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Braai Day

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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  1. Mr Clean says:

    Hell yeah! Well said.

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  2. ray mondle says:

    I hear you Lindokuhle.
    I have also been thinking about the almost embarrassing banality of Braai Day – but it seems ‘the public’ across spectrum absolutely flipping loves it. In the same way ‘we’ all seemed to love and celebrate the World Cup last year… Ayoba anyone? And is that so bad? Maybe we just have to admit to ourselves we are not the super-conscious nation of stoicists we portrayed our selves as, post 1994, but rather the same kind of beer swilling yobbos one finds everywhere else in the world. Celebrating our Normality is perhaps the exact point of it all – and thats kinda worth celebrating.
    Also, there was an awful habit of naming holidays after acts of murder, or the perpetrators thereof (Dingaan Day, Kruger Day, Settlers Day etc). Shaka Day always sounded to me like another one of those… murdered in a coup by his own brother on 22 September.
    Besides, I saw Desmond happily chowing a boerie roll on the news last night.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Stop trying to divide everyone. We all love a good braai. We are all South African. Take your “what have we lost” attitude and shove it.

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  4. Maximus says:

    Centuries ago in ancient Rome, a good citizen probably said (in Latin) “Stop trying to divide everyone. We all love a good circus. We are all Roman. Take your ‘what have we lost’ attitude and shove it.” when someone spoke out against this ritual as something that detracted awareness of the social ills that plagued the streets.

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  5. Ian says:

    You raise a number of pertinent and ever-avoided points and ask some interesting questions, but whoever edited this has clearly just been fired from the gloriously error-addled Cape Argus.
    Sometimes my mind boggles at the poor quality of the language in our newspapers and electronic publications. It just detracts from the content and analysis that the writers are trying to communicate.

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  6. Long Tall Sally says:

    What have we lost? The “homogenous , one size fits all” Heritage Day. Not going to cry over that.

    I’ll set aside one day each year to be a jovial beer-swilling yobbo and just bloody enjoy myself with whatever colour people I’m with. It’s the Barack Obama method of settling your differences over a drink. I’m happy to take that over bland PC presentations of feel-good cultural stories, which is what the government tries to give us.

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  7. Nel says:

    Hi Lindokuhle, can you please say more about “true identities” and “real unification” . I want to know what you mean by this.

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  8. Onke says:

    I agree with you Linda bra, Braai Day could have been on any other day but this one. How about the first of September, Spring Day?

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  9. arnaud says:

    So much talk always about the ‘blood that has been shed..’ Nice of us to also remember those who were necklaced and liberated with matchboxes .

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  10. Thato says:

    I would say to be truly South African is to be evasive about the issues that really make us who we are. What better way to do that than with braai day for instance…
    We have become very skilled at burying the real issues in favour of frivolous drinking and cross colour hugging and kissing.

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  11. Lindokushle says:

    @ Nel, see that the thing. We’r all waiting for someone to define who we are for us. That’s the exact reason why things like Braai day will take prevalence over heritage, they require no thought, no inward-looking process. For me, my identity is informed by my past, regardless of how ugly it really is; and the frivolous myopia that we South Africans are so taken by, will be our downfall. We need a couch session, rather than pretending that all is when. And if we can have those conversations on Heritage day, then when will they happen?

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  12. Lindokushle says:

    sorry for the typos in the previous. writing in a rush

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  13. Lindokushle says:

    *message. I give up

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  14. Nel says:

    @lindokushle I see, thanks for the explanation. Typos happen.

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  15. ray mondle says:

    Some of the best conversations happen around fires.

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  16. RESPECT says:

    That’s what MANY South Africans lack/have lost – RESPECT.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    “Some of the best conversations happen around fires”.. sees the eloquent speeches “up in flames”. And we’ve gone full circle..

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  18. Rosa Sparks says:

    At least South Africans have a day where you get to braai and try and get along. In Zimbabwe Unity Day is just another day for Bob to talk kak and spew wrath-infused rhetoric . Even though ‘ our harmony largely exists at surface level’, it is harmony nonetheless.

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  19. arnaud says:

    @ Rosa, I hope the Zimbabwean expats in South Africa are sending you braai packs to celebrate. Can’t be much bush meat left over, from what one hears.

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  20. Bongani says:

    The only heritage we SA’s share is a good old fashioned stand around the fire while the flesh burns and see it all go up in smoke and perhaps afterwards scatter the ashes and read the bones – see what our ancestors have to say.There havent been many words of wisdom coming from that department either recently..perhaps the’ve retreated in disgust at our collective distrust in our inherited heritage.More likely they are bored with the whole issue an have found better things to spend eternity doing.

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  21. Somerfaan says:

    aaaag kak man! desmond public enemy no 2 ??

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  22. Mpho says:

    Nice piece. Sad, but true. At least we all get together on the day, braai and all.

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  23. mlungu says:

    “vice deputy Jesus” – HAHAHAHA!

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