I’ve written about this topic before on a previous blog platform under the same title but I feel like I need to revive it. In all honesty, I dislike Heritage Day. I remember when I was in school and this particular day came around, we would be told to wear our Heritage clothes and bring cultural foods and speak about our heritage. I never knew what to do. I don’t really know my heritage. All I know is my mother was born in Namibia and I think my father was born in the Eastern Cape (I’m really not sure about that )
Now I am in the position where my kids are going through the same thing. My daughter, who is now in Grade 2, celebrated Heritage Day at her school the other day and they were told to wear cultural or traditional clothing that is synonymous with her heritage. She went to school in pants and a t-shirt and a hoodie. She came home that day and told me how beautiful her friends looked in their African attire and how her friends are Zulu or Sepedi and the like. I felt defeated.
We are Coloured; we are considered a mixed race but the only problem is, I’m not sure, in fact, I have no idea which races fall into that mixed bag of culture and heritage. I know next to nothing of my father’s family or his heritage and sadly my mother is late so I can’t even ask her anything about hers.
Maybe the reason I dislike this day so much is because I personally don’t know anything about my own history. I wish I had had more conversations with my mother about my maternal side but alas, regret always comes too late.
I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe its time we as a family start building our own heritage.
My son on the other hand was also asked to bring a picture to school to discuss his heritage. We drew him the South African flag, he also drew a sun and a bowl of fruit and the earth. When he was done, I realised culture is what we observe. My son sees the sun in the sky, he sees the earth and he sees food and he knows he belongs somewhere. All the other technicalities of where we come from doesn’t really matter, at least not right now. My son then asked my husband what his heritage is and my husband replied, ‘Your heritage is South African’
That was the same response his father gave him when he was a little boy and had to dress up or participate in Heritage Day.
I don’t want my children to feel as if they don’t belong anywhere. I want them to know they can fit in everywhere if that’s what they wanted. That’s how I felt when I was in school; I felt embarrassed because while everyone else wore traditional clothing and spoke of their traditions and food and culture, I wanted the earth to swallow me whole or at least be invisible for the day.
My husband has similar stories and so do a lot of other Coloured people I’ve spoken to about this topic.
One the other hand, there is beauty in being ‘mixed race’; you are a cacophony of colours and sounds; you are a kaleidoscope of memories and history and you are a part of everyone you come across and you leave a part of yourself wherever you are.
I completely understand that its important to know who you are, to know about the people who came before us and to know where our bloodline leads. I am not dismissing that at all but maybe, if like me, you don’t know much about your ancestry, we can just start building our own cultures and create our own traditions and heritage.
I’ve made the decision to tell my children that our heritage is simply being human. If we start there, we can see that we are all actually a part of the same culture.