By: Tlotliso May
The month of September marks a celebratory mood for most Africans who pride themselves with being African – at least once a year on occasion, but what does this mean as an African youth? Young people all over South Africa and old people alike partake in the celebration of African heritage by being a parent of events that highlight traditional wear, food and other monumental elements that insinuates that one is an African. I want to argue that our heritage as Africans, or celebrations hereof, has changed drastically and that in the future, there will be little to no heritage to celebrate about being an African as we have allowed cultural appropriation to flourish and do little to nothing to ensure that we save the little that we have concerning our country and cultural heritage. In this opinion piece, I will: highlight the changing nature of the activities of heritage month, apply scrutiny over the reasons why culture has been neglected, point to the recent loss of academia material and its implications and lastly, provide reasons why culture and identity ought to be the focal point of any youth.
We have all experienced one of two events in any institution where “Heritage Month” was celebrated. In primary school, we would be tasked with wearing traditional clothing and bringing traditional food, which was a proud moment because it was a time of knowing more about other cultures and it was a time of experiencing my contemporaries, however, this happened only once a year on a very isolated month. The day brought a lot of euphoria and pride, however, the issue here was that the excitement and happiness was very short-lived. This is a problem I feel that we are still having as the importance of taking our heritage seriously is not something that is rooted in the backbone of our society and like the old saying says, a man who stands for nothing falls for anything. We have sadly fallen victim to modern and western cultures at the demise of our own cultures and heritage.
Whenever the topic of culture, customs and African identity is brought up, many people, especially old people often complain that as young people do not have a lot of interest in our heritage and that we have as such lost our identity as Africans for the benefit of westernized and modern customs. I believe that there is some truth to this allusion that we are losing touch with our Africanism but I believe that the responsibility of the death of our heritage and its celebration must not be solely be placed on youth and that our predecessors also need to be called to account. Recently, there was an incident, at the University of Cape Town, where a library caught on fire and as a reason a lot of important academia material and recorded history was lost. This, in my opinion this marks a lowest lot in the trajectory of losing our touch with heritage because while history is recorded, it is the same history that is translated into heritage that is celebrated. I believe that if we lose a part of our recorded heritage, the next generation is bound to delve deeper into the pool of confusion as they will not have any material to refer and there is not any practical example that they can follow and look up to.
A human being is a holistic being and it is for this reason that we ought to ensure for the nourishment of all human aspects and one which is important is identity – part of us that we lose if we lose our heritage. It is therefore imperative that we ensure that while we do not let the world leave us behind, we do not lose our identity as Africans.