By Lydia Gwambe, Bridging Year Academy Coordinator at GWF’s Dumphries Digital Learning Campus
Heritage Day means different things and has varying significance to different individuals, depending on their personal experiences, cultural backgrounds and perspectives. At Good Work Foundation, Heritage Day – on 24 September every year – means celebrating and embracing our cultural differences and our wonderful diversity across our campuses.
The special day is an opportunity to take pride in our heritage, whether it's tied to our ancestral roots, the many cultures of our country or the community we belong to.
Every year on Heritage Day, we dress in our traditional outfits and GWF organises cultural performances showcasing the rich diversity of traditional music and dance embraced by our staff members, students and learners. These events bring people together and allow them to experience the beauty of different types of artistic expression.
It's a day to reflect on and appreciate the traditions, customs, clothing and values that shape each person’s identity – and personally, I celebrate my Shangaan culture.
The Shangaan people – also known as the Tsonga – are an ethnic group with significant populations in South Africa, Mozambique (where my family hails from), Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Our culture is rich and diverse, encompassing a distinctive language, as well as our own music, dance styles and social customs.
My parents are originally from Mozambique, but moved to South Africa long before we were born. I was born in Gauteng, where my parents now permanently reside (I now live in Mpumalanga).
Knowing how easily people forget about their culture and traditions, my parents’ rule was always to make sure they instil in us our Shangaan culture, to ground us. Every now and then my mom will communicate with us using the Xitsonga language, and even though it is a bit hard for us to communicate fluently, we can still understand every word spoken.
Here are some key aspects of the Shangaan culture:
The Shangaan people speak the Shangaan/Xitsonga language, which is a Bantu language. It has several dialects and forms an essential part of our cultural identity. What also makes us stand out as a people is our music and dance.
Traditional Shangaan music is characterised by the use of instruments like marimbas, drums and xylophones, with women wearing colourful kapulana fabrics and showcasing intricate footwork in their dancing. Traditional Shangaan clothing includes beadwork and other accessories; the garments often reflect the wearer’s social status and age.
I’ve also had the privilege to speak to Patricia Nothando Ubisi, a GWF Coding and Robotics Coordinator, about her roots. Patricia is passionate about helping and nurturing primary school learners – and not only does she love making a difference in her community, she also enjoys celebrating her Tsonga culture.
She was born and raised in Somerset, a village near Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, in the vicinity of our GWF campuses. Here is what Patricia had to say about Heritage Day. “I think Heritage Day is about showcasing people’s different cultures and religions. It also shows how we can come together as one, be around each other and enjoy each other’s company, no matter how different we are.
“Heritage Day is a very important day to educate young people and help them understand South African history and traditional values, as well as our various cultures. On this day, people remember great cultural icons and heroic people who have made an impact in South Africa and the world.”
At Good Work Foundation, we know that Heritage Day serves as a reminder that our world is a colourful mosaic of traditions, languages and customs. Celebrating this day is an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of our differences and the common thread of humanity that unites us all.
By preserving and sharing our cultural heritage, we are contributing to a more inclusive and harmonious world where diversity is celebrated and respected. So, let's embrace Heritage Day as a day of unity, learning and cultural enrichment.