Heritage Day 2017

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24 September is observed as National Heritage Day, a celebration not only of the past, but of the contribution the South African people in making the country what it is today.

Heritage Day recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation. South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.

South Africa has rich, unique and diverse cultural heritage embraced by various cultural groups. Each group embraces, preserves and celebrates its unique culture. South Africa also has beautiful ecosystems, wildlife, and unique mountains. This is the core of the country’s natural heritage which when combined with the cultural heritage makes South Africa a world in one country. The Month of September is a month when South Africans come together to share, celebrate, showcase each one’s cultural heritage. The cultural heritage of South Africa not only consists of facets mentioned above but many others; such as cultural villages, landmarks (statues and monuments) and endogenous rites and activities.

Within South Africans cultural communities, one finds the institutions that have been established by communities. These institutions they are communally run. They are established to serve the communities in ensuring that the social and cultural life of the community members are nourished. This is in relation to rituals, festivals, and rites of passage among others. These institutions include traditional leadership, initiation schools.  Of great significance these institutions serves of reservoirs of knowledge and wisdom. They impart knowledge to the community members and promote positive values to be adhered to by community members.

Furthermore, the country have modern institutions such museums, galleries, libraries, cultural villages and heritage sites among others. These institutions are also significant in the protection, preservation and promotion of South Africa’s cultural heritage. It is therefore important that South Africans are reminded of the presence of these institutions and the important role they are playing.

It is therefore incumbent that members of the community should at all times participate in the activities of these institutions. As the custodians, community members should ensure that these institutions are safeguarded and protected for the future generations. Communities should be capacitated and empowered by these institutions. It is in these institutions that our cultural identities should be reflected without any distortions.

Another important element as far as our cultural and heritage institutions is concerned is that, as centres of wisdom or reservoirs of knowledge, they should be accessible to all. They should be among the best when it comes to the promotion of indigenous language. Research all over the world has proved that where learning is conducted in one’s mother tongue there is significant progress than where the colonial language is used. Simply put, when community members visit our museums, galleries, heritage sites and cultural villages, they should be able to engage and critic the work in their own language. It should not only be for adherence to the language policy but with a deeper understanding that the community members are the important stakeholders.

The knowledge systems of various cultural groups in South Africa are gradually disappearing hence ICH dominated last year’s Heritage month. It is therefore necessary that this year’s Heritage month focus on the ICH not ignoring transformation of heritage landscape as part of sustaining the cultural heritage for the present and future generations. To promote social cohesion there’s a need to educate people about the nation’s history and heritage and this is where ICH comes in. It is therefore important that these institutions both the precolonial, modern and post-modern are capacitated to become the beacon of hope in preserving the cultural and heritage resources of the South Africa.

Living heritage is the foundation of all communities and an essential source of identity and continuity. Aspects of living heritage include: cultural tradition, oral history, performance, ritual, popular memory, skills and techniques, indigenous knowledge system and the holistic approach to nature, society and social relationships. In South Africa the term “intangible cultural heritage” is used interchangeably with the term “living heritage”.

Living heritage plays an important role in promoting cultural diversity, social cohesion, reconciliation, peace and economic development. In every community there are living human treasures who possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history pertaining to different aspects of diverse living heritage. It is therefore important for South Africans to reclaim, restore and preserve these various aspects of living heritage to accelerate the use of living heritage to address challenges communities are facing today.


  • To celebrate South Africa`s cultural heritage;
  • To recognise the role of cultural and heritage institutions in the preservation and educating our nation about South Africa’s rich heritage.
  • To promote access of South Africa’s cultural and heritage institutions.
  • To create a platform for communities to showcase different aspects of South Africa's diverse heritage;
  • To ensure that heritage landscapes of all cultural groups is not suppressed, threatened but celebrated
  • To continue with a national process of uniting all South Africans as people of one nation irrespective of race, creed, and orientation
  • To contribute to the education of the South African youth with a special emphasis on arts, culture and heritage learning area;
  • To help bridge the intergenerational gap in the transmission of indigenous knowledge, skills and techniques