With Heritage Day coming up later this month, Mariet Conradie and Julia Roelofse of DITSONG: Museums of South Africa explore the importance of celebrating heritage worldwide, and outline how they will be celebrating Heritage Day at the DITSONG: Tswaing Meteorite Crater.
Heritage Day, 24 September, is one of South Africa’s newer public holidays, declared after the republic became a democracy in 1994. The day was first observed in 1996. Heritage Day, once known as Shaka Day, was originally named in honour of the legendary Zulu king, Shaka Zulu, who convinced multiple Zulu clans to stand together against the Boers and the British.
This day of commemoration was in danger of being lost after 1995 as it had not yet been included in the Public Holidays Bill. It was subsequently included in the Bill in 1996 but with its name changed to Heritage Day. This was to be an all-inclusive day on which to celebrate the heritage of all South Africans – for all of the diverse cultures to come together, unified, to celebrate their particular unique heritage and contribution to South Africa.
South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by remembering the heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa, celebrating their own culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this. It recognises aspects of South African culture that are both tangible and intangible: creative expression, such as music and performances, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat, as well as the popular memory of the people of South Africa.
One of the main reasons is that we gain a newfound appreciation and a reminder of our own culture and heritage on a personal level and within our South African identity. Heritage Day is an important nation-building tool and an exciting way of reaching out to young South Africans, to encourage national pride.
World Heritage Day is celebrated every year on 18 April to preserve human heritage and recognise all the efforts of relevant organisations to preserve human heritage, diversity and vulnerability of the world’s built monuments and heritage sites. The efforts required to protect and conserve it and to draw attention to it are also emphasised.
In 1982, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) established 18 April as the International Day for monuments and sites. This was approved by the General Assembly of Unesco in 1983, with the aim of enhancing awareness about the importance of cultural heritage, monuments and to conserve them.
ICOMOS was established on the principles ascribed in the Venice Charter, also known as the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites. Heritage Day is a collective effort of the communities of the world to celebrate their treasures and cultures.
ICOMOS themed the Heritage Day activities of 2019 as ‘Rural Landscape’ in honour of rural areas and the embedded heritage in those landscapes. The aim of the theme is also to bring focus to monuments that are found in rural areas. DITSONG: Museums of South Africa (DMSA) has four museums that could be categorised as rural, i.e. the Sammy Marks Museum, the Pioneer Museum, Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum and Tswaing.
DMSA, in line with the international theme of Rural Landscapes set out by ICOMOS, took a decision to celebrate Heritage Day at the DITSONG: Tswaing Meteorite Crater in Soshanguve. Scientific research concluded that about 220 000 years ago, a meteorite the size of half a football field slammed into the Earth’s crust, forming an impact crater 1.4 kilometres in diameter and 200 metres deep. This crater is one of the four best-preserved meteorite impact craters in the world. The name ‘Tswaing’ means ‘Place of Salt’ in Setswana and refers to the saline lake that covers the crater floor and makes the water 13 times saltier than seawater. This is because, from 1912 to 1956, an industry producing soda ash and salt was based at the crater. There are interesting beliefs and practices related to cryptozoology at Tswaing Meteorite Crater. The local community believes the crater has spiritual healing powers. As a result, some locals bring the sick to the crater for healing.
A visit to this crater is a refreshing excursion to explore nature’s bounty. The DITSONG: Tswaing Meteorite Crater offers a 7.2-kilometre hiking trail, birdwatching, overnight accommodation, a picnic site, a large variety of plant species, a variety of game and 240 species of birds.
As part of the celebrations of Heritage Day in Tswaing, the museum will also focus on indigenous South African games such as morababa, liketo, and kgati. The importance of these games lies in their ability to teach eye contact and coordination, strategy and physical exercise. For example, morabaraba has been proven to be great for teaching strategic thinking, competitive analysis and psychology.
Heritage Day celebrations at the DITSONG: Tswaing Meteorite Crater will include various cultural dances, music and food. The food will include ting (sour sorghum meal), papa (Mealie Meal porridge; a staple food), mogodu (tripe), curry and rice, baked bread (baked in an outdoor oven from the 1800s), koeksisters, milk tart, hardbody (free-range chicken), and much more. Visitors will get to taste mampoer (distilled spirits) and umqombothi (beer made from maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water).
Visitors will see traditional apparel across the various cultures, including seshoeshoe, shibelane, pre-colonial outfits, ibheshu, isidwaba, ludede, mapala, sari, umbhalo, and many more.
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