IS BRAAING OUR NEWFOUND HERITAGE?
By: Zimasa Magudu
The debate of National Heritage Day being turned into National Braai Day is one that is sensitive but necessary. Many years from now pictures will be all that we will have as a reminder and what images will come to your mind when you think about braaing?Well … meat of course and alcohol isn’t likely to be left out. Is this picture befitting to overpower Heritage Day? A day that was marked to embrace the diversity of our “rainbow nation” has now been reduced to a day for braaing.
South African history will tell us that the celebration of this day stems back to Shaka Day, a day which the Inkatha Freedom Party felt was necessary to honor and commemorate their Zulu King Shaka, a leader who is recognized worldwide as one of the top 100 leaders.
This day was later changed to Heritage Day, in an attempt to accommodate all South Africans in their respective cultural backgrounds. Heritage Day was when South Africans reflect, embrace and celebrate their language, clan, architecture, rituals, cultural practices, flora and fauna, battles, food, clothing and ubuntu.
Heritage Day was, however, changed into National Braai Day in 2005 in what was said to be the recognition of the culinary tradition of South Africa and later in 2007 the name was changed to Braai4heritage and Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed as the patron of the South African Braai Day on the 5th of September 2007.
There are two things involved here –under-looking the importance of reflecting on our heritage and the other being a unifying mechanism through food and drinks amongst friends and family where there are no barriers and braaing is the only thing on the table.
Bruce Gordon in an article, A solution to the Heritage Day Braai Bebate, argues that braai day is about what we struggled for.
“I strongly believe that food is one of the more powerful means of building a sense of camaraderie and togetherness. And that is pretty much how a braai works-it is cooking and eating together,” said Gordon.
Gordon furthers his argument by putting a solution across the table to separate these two holidays. “Taken as one, they undermine each other, both days mark part of what it is to be a South African but different parts. Separate however, they complement each other, one marking the past and the other the future we would like to see.”
Founder of the Kara Heritage Institute Mathole Motshekga feels that it is a bad idea to reduce Heritage Day to such an extent.
“Heritage Day is becoming like Christmas Day: we buy clothes, meat and alcohol, the invite friends over for a jolly time,” said Motshekga. “But you can expect that when Africans don’t rise up to define for themselves what their heritage is. Others might fill the vacuum and define it for them.”
Braaing is not unique to South Africa but with that being said, it something that has been adopted along with other Eurocentric norms and to put it on a day that has rich South African meaning is questionable. If the culinary tradition of South Africa should be celebrated, then a separate day should be respectively allocated for such a public holiday.