It is true that change is good and it takes time. The same can be said of tradition, but tradition also tracks and reflects time, casting our memories in stone.
Heritage Day is one of the few holidays we look forward to as a nation. It is a holiday that reminds us of how richly diverse we are. Even better, it is a say that reminds us of how multi-layered and multifaceted we are as a people. If anything, this is the day where those who know their clam names will recite them with a great sense of pride. It is a colourful day that emphasizes how different yet similar we are.
South Africa has 12 official languages, inclusive of Sign Language. The apartheid system did a good job of keeping our nation’s people apart. It is for this reason that every tribe stuck to its own. However, this steadily changed with labour migration as more people learnt other languages and cultures outside of their own. Places like Soshanguve (Sotho-Shangaan-Nguni-Venda) emerged where a new community of different backgrounds was formed.
In spite of being integrated with other communities in pursuit of economic freedom and better life prospects, we still kept to our core traditional practices. For example, many parents would allow their children to speak other languages in the street but speak the home language once at home. You can speak SeTswana in the street with your friends but once you are at home, you must speak isiXhosa! It was almost like you can be a chameleon out in the world but never at home.
The trickiest thing is not switching from one language to another. Rather it is adapting the culture of the language and mixing it with your own. The reality is that there are so many things that we practice in our homes that are not necessarily from the core of our culture. For example, some of the food we eat is from other South African cultural groups other than our own. All this is proof that as culture evolves, so does our ability to adapt.
It is easy to think that just because we are transitioning, we are losing our tradition. However, all tradition is just a reference from which a draw our inspiration and guideline to manouevre life while transition is the actual living. We cannot have one without the other. A wise person once said: “The secret of the future lies in the past.” That could not be any truer this heritage month.
Written by Selokela Molamodi, Activator and conversationalist, Activate Change Drivers