By Mzukona Mantshontsho
As we celebrated Heritage Day yesterday Tuesday 24 September, Mdantsane Township in East London – Eastern Cape hosted Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe as the keynote speaker at the celebrations. The celebration also coincided with 50 years of the township.
Heritage implies a particular meaning of relating to the past and, in its popular usage in the English language means something different to history.
People do not write, read or relate to heritage. Heritage is, rather curated and conserved, possessed and performed. Heritage is art factual more than textual; it is realized in material objects such as works of art or craft, tools and buildings, sites, special places and even whole landscapes, or else it is performed in speech or dress, in ritual, ceremony, dance or song.
Heritage involves preserving fragments, judges in terms of their ability to link past to present, their entertainment and leisure value; the industry is ‘haunted’ by prospects of loss, and endlessly tied up with debates about ‘authenticity’. The construction of heritage is intimately linked to identity politics and has a particular close relationship with nation-and-state-building projects.
Despite the implication of ‘direct’ and unmediated relationships to a static or frozen past, places of heritage obviously have histories; why, how and to what ends aspects of the past are particularly concerned with heritage building, and how the meanings and content of heritage change over time are rewarding topics of investigation, which have provided revealing insights into relation of power, processes of inclusion and exclusion, cultural and moral values in particular times and places.
Heritage Day on Tuesday 24 September every year recognizes and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation. Dance unites all people regardless of their culture, background, gender, or age. It is an artistic expression and skill that gives us a sense of identity.
In South Africa, dance tells a powerful story of the history and artistic expression of all our people. As South Africans, our creative expression has contributed to ability to build a democratic country that is based on values of democracy, equality and human rights. Together, we have struggled against injustice and inequality towards the common goal of a better life for all. Together, we can continue to make progress that will improve all our lives.
Our government remains committed to work with all our people to develop our art forms, including dance, and to build our collective heritage as a nation. Such is a country with many connected dances that bring joy to all of us.
We should celebrate who we are and what we have as a nation. The focus should be on our national symbols, notably the National Flag and National Anthem. The objective is to instill national pride – growth of the nation. Children should be taught the meaning of the colours of the national Flag, the symbolism of the National Court of Arms and the meaning of the National Anthem composed by Enoch Sontonga, among other things.