwide for our warmth, hospitality, generosity, and commitment to ubuntu.  

This Heritage Day, let us encourage each other, formally and informally, to continue to build upon this foundation – by learning about our diverse cultures and personal histories, and thereby helping to build the country we all dream of.

Prof Cheryl de la Rey

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