23 September 2021 | Story Dr Stephanie Cawood

Storytelling connects us with our human world, helps us to make sense of it, and leads to understanding and reaffirming our common humanity. It is therefore no surprise that colleagues from various departments in the Faculty of the Humanities banded together with the Johannes Stegmann Gallery and various artists to celebrate Heritage Day in this special way. The world has been in free-fall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, people had to focus on the materiality of survival, but with time came the hope of vaccines and of resuming some kind of normality. 

To mark Heritage Day this year, the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies, the Odeion School of Music, the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, and other South African artists collaborated on a film project to highlight our heritage in music, poetry, theatre, or visual arts. 

These various forms of artistic expression represent the human need for storytelling. Storytelling is integral to human life. It is more than a mere frivolous or meaningless pastime. 

With this project, we are saying: ‘Ke Nako/Isikhathi /It’s time’ while always remembering the past and what we’ve lost, that it is time to look to the future again, and to celebrate the true spirit of human artistic expression because during the darkest of days, it has the power to bring light into our lives. We hope that our film will help in its own small way to uplift the broader UFS community. 

Reflecting on Heritage Day

Today, on 24 September, we are once again celebrating Heritage Day since it was first instituted in 1995. Twenty-five years ago today, in 1996, then President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela unveiled a monument to Enoch Sontonga, who composed the timeless song and foundation of our National Anthem, Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika, and in his speech, he explained the reasoning behind Heritage Day, and I quote: 

“… 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. We did so, knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy”. 

It is clear that the celebration of heritage has been part of the democratic project from its very inception, to not only provide a platform for the equal recognition of cultures and languages, but also to commemorate the sacrifices made and to help us reflect on who we are and what we have in common as a people, to focus on what binds us together and not what divides us. 

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