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Culture, Reality

Message in a Skottel

by Lindokuhle Nkosi / 26.09.2011

It is difficult not to get despondent about South Africa’s future when, as a collective, we’ve allowed a marketing campaign to define our legacy. The 24th of September, once Shaka Day; was entered into The Public Holidays Bill under the more homogenous , one size fits all title of Heritage day. It was to be used as a day to commemorate how far we’ve come as nation and to celebrate our attempts at unity. Unfortunately, our harmony largely exists at surface level.

In 2005, Heritage Day became National Braai Day. In 2007, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu became the patron of National Braai day. This when he was still white South Africa’s “vice deputy Jesus”. When he, along with Mandela were “good blacks”. Since then, he’s shed his black apologist stance. Perhaps his retirement from public involvement has afforded him some brutal clarity, and the man who figure-headed the empty, farcical Truth and Reconcilliation Comission has made a startling about turn, calling for what the media has sensationally branded “white tax”. St. Pap and Vleis has become Judas, the Republics’ Public Enemy number two, right under Julius Malema; but Heritage Day is still Braai Day.

On the face of it, it seems like South Africans have finally found something we can all agree upon. Charred meat and potato salad. Booze, braai and beer. Polyfilla politeness that only serves to hide the brokenness, not mend it. We are desperate to attach ourselves to something that isn’t divergent, violent and dehumanising. To fill the air with marinated smoke, to shield our eyes from who we are as people, to just get along; without the historical baggage. To be South African, and not white, black, Zulu, Jewish, Afrikaans; but how exactly do we this, when we haven’t even defined what being a South African is?

On Saturday, as the burnt vleis fat wafted throughout the country, many people loaded their coolerboxes and dusted off their camp chairs, completely unaware of the significance if this day. With some even questioning why South Africa decided to make a public holiday out of the shisa nyama. Thing is, it didn’t; but barbeque ribs have proven easier to swallow than our true identities. We choose the path of least resistance, even if it means any attempts at real unification will, literally, go up in smoke. Is there really nothing substantial we can proud of as a people, or will it always be a matter of us and them? But maybe I’m being overly-sensitive, making more of the issue than what it really is, but I can’t help but wonder, as we clear out the ashes and soak the grease off the grills, “ What have we lost in the fire?”

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