South Africa celebrates Heritage Month in September under the theme: “The Year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Advancing transformation of South Africa’s heritage landscape.”
According to the Revised 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage, “Heritage is defined as the sum total of tangible and intangible wildlife and scenic natural parks, biological and geological, paleontological formations sacred sites and sites of scientific and historical importance and event of historical conflict, national monuments, statues, historic buildings, underwater wrecks, architecture and cities works of art, literature and music, oral traditions, ceremonies, rituals, performances, museum collections and their documentation which provides the basis for a shared culture and creativity in the arts”.
South Africans heritage define who we are, how do we do things – choosing to embrace diversity, recognizing the rich natural resources and our potential as people, and the collaborative innovative peaceful approach that we bring to everything we do have marked our remarkable rebirth and transition from a pariah state to a stable prosperous growing democracy.
The Heritage Month programme focuses on the transformation of the South African heritage landscape over our democratic journey. It recognises aspects of South African culture that are both tangible and intangible.
The celebrations over Heritage Month consists of the active participation of museums, galleries, libraries, archives, community art centres to highlight the importance of transformation of the heritage landscape.
South Africans are encouraged to visit these institutions to contribute to their sustainability and relevance in addressing societal problems. Citizens are also encouraged to participate in community dialogues which will be held at these heritage institutions.
In honour of Madiba let us promote our diverse heritage within our communities.
Former President Mandela advocated arts, culture and heritage as the cornerstone of advancing social cohesion and nation building. He advocated the transformation of the heritage landscape and in particular the contribution of diversity in building our nation. It was Nelson Mandela who profoundly set the agenda of the transformation of the Heritage landscape in South Africa. During Mandela’s administration the constitution was adopted enabling all South Africans to embrace the agenda on transforming the heritage landscape. We can honour our former president and global icon by dedicating ourselves to promoting our diverse heritage.
Our progressive legislation has made transforming our heritage landscape possible to reflect our diverse nation.
The adoption of the Constitution enabled our nation to embrace the agenda on transforming our nation and our heritage landscape.
Through the introduction of various polices and legislation we have gradually transformed our heritage landscape. It includes the revised 1996 White Paper on Arts Culture and Heritage, Cultural Institutions Act, National Heritage Resources Act and National Heritage Council Act.
Through the new National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act we have opened access to the archival heritage that served the apartheid regimes. The denial of access to archival heritage to the majority of South Africans robbed them of justice and further entrenched their exploitation.
The South African Living Heritage policy enhances the recognition of indigenous knowledge systems and affirms our African identity and restores dignity.
The transformation of the heritage landscape of our country has ensured that it truly represents the diversity of our society. The changes in our heritage space has helped protect, promote and preserve South Africa’s rich and diverse heritage. It has created a conducive environment for all people to embrace and celebrate what was inherited or bequeathed to us by our forebears.
South Africa belongs to all who live in it and we are united in our diversity. We must ensure that our diversity and unique heritage unites us as a nation. Our diversity is strength and allows us to draw on the heritage and culture of all South Africans. South Africans are socially diverse, yet are united by their love for our country and our flag.
The transformation of our heritage spaces promotes social cohesion and redresses the injustices of the past.
The transformation of our heritage landscape over our democratic journey has helped foster national unity. It has allowed us to move away from the vestiges of apartheid to reflect a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
We have made strong inroads into deconstructing apartheid’s social structure in our psyche and harmonising it with the ideals of the new dispensation.
In reconfiguring our arts and cultural spaces we have helped redress past imbalances and reflect a more inclusive nation.
Let us work together to protect and transform our heritage sites.
Communities are encouraged to safeguard and protect our cultural heritage and institutions for future generations. We must work to ensure that our diverse cultures and heritage reflect all our identities without any distortions.
South Africans should take pride by living in a country with the following eight declared World Heritage sites:
- Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park
- Robben Island
- Maluti-Drakensberg Park
- Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
- Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
- Vredefort Dome
- Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
- ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape
These sites are of great significance to all South Africans and should be preserved for the future generations.
There are several National Legacy Projects to establish commemorative symbols of South Africa’s history and to celebrate our heritage.
These are transformative projects to develop new commemorative structures that help greater diversity and unity. It includes monuments, museums, plaques, outdoor art, heritage trails and other symbolic representations. The National Legacy Projects contribute to deepening of the values associated with social cohesion.
The following are some of the Legacy projects completed:
- Freedom Park, Pretoria, opened in 2004;
- Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, opened in 2002;
- Luthuli Museum, Groutville, KwaZulu-Natal, opened in 2004;
- Reburial of Sarah Bartmann in Hankey, Eastern Cape in 2002;
- Nelson Mandela Statue, Union Buildings, Gauteng unveiled in 2013;
The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route (RLHR) commemorates, promotes and conserves our struggle to independence. It draws on heritage as a vehicle to depict South Africa’s journey from the first contact with colonists to the attainment of democracy through a series of connected multi-dimensional sites at the local, provincial, national and international level in a manner that promotes the values enshrined in the South African Constitution namely: a participatory process of identification and documentation of significant sites, formal protection and management of heritage resources and the interpretation and commemoration of the liberation struggle.
The RLHR is a practical mechanism to recognize the importance of this category of heritage because it forms part of the social memory of many previously oppressed communities and societies of South Africa. The project aims to conserve and preserve both the physical and the intangible heritage associated with the various epochs of the struggle for liberation. The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route will contribute in the preservation of heritage for posterity.
Over the month South Africans can come together to share, celebrate and showcase their cultural heritage. Heritage Month is a platform for communities to showcase different aspects of South Africa’s diverse heritage. #HeritageMonth #HeritageDay #HeritageTransformation.