The past is the gateway to a better future – September is Heritage Month in South Africa and it is proving to be the most critical part of the year for us as a nation, as we cannot know where we are going until we know where we have been.
For the country’s premier province, the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation plans are set on ensuring that its residents have an opportunity to recognise their vast cultures through emotive expressions like historical inheritance, passionate memories and an impressive array of languages, all of which will bolster this year’s theme: Celebrating the heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle, both living and passed on.
The first resoundingly successful initiative – the seventh annual Pale Ya Rona Carnival, held at Soweto’s Mofolo Park from 2 to 4th of September – saw more than 17 000 participants showcase Gauteng’s diverse culture and artistic talent. Mass participation in the arts was used to spike an interest in young people so that they can benefit from a constantly growing pool of skills development and creative industries, and therefore providing them with alternative and creative opportunities.
September also sees a number of month-long activities that remind South Africans of varying creeds and cultures, that the success of the struggle heroes and heroines must be claimed by the entire country as a collective achievement.
The Liberation Struggle Heritage Route Poster Campaign (which also forms part of the Gauteng Chapter of the National Liberation Heritage Route, launched earlier this year) is a call to Gauteng communities to identify at least 60 heritage sites that are associated with the liberation struggle.
A consultative process between the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, communities and municipalities will yield heritage sites that depict thought-provoking stories about South Africa’s liberation. The highlighted sites – especially in previously disadvantaged areas throughout the province – will be protected and some of the landmarks will form part of a submission to UNESCO for them to be declared World Heritage Sites.
Another month-long project is the Geographical Names Awareness campaign. It was initiated to educate communities about the relevance of the process of geographical name changes. The areas that are going to benefit from this process are Sedibeng, Tshwane, Metsweding and Ekurhuleni.
The pinnacle of Heritage Month takes place on Heritage Day, the 24th of September, where the main celebrations will be held in partnership with the West Rand District Municipality. The momentous day will be characterised by exhibitions of the struggle heroes and heroines, but the most exciting part will be when some of the living legends who changed the direction of the country, form part of the dynamic programme. The birthplace of all humankind, the West Rand’s Maropeng, will also honour the legends who gave birth to a culturally diverse South Africa by opening its gate for free.
As Nelson Mandela has repeatedly pointed out, it is not only the well-known stalwarts that shaped this country’s landscape, and this is where the Struggle Veterans Personality Profile Campaign comes into play. It profiles certain historical figures associated with the struggle, especially those whose history is not known. Their history will be publicised in relation to the role they played towards the liberation of South Africa.
These names will be chose according to criterion such as credentials in the struggle, gender balance, youth, disability and the inclusiveness of former liberation movement and progressive forces, such as unions. As a pilot project, only four individuals have been chosen. These include the Vaal’s Molefi Congress Mbata, who facilitated the crossing of operatives for military training under uMkhonto Wesizwe; Sam Ntuli who is a former unionist from Ekurhuleni; Charlotte Maxeke who was the first president of the ANC Women’s League, and social worker, author and member of the first democratically elected parliament, Ellen Khuzwayo.
Even though the struggle brought about sweeping changes for the country, some of the memories bring back tears in the eyes of those who were affected. The Oral History Colloquium is a provincial mini-conference for affected stakeholder institutions, interest groups and experts that aims to focus on the memories and oral history of the struggle.
This is so that we can all draw strength and be in synergy with this year’s Heritage Month celebrations: Celebrating the heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle.
The end of September will be celebrated by the launch of the Oral History Recording programme, which will happen at the Oral History Conference, from 29 to 30 September, in Tshwane. The conference will focus on the role of oral history and its ability to bring balance in the public and shared memory of the province and country.
The Oral History Recording programme will focus on an oral history study of people who died during the violence in Thokoza, and whose names appear on the Thokoza Memorial. The programme intends to give the tragedy and the memorial a human face and an identity. The names of those who lost their lives so that the rest of us could gain a multi-cultural South Africa will be researched and their personal histories will be recorded as Gauteng’s contribution to the liberation struggle. This piece of provincial and national history will be compiled into booklets that will be available at community libraries.
To end off the celebrations, achievers from different social entities will be recognised during the Night of the Legend, which will happen at the end of September. This will include Sports men and women, artists, community leaders, social and political personalities. The award will recognise people who have played a meaningful role in society.
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Issued by JT Communications on behalf of the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
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