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Topnews, Südafrika

16. September 2021

MESSAGE FROM THE DESK OF THE AMBASSADOR

Dear Friends

September is Heritage Month in South Africa and is celebrated on the 24th of September in recognition of our rich and diverse cultural heritage. This year, the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa launched Heritage month under the theme, “The Year of Charlotte Maxeke: Celebrating South Africa’s Intangible Cultural Heritage”.

As we look forward to a month of festivities, let us take a moment to appreciate our truly unique cultural heritage. Contrary to popular perceptions, South African culture is not homogenous but boasts a wide kaleidoscope of people, languages, and ethnic backgrounds, each with its own unique traditions, food, and customs. We are called the rainbow nation because of our diverse and multicultural background and are truly blessed to be a country representative and mirroring a large part of the global society.

What makes Heritage Day special is the freedom to celebrate both our cultural diversity as well as our common heritage that makes us truly South African. While South Africa has a rich historical background, it also has a turbulent past where culture was suppressed by the Apartheid Regime and used as a tool of oppression to divide people along ethnic and racial lines.

As we tirelessly work on putting our painful past behind us, we are reminded that culture can also unite people through shared values and principles. South Africans across the racial spectrum can take pride in how far our democracy has progressed and work alongside each other to build a country we can all take ownership and be proud of in line with our Constitution preamble which states “ we the people of S.A., Recognise the injustices of our past .......Heal the division of the past .......” and to overcome the institutionalised vestiges of Apartheid, let us be reminded of our strength and resilience as a nation.

Cradle of Humankind

As we celebrate our common heritage, we are also reminded that South Africa has a rich and ancient history, which is rooted in time itself. It has one of the richest storehouses bearing on the origins of life and mankind itself. It is home to the Cradle of Humankind, where some of the earliest hominoid fossils have been discovered, dating back to 3.5 million years ago. This epitomizes our shared African roots and should be used to promote tolerance of diversity and social cohesion.

Traditional Knowledge

South Africa is truly unique, we have 11 official languages, each with a rich and vibrant oral tradition and a fountain of ancestral traditional knowledge passed through the centuries from parent to child. South African products such as rooibos, wine, and quality accessories, derived from traditional knowledge, are becoming increasingly sought after in the world. While rooibos is very popular, our Khoisan ancestors were keenly aware of the healing properties of the fynbos plant and used it to treat a number of ailments. Today, we are proud that the Khoisan community is recognised as the first traditional knowledge holders and can benefit from the global commercialisation of rooibos. It will be recalled that in 2014, South Africa won geographic indicator protection after international companies from the US and Europe tried to misappropriate and trademark the name. This was a victory for African communities trying to reclaim their cultural and scientific knowledge which had been misappropriated. More recently, the Europe Union added rooibos tea to its register of products with protected designation of origin. It is also the first African product to receive this status. We look forward to helping more of our people claim the rightful ownership of their intangible cultural heritage.

South Africa on the global stage

South Africans are also making their mark on the international stage with famous exports such as Trevor Noah, Charlize Theron and Elon Musk, amongst others. Our music has gained much popularity across the world with “Jerusalema” by Master KG and Nomcebo becoming a global hit song in 2020. South Africa is indeed an avid contributor to global pop culture with its unique fusion of traditional and modern art. We also boast a number of Nobel laureates across a spectrum of fields from arts and literature to peace and economics, indicative of the vast talent inherent within South Africa. South Africa is also a proud sporting nation, claiming many accolades in the field of tennis, cricket, swimming, and golf. We are the reigning Rugby World Cup champions having claimed the coveted cup in 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.

In celebration of Heritage month and all things South African, the South African Embassy in Vienna participated in the International Cultural Diversity Organisation (ICDO) organised Long Nights of Interculturality 2021 event. South Africa fielded artists at the virtual Art Exhibition, wherein various South African artists are showcased under the theme Art. Peace. Sustainability. The exhibition can be viewed up to the end of October 2021 on the Artsteps App that can be downloaded or viewed here.

South Africa was also represented at the panel discussion on the Impact of Culture on Sustainable Development by Ms Siphelele Ngobese which took place on 08 September 2021.

As we get ready to celebrate Heritage Day on the 24th of September, I wish you well in Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia and hope that you take a moment to reflect on what makes you truly South African.

Happy Heritage Day!

Ambassador RS Molekane

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