There have been many debates of late about African identity with “black hair” commonly known as the afro, put in the spotlight. The most recent one being the Pretoria Girls High School hair saga. The students in this South African all-girls school, took to the streets to protest against their school’s administration which had allegedly forced students with ethnic hair to straighten their hair. This sparked a media ‘frenzy’ that transcended hair but touched on racial, ethnic and cultural heritage lines.
The two types of cultural heritage defined
Knowing our heritage enables us to discover a deeper sense of self, with culture being at the forefront of who we are – defining our customs, values, beliefs, language and traditions. There are two types of cultural heritage; tangible and intangible.
[highlight]Tangible Heritage[/highlight] refers to artifacts, buildings and landscapes.
[highlight]Intangible Heritage [/highlight] refers to oral history, values and traditions.
Why should we care about our cultural heritage?
Through our culture we are able to adopt a sense of belonging within a community and relate to each other more. Culture is present in our everyday lives – from the way we behave when we’re at the cinema, at a concert or at the gym. Our culture plays out through every aspect of our life.
In addition, there are also critical historical buildings such as museums, burial sites and monuments that are part of the legacy of our ancestors which are a larger part of our heritage i.e WHO WE ARE (our tribe), WHERE WE’RE FROM (our origin).
We are so different and the more we embrace that, the more we will learn to appreciate one another. In order to understand someone else’s culture, we must see value in it. By seeing value in it, we start to care about others which will ultimately lead to us enjoying and celebrating others culture. This will bring understanding. This is called the Heritage cycle.
A cultural heritage of international note
I was also recently inspired by the 81-year-old , South African Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu who recently collaborated with BMW for the second time after her first collaboration in 1991 in London on a BMW 525i.
Esther has travelled all over the world for her unique artistic African expression, and her paintings are featured in art collections in South Africa, United States, Germany, Japan and other parts of the world.
Her paintings and large-scale art pieces represent her Ndebele heritage, which is ultimately who she is and where she comes from. Esther Mahlangu is a perfect example of how adopting the heritage cycle not only helps you discover self-love but also instills confidence. When you love yourself, it’s evident that the rest of the universe will start to notice you and want to gain a deeper understanding of who you are and what you’re all about.
Watch! Esther’s recent artistic collaboration with BMW 7 series.
There is no doubt in my mind that culture defines who we are and the moment we find out who we are, we are unstoppable. Take time to discover your true heritage, and in the process, you will discover gold. Never hate what you don’t understand. Africa has got to be one of the world’s diverse continent in the world, and that is where our power lies.
What does cultural heritage mean to you?
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