I have decided to research and discuss how we can use heritage to build a nation in order to promote our understanding of a common humanity. In order to discuss and debate the abovementioned question we need to understand some key phrases in the question. In my opinion, that would include the following key concepts, namely; * heritage, * nation and * a common humanity. South Africa has come from a turbulent past where terms such as heritage, nation building and a common humanity meant different things to various population groups and realistically these concepts were worlds apart for the majority of South Africans.
In order to achieve a common humanity, we need to respect all the cultures and religions within our country. People learn and are influenced by the place and the people around them. In a country like South Africa many people have learned from stories told to them. These stories carry information and ideas about life and living and shared customs, traditions and memories from parents to children. A person’s heritage is made up of the practices, and traditions that are passed on from parents to children.
Heritage is also about what has been passed on from the family, community and place where people have been raised. For example a person may have grown up in a family of medical professionals or in a proudly Zulu family where the old customs are still followed. This is part of their heritage. People also have a national heritage. A person who was born in South Africa has a South African heritage. This also means they have an African heritage because they were born on this continent. There are many South Africans who do not know what our Coat of Arms represents or the meaning of our flag and anthem.
In order to be a truly successful nation we need to become more aware of these national symbols. If we achieve this it will contribute to a more powerful form of nation-building. In countries with a huge variety of cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and other social identities, nation-building is a big challenge. This challenge has led governments to take numerous steps to create a peaceful and workable country. In Africa the situation is made more difficult by the fact that there are many identities and cultures.
Mandaza describes such states as ‘nation-states-in-the-making’, which are characterised by a lack of essence, weakness and dependency. I think that the role of the curriculum in schools plays an essential role in promoting an understanding of a common humanity in all young people. Researchers often make reference to the neglected role of the history curriculum in the debate on nation-building and the process of forging general citizenship in Africa. In this context, the concept ‘curriculum’ is understood from many people to be the point of view of the political party in power.
The curriculum emerges directly from society and is an ideological tool as well as a vehicle of social change driven by the dominant social group. As such, it plays a central role in the development and reproduction of society over time and geographical area. Seen from this perspective, it is no wonder that the curriculum is driven by political regimes in an endeavour to promote common values and form a particular type of citizen. We most certainly can, but it takes a lot of hard work. Each of our many cultures must get a little space in the sun.
What we must also realise though is that some cultures are very different from others and that some people might find the things we may want to defend offensive. The question we should ask is whether our practices are more likely to cause division and friction, or whether it is going to bring people of different cultures together. What we should perhaps work on is getting our country to a point where there is loyalty to the flag no matter what. We must be able to really be proud of our achievements as a nation, and not vote people into office that will embarrass us.
If we can all stand behind the flag, I think it will be one thing that can unite us. Look what the Rugby World Cups and the recent 2010 Soccer World Cup did for our nation. The whole nation standing for a common cause and goal. There was a real sense of nation-building. Culture is not something you are born with. It is learned from family, school, religious teachings, television and media and the government of a country. Advertisements, magazines and movies are also powerful guides. For example American music videos promote a certain style of dress, values, expression and attitude for young people.
Many young people like the cool speak of American pop music rather than talking in their home language. Schools and religious organisations also play a big role. Religion has many rituals that symbolise belonging to a particular culture. South Africa has been called the rainbow nation because it has so many cultural practices. Cultural practices are how we talk and behave, the ways in which we pray, the special things we do when we have festivals, births and deaths. We have groups with different languages, religions, race, customs and traditions e. . Zulu, Ndebele, Khoisan, Hindu, Muslim and Afrikaner people. All of these people are united by being South African and all of their ways of life form part of our country’s identity and culture. It is important to promote and be proud of our South African culture and identity. This helps South Africans to understand and respect each other and to learn from each other’s cultural practices. This is part of the healing that democracy has brought after culture was used to divide South Africans in the past.
For this reason the government has a project called “Proudly South African” that encourages South Africans to value each other and the country. The past is all around us. We live our lives against a rich backdrop of historic buildings, landscapes and other physical survivals of our past. But the historic environment is more than just a matter of material remains. It is central to how we see ourselves and to our identity as individuals, communities and as a nation. It is a physical record of what our country is and how it came to be.
Building materials and styles can define region’s localities and communities. Historic landscapes or iconic buildings can become a focus of community identity and pride. At a more local level a historic church or park can help define a neighbourhood and create a sense of identity and belonging. The importance that we attach to our ‘heritage’ is growing each year, and that is why events such as Heritage Day are important in enabling people to value and appreciate their local, regional and national heritage.
I encourage people of all ages to take this opportunity to visit, tour and experience the buildings and streets on your doorstep and learn a little about the rich heritage of the region in which you live. Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape is full of heritage. Nation building enables history to be rewritten, and the apartheid legacy of devaluing and erasing the heritage of black South Africans from the consciousness of the nation to be reversed, facilitating healing and further weakening the feelings of “better” citizenship of one population group over the other.
Attempts to reverse this and give back pride to the African, Indian and Coloured South Africans receive support from many people. This includes government efforts to teach children about African heroes and Africa’s contributions to world history and culture. Nation building is necessary to build trust, which is directly linked with stronger economic performance. If all South Africans were passionate and believed in each other and were not divided on many issues as we are, our country would perform better financially and this would improve international investments and job opportunities.
We (South Africans) need to develop the same patriotism and passion that the Americans show to their flag and anthem. We can continue to rebuild our nation with our heritage by raising awareness. There are a lot of South Africans who do not know anything about the Heritage of our country, therefore, by having exhibitions, distributing leaflets, organising work groups (community and schools), quarterly newsletters distributed within the community, media exposure or maybe even raising awareness by means of radio shows , talks and shows, we can continue to build our nation.
Only when all Africans own and cherish their cultural heritage, when they identify and embrace the majesty of Mapungubwe, when they speak and learn through their languages and can therefore dream, sing and dance in their own languages, shall we see rapid social economic development of the people of Africa. A nation needs a history. History buys you time to get rid of emotional responses and see things rationally. The English civil war, for example, has taught people of Royalist descent that a ruler who leeches the country for his/her personal benefits shouldn’t be tolerated.
On the other hand, descendants of Parliamentarians can see that it’s not enough just to chop off a bad king’s head. You need something good to replace him with. England had eleven years of misery after beheading Charles 1, and couldn’t wait to get another king. Nobody could understand that at the time because they were emotionally involved with one side or the other. It took time for both sides to overcome the hurts and prejudices, and to understand what happened, but eventually, they grew as a nation from the lessons learned.
Heroes fall into two categories. They can either be people of great achievement (like Newton or Darwin) or they can reflect some aspect of national character (like Robin Hood or Scotland’s William Wallace). Heroes are people that kids can look up to, people who inspire kids to achieve something, and that all helps to form a single national identity. A common identity – the need to preserve it, promote it and keep it alive is a struggle of both individuals and many nations. Your identity is not only a current thing.
It is originates from and is dependent upon the sum-total of your cultural heritage. All the things that your ancestors have done on the cultural front, i. e. their language, dances, rituals, dress, food and all that, contribute towards your present identity. As a young South African I feel that the youth of today need to learn and understand the events of the past so we can understand how to move forward in the best interests of all South Africans. I consider it essential for our future that we all stand behind a common identity namely our flag and anthem.
Nation building is important and imperative to create a feeling of belonging and with it accountability and responsible behaviour. Efforts must be made to ensure that all cultures are respected and equal citizenship for all guaranteed. This is important because for centuries the dominant people in power aimed to diminish all culture and history of certain cultures and religions. This “past” obviously did not use heritage to build a nation in order to promote our understanding of a common humanity.