Celebrate SA’s rich heritage


On 24 September each year, South Africans celebrate Heritage Day. It’s a national public holiday set aside to observe tradition, history and culture. In a country with 11 official languages and a myriad of tribes, it is generally a well-loved celebration.

boeriebraaiBraais are arguably the universal way of eating and sharing food in a country ((mage: National Braai Day)Informally known as National Braai Day, people are encouraged to get together and share a meal with others. Braais or shisa nyama, which means braaied meat in Zulu – barbeques in other countries – are arguably the universal way of eating and sharing food in a country that is working hard to unite in diversity.

Heritage Day celebrations this year were officially launched on 3 September by Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile. The theme is “Reclaiming, restoring and celebrating our living heritage”. His department aims to reiterate and promote the country’s liberation heritage to the youth, particularly to the born-free generation. The theme is a call to recognise the importance of the tangible heritage, museums, commemorative sites and interpretation centres in building an inclusive society.

Since the first democratic elections almost 20 years ago, the government has built new museums, monuments and commemorative sites as part of crafting a new and inclusive narrative for the country. These include Freedom Park in Tshwane, Ncome Museum in KwaZulu-Natal, Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg, Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, and Matola Memorial and Interpretation Centre in Mozambique. Now, as part of the 20 Years of Freedom campaign, the government, Brand South Africa and other private sector partners have launched Freedom Fridays. Every Friday from now until 27 April 2014 – the 20th anniversary of the first democratic elections – people are encourage people to wear anything that shows their national pride.


Heritage Day’s official national event will be held at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane, Buffalo City in Eastern Cape. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will make the official address at the stadium. He will also unveil the Egerton Bus Boycott Massacre Memorial Site, as well as lay a wreath to pay respect to the victims of that terrible day in 1983. In addition, the day will coincide with the township’s 50th anniversary. There will be a morning cultural parade, performances by local artists, and an address by Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Xiviet.


art-01The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park has the most concentrated series of rock art paintings in Africa. (Image: South African Tourism)Constitution Hill in Johannesburg will celebrate through the arts, from 10am to 8pm, at Number 4 Lekgotla Space. “The aim is to create a platform on which South Africans from different cultural groups, significantly the youth, may have critical and empowering conversations regarding creative and artistic ways in which we can build our economy,” said Gaisang Sathekge, the exhibition co-ordinator at Constitution Hill.

The day’s activities will include drumming circles, music, poetry, exhibition walkabouts as well as craft and clothing stalls.

Still in Johannesburg, at Witwatersrand University, international clubs and societies will display their culture and heritage through artistic performances and exhibitions, running from 24 to 27 September, on the Concourse in Senate House, Braamfontein Campus East. The exhibition intends to bring together international and local students to provide a platform to expose the Wits community to the rich cultural heritage of the country. The main event will take place on 25 September when the exhibitions and embassy stalls will be officially opened. Voice of Wits will broadcast live from the venue and the SRC will host a café where students will be invited to express their comments on Wits.

There will be a Heritage Day Fact and Fable walk round Historic Modderfontein from 8.30am with Keith Martin and Robbie Vermont. Two urban ambles will take place around some of the historic areas in Modderfontein. Visit The Dynamite Company Museum and view historic Franz Hoenig Haus. Walks start at 8am and 10.30am, and booking is essential.

There will also be a walk around Struben Confidence Reef, from 9am, on Joburg’s west rand, with historian Rod Kruger. The walk takes you from the Stamp Mills up to and into the mine.

A Blue Plaque will be unveiled in Pageview at 10am. The Joburg suburb’s 14th Street was once a bustling centre of enterprise but traders were evicted from the area in the 1970s. Many took up leases in the Oriental Plaza, a compromise negotiated between the Johannesburg council and the state at the time.

The James Mpanza Memorial Lecture will take place at 10am at Orlando Methodist Church on Mooki Street, in Soweto. It will look at the role of the 1940s Squatter Movement and the effects of the Native Land Act of 1913 in displacing black Africans in the urban areas.

Still in Joburg, GIfA Grammers will run from 11am. GIfA is teaming up with the Instagram Community on Heritage Day to photograph the Old Retail District in the Johannesburg Inner City. It will start at Beyers Naude Square and move towards Eloff Street, once the richest and most famous street in Southern Africa.

And then there will be a stroll through the eastern historic suburb of Kensington, from 2pm. Kensington is on the eastern edge of Joburg, and was home to many miners during the gold rush.

Gauteng Province will host the National Indigenous Games. They began on 20 September and end on 24 September, at the Tshwane Events Centre. The games are an initiative of the Department of Sports and Recreation’s mass programme to “get the nation to play”. “For us as Gauteng, the games are more than the desire to achieve the top spot but also about assisting South Africa to reclaim, restore and celebrate its heritage,” said Gauteng MEC Lebogang Maile.


tablemountainTable Mountain National Park is a global biodiversity hotspot, containing more plant species than the whole of the British Isles. (Image: South African Tourism)Across the country, in Western Cape, there are plenty of events, there is the launch of the Oral History Project “So onthou Porterville se mense”, celebrating the town’s 150 years of existence, at Jan Danckaert Museum, Porterville, as well as the 50th Anniversary of Genadendal Museum. The theme is “From dusty antics to unique displayed antics”, and will tell stories about Genadendal.

The Shipwreck Museum will host an Amazing Race through Bredasdorp in collaboration, as well as an exhibition on the “Laslappie Gulde” of the Overberg region for the duration of Heritage Week. There is a Heritage Festival in collaboration with Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch University and Stellenbosch 360, at The Avenue, Stellenbosch.

In Cape Town, Simon’s Town Museum will host a Heritage Tour of Simon’s Town and to Cape Point for locals who were displaced by the forced removals of the 1960s. There will also be an MOD Programme Arts Showcase and Performance at Fairmount High School in Grassy Park.

Join Footsteps to Freedom with Wiki Loves Monuments. Footsteps to Freedom is a walking tour of Cape Town hosted by Iziko Museums. Meet at 10.20am sharp at the Taj Cape Town reception, corner of Adderley and Wale streets in the City Bowl.

Dwarsriver Valley Heritage Day Fair will begin at 11.30am at Lanquedoc, Groot Drakenstein, which was part of the escape route during apartheid. Local historical story tellers, local bands and acts, as well as Trompoppies marching from Lanquedoc entrance to St Giles Church will be among the festivities.


Iziko, the national heritage institution, in collaboration with The Company’s Garden Precinct Stakeholders group, will host the in_herit festival in Cape Town. Visitors can explore all the Iziko museums, participate in tours, public discussions, yoga classes, workshops, film screenings, musical performances, planetarium shows, interactive activities, natural history displays and more.

Iziko points out that South Africa’s collective national identity comprises a multi-faceted cultural heritage. It will offer free entry to all museums during Heritage Week, from 23 to 29 September. The Planetarium is only free on Heritage Day and the Castle of Good Hope is only free on Heritage Day and World Tourism Day on 27 September. The Curator as Cultural Activist, a lecture by Mark Coetzee, an artist, writer, art historian and curator, will take place at the Barry Lecture Theatre, Iziko South African Museum in central Cape Town at 5.30pm – members R40, non-members R60, students R20.


The Heritage Portal has some suggestions for the day. There is an Open day in the Vredefort Dome, from 8am. People are invited to discover culture, nature and history – on Heritage Day, take an expedition of discovery. There will be balloon rides, gold mine explorations, mountain climbing, horseriding, and river rafting, among other events.

In Free State, celebrations will take place at the Ficksburg Showgrounds in Ficksburg. The programme will focus on messages from government leaders, cultural performances and exhibitions. According to South Africa Government Online, the day will encourage discussions around our heritage, including tangible and intangible, movable and immovable as well as cultural and natural. It will also be a day used to promote the use of cultural attire, traditional dishes as well as encourage discussion of the role of heritage in socio-economic development, national reconciliation, nation building, social cohesion and fostering a national identity.

Other events are planned for the days after Heritage Day. The Heritage SA Symposium 2013 will be held on 4 and 5 October from 9am, hosted by Heritage Potchefstroom.

On 5 October, The Big Five in Central Cape Town will take place at noon. It’s been two centuries or more since any of the Big Five were spotted in central Cape Town. A safari will show participants the unlikely lairs of the wild beasts of old Africa, some of which survive to enthral modern tourists. But there is much more: dragons and griffins, dogs and dolphins.

The 10th National Oral History Conference will take place on 8 October from 8.30am in Northern Cape. The theme is Centenary of the Land Act of 2013. The conference is organised by the Oral History Association of South Africa, in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture, National Archives of South Africa, and the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Libraries and Archives Directorate.


robben-island-02Robben Island, a barren 2-kilometre-long piece of rock in Table Bay off the coast of Cape Town, is world famous as the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years in jail. (Image: South African Tourism)Over and above its people and history, South Africa is also home to eight World Heritage Sites, declared by Unesco’s World Heritage Committee. The committee seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of “outstanding value to humanity”. They play a pivotal role in the history of the country and its people. There are four cultural, three natural and one mixed heritage site.

Robben Island, the island prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated by the apartheid government for decades, is arguably the most well-known of these. The island has since become a symbol of the democracy and freedom that the citizens of this country now enjoy.

The Cradle of Humankind is in Gauteng, just outside Johannesburg. It has the world’s richest concentration of hominid fossils. These are the first evidence of human evolution, with fossils dating back 3.5 million years. It was officially declared a World Heritage Site in December 1999. Starting with the first site added to the list, ending with the latest, South Africa’s World Heritage sites are:

First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.