Celebrating National heritage day
We may be a tiny speck at the bottom of the African continent and we may have some of the worst crime stats in the world, but we also have some of the most beautiful scenery, some of the richest history and the most eclectic mix of people. To celebrate heritage day on 24 September, and to answer some of the questions my international readers have about the cultural aspects of ‘Five: A Maor novel’, here’s looking at some of the traditions that make South Africa unique and worth living in.
Braai: Similar to a barbecue, South Africans love to gather around an open fire and grill boerewors, steak, and all manner of ‘vleis’ (meat) with a group of friends and a lot of beer. We’re so passionate about this tradition, in fact, that we’ve dedicated a whole day each year to it. National heritage day, 24 September, is affectionately known as ‘National braai day’. Thankfully, our sunny skies and mild Winters are partial to this practice.
Mieliepap: A maize based porridge that is a firm staple in most households. Eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and a favorite with ‘braai vleis’.
Nelson Mandela square: Located in the heart of the Sandton business district, Nelson Mandela square is the ‘go-to’ shopping and entertainment centre. But what makes this square so special, is the piece of empty, paved ground in the middle of it, where the bronze statue of our beloved ‘Madiba’ stands. Never was the square so beautiful than the days following the passing of Nelson Mandela, when every available piece of paving was covered knee-deep in flowers and cards to commemorate the life of a world-class leader.
Lekker: An Afrikaans word that is used by all South Africans, regardless of ethnicity or which of the eleven official languages we speak (that’s right, we have eleven! They don’t call us the rainbow nation for nothing). Often used to emphasize or describe something that is great, awesome or tasty. ‘The food is lekker!’ ‘That was a lekker day!’
Rugby: Our national sport. It’s a little like football, but the rules differ. South African’s become very patriotic during games and are passionate about both the regional and national teams. Rugby is best watched in a South African green and gold shirt, with a bunch of rowdy friends and a six-pack of beer.
Marmite: A yeast based extract that is a firm favorite for school lunches. Similar to Vegemite.
Biltong: Similar to beef jerky but I’m told that our version is much better! Cured, spiced, dried meat that is a must have for any South African get-together. We make it from various meats, the most common being beef and ostrich, and sometimes from game.
Mrs Balls Chutney: An essential South African condiment made from fruit or vegetables. No other brand will do and expats worldwide will search high and low for the original recipe flavor of Desmond Balls Chutney. Great on cheese sandwiches and bobotie.
Ouma Rusks: In 1939, Grandmother Greyvensteyn was given half a crown by her local church to assist their mission work following the devastation of the Great Depression. She began baking her delicious rusks for the local Molteno community. It wasn’t long before orders for her mouth-watering baking came pouring in from all over the country and today, Ouma Rusks is one of the best-known and most-loved brands in South Africa.
Mine dumps: Tailings are the materials left over from the mining process. South Africa has some of the deepest mines in the world and we’re renowned for our gold and diamonds. These man-made mountains dot the city-scape of Johannesburg. It’s a little frightening to imagine that all of that stuff used to be packed tight in the earth beneath our feet, but the piles of sandy remains add a certain character, and a layer of dust on windy days to the Joburg skyline.
Sophiatown: Formerly known as Triomf, this part of Johannesburg was the artistic, political, cultural and musical epicenter of the anti-apartheid movement. It may have been destroyed with the forced removals of 1955, but the indomitable spirit lives on in South African music, art and memory.
These are just some of the reasons I choose to stay in this wonderful country I call home, and some of the things Shaylee Greene from Five remembers about growing up in South Africa. Where is the place you call home? This heritage day, I urge you to put on your patriotic-hat and think of the reasons you love your country and your culture.