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Heritage Day, as we all know, is celebrated to recognise the mish mash of cultures and our diverse country and is a national public holiday in which we celebrate our cultural heritage, diverse beliefs and traditions. In KZN this day had been celebrated as Shaka Day as people gather at King Shaka’s grave on this day to honour him. When the proposed public holiday list was presented to parliament in1995 this date was not recognized as a public holiday and there was an objection by the IFP. Compromise was reached and so Heritage Day came about.
In 2005, a media campaign sought to “re-brand” the holiday as National Braai Day in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of holding informal home braais.
On 5 September 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa’s Braai Day, saying it was a unifying force in a divided country. At the end of 2007 National Braai Day changed its name to Braai4Heritage. This was endorsed by South Africa’s National Heritage Council (NHC).
It is a day on which South Africans celebrate the diverse cultural heritage that makes up our rainbow nation, our 11 plus languages, our history, our expression, our food, our wildlife and our land. It is also the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa.
Brand South Africa best summarises our diversity in an Alphabet soup; a big, warm potjie of culture. I could not have said it better myself, although I made one or two adjustments to the potjie menu!

On the streets of Orlando in Soweto | Photo: Mirêlle Jacobs
On the streets of Orlando in Soweto | Photo: Mirêlle Jacobs
A

Mapungubwe in Limpopo is one of the richest archaeological sites in Africa. A Shona capital inhabited between 1200 and 1650, the city was a centre for the trade in gold and ivory with the Islamic areas of the East African coast, India and China’s Song Dynasty. The Iron Age site, discovered in 1932 but hidden from public attention until only recently, has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

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B

Two globally important wars took place on South African soil in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the Anglo Zulu War, Zulu impis armed only with spears famously took on and trounced British forces armed with the most modern firepower of the time. The British were only able to defeat King Cetshwayo kaMpande’s nation after British troops were rushed to South Africa from around the Empire.
The Anglo Boer War is considered the world’s first modern war. Guerrilla tactics, camouflage uniforms, concentration camps and attacks on civilian targets, all the ugly signatures of 20th century warfare, were first used in that campaign. The war killed 22 000 British soldiers, 7 000 Boers, 24 000 black men, women and children, and 22 000 white women and children, many of whom died in almost 200 concentration camps.

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Our entertainment scene is abuzz with talent.

Everything from gumboot dancing to ballet and from opera to rap and everything in between. Besides our local stars pouring into the international scene we are becoming an international stop for many foreign stars who come here not only to perform but also to feel our uniquely South African vibe.

D

Dance has became a prime means of artistic expression, with dance companies exploring new territory.

Music and dance are pulling in new audiences and a number of home-grown productions, particularly those aimed at the popular market, are wowing audiences both at home and abroad. Look at  Richard Loring’s African Footprint, the musical Umoja, which has toured the world and the drumming feast Drumstruck, which took New York by storm.

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E

The rock formations around Barberton in Mpumalanga and Mapungubwe in Limpopo were formed in the earth’s kindergarten period, dating back billions of years.

The Magaliesberg is said to be the oldest mountain range on earth. The magnificent Drakensberg range of mountains, which runs the length of the country, has been named a Unesco World Heritage site.
And then there’s the Vredefort Dome. Two billion years ago a meteorite bigger than Table Mountain hit the earth 100km southwest of Johannesburg, causing a 1 000-megaton blast that vaporised 70 cubic kilometres of rock and may have changed the earth’s climate to make multicellular life possible. This is the oldest and largest clearly visible meteorite impact site in the world. Although now considerably eroded, the original crater was probably 250 to 300 kilometres in diameter. The Vredefort Dome is also a Unesco World Heritage site.

F

South Africa has a celebration for every event, place, art form, food, drink and agricultural commodity.

There’s the Ficksburg Cherry Festival, the National Arts Festival, countless mud-and-dust music festivals, hundreds of mud-and-manure farm shows, the Lambert’s Bay Kreeffees (crayfish festival), Hantam Vleisfees (meat festival) and more.
And every year, southern right whales travel thousands of miles to the Cape south coast to mate and calve in the bays. To celebrate the season the villagers of Hermanus put on a major festival which includes the best land-based whale watching in the world.

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We have Game Reserves. Some of the best in the world.

From The Kruger National Park to Addo, From Pilanesberg to the Kgalagadi, we have it all. We have biodiversity like no other countries, we have animals like nowhere else on earth and beautiful botanical gardens that display our floral wealth and animals on show that enthrall locals and foreigners alike.

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No doubt about it – South Africans are a crafty bunch.

The country’s people produce a remarkable range of arts and crafts, working from the pavements and markets of the big cities to deep rural enclaves, with every possible form of traditional artwork –  tribal designs, Afro-French wirework, wood carvings, world-class pottery and bronze casting, stained glass, basket weaving, clay and stone sculpting, paper from elephant dung and ornaments made from waste.

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The massive Drakensberg range of mountains is the world’s largest art gallery – indoors or out – and a monument to the San Bushmen hunter-gatherers who lived there from the Stone Age until the late 19th century.

Living in the sandstone caves and rock shelters of the Drakensberg’s valleys, the San made paintings Unesco describes as “world famous and widely considered one of the supreme achievements of humankind . outstanding in quality and diversity of subject and in their depiction of animals and human beings . which throws much light on their way of life and their beliefs.” In 2000 Unesco named the Drakensberg as a World Heritage site, for both its natural beauty and the unique cultural heritage of the mountains’ rich store of San art.

J

A game in which the player throws a wooden pin – known in Afrikaans as a skei – at a peg in the ground, jukskei is as South African as you get.

The game is said to date back to 1734, and grew out of bored transport riders passing the time by plant a stick in the ground and see who could hit it from a distance with one of the pins from the oxen yokes.

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