I would like to start this article by sharing the definition of the word ‘heritage’ from Wikipedia:
• Natural heritage, an inheritance of fauna and flora, geology, landscape and landforms, and other natural resources
• Cultural heritage, the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society: man-made heritage
o Food heritage
o Industrial heritage, monuments from industrial culture
• Virtual Heritage, an ICT work dealing with cultural heritage
• Inheritance of physical goods after the death of an individual; of the physical or non-physical things inherited
• Heredity, biological inheritance of physical characteristics
• Birthright, something inherited due to the place, time, or circumstances of someone’s birth
• Kinship, the relationship between entities that share a genealogical origin
This is a rich explanation. I chose to start by sharing this because I am puzzled by South African’s behaviour around this important part of who we are. I am baffled by our need to trivialise what we celebrate this month, and our need to be comfortable to celebrate it as “braai day” instead of diving deep and allowing ourselves to acknowledge our rich heritage.
I am assuming that part of the dynamic could be because unfortunately some of us have not gotten to a place where we can talk about our heritage without the discomfort that comes with our unfortunate past. I get this, and I have the following things to say about our past:
• It happened, and we are the wiser and stronger because of it.
• Secondly, yes it will still remain an emotional topic for a lot of people for a long time, and there is nothing wrong.
• The degree of discomfort highlights the level of the “stakes” in dealing with this. Yes, the stakes are high. This is important for our ability to move forward and continue our powerful journey of reconciliation, past which we can truly start celebrating our DIVERSITY.
• If we keep looking at the losses we will not start celebrating how far each individual South African has contributed to a diverse country.
• We are not yet there, and we are not where we used to be, so let’s get on with it-
I believe that we have two tools that we could use to have a powerful celebration of our heritage, which would take the different dimensions of diversity into account, as per the definition earlier in this article; understanding of diversity, and the willingness and commitment to taking one step at a time, irrespective of how small it is.
Let’s look at “Understanding Diversity” as a Tool that could give us benefit for celebrating Heritage Month. Diversity means different dimensions, in this case of race, nationalities, creed, age, experiences, aspirations, fears, believes, thought processes, values, art, music, etc. In the workplace it includes different motivators. At home it includes Sensory Intelligence. I believe that if we challenged ourselves to grow, we could use the Heritage Month to unpack how these dimensions work for us, and how they work against us. Furthermore, we could explore how we choose to use what works in our favour for maximum benefit for “all who live in SA”, and explore strategies of limiting the possible damage that comes with what works against us. If we focused for these 30 days, by the 1st of October each year we would be a stronger, more united people with increased capacity to embrace our Diversity, which is a great heritage from our past.
The second of many tools available to us, that we could use to build 1 nation during this month, is willingness and commitment to taking one step at a time. Given the many challenges that our country is dealing with, an example is if we chose to tackle the Intergenerational Dynamics as a focus area one year, Rights and Responsibilities for all, cultures, religion, per year, and so on. This would give us focused discussions and growth areas. We would identify the debates, people who can lead them, the outcomes that we want, and really grow in knowing each other and embracing our diversity. Unless we approach this mammoth task of embracing diversity as a business, we will keep fooling around, and calling Heritage day Braai day will make sense.
The ultimate outcome is that we move form embracing diversity to starting to nurture Inclusion, which is when all feel comfortable with who they are, and are safe among diverse people.