What now that the Heritage Day braai fires have died?
By Carol Butcher
“What now?” is a fair question to ask now that the Heritage Day – Shaka Day if you live in KwaZulu-Natal braai fires have died and not even a lingering wisp of braai smoke remains. Should we ignore y the importance of Heritage for the next 364 days?
Definitely not. Cultural diversity is one of South Africa’s greatest strengths. Few countries can boast eleven national languages – twelve in the near future if Parliamentary Committee, the Pan South African Language Board’s recommendation to amend our Constitution to recognise sign language as a twelfth official language is accepted.
Madiba was “bang on the money” when he said: “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”
Celebrating our heritage should constitute the cornerstone of our nation-building. South Africans should celebrate Heritage Day daily, not only on the 24th September each year. We need to do so in our homes, communities, schools, places of worship and workplaces. If we understood and respected each other’s cultural norms and the things that we value there would be far more respect and harmony in all spheres of life.
A better understanding of the different race groups and nationalities – including immigrants, from all corners of the globe who have made South Africa their home, would help to build a stronger South Africa.
The need to constantly instil respect for cultural and racial differences is driven home by recent racist rantings on social media, and the very high profile hate speech of the likes of Penny Sparrow and Vicki Momberg. As South Africans, we should not tolerate racism or xenophobia. We need to create a rainbow nation where there is respect for all people under South Africa’s skies.
It was exciting to see so many South Africans embraced Heritage Day. Many employers encouraged their employees to dress in traditional attire to celebrate Heritage Day. Some held braais or asked their staff to bring a traditional dish to work to share with their colleagues. These provided a golden opportunity to share and educate colleagues about one’s culture. Many nursery schools and pre-schools also celebrated Heritage Day – this is a very good start.
As employers are we doing enough to celebrate cultural diversity in our organisations? Do we truly respect cultural diversity? Do we have ongoing initiatives to raise awareness around cultural diversity? Are we maximising the huge advantage that cultural diversity brings to our organisations? Do we have initiatives in the workplace to enable our employees to learn another official language?
A good starting point would be to assign a month of the year to showcase and celebrate each of our official languages. Celebrations could also be aligned to cultural practices and norms associated with home speakers of these languages. There are twelve months in the year – a perfect fit if we include sign language.
Are any employers up to the challenge to celebrating one of our official languages every month of the year? If you are, please tell Talent Talks about your initiatives.