Heritage? What Heritage?

Heritage day has come and gone, celebrated amidst a number of 21st birthday parties and nights out have left the memories of the long weekend slightly blurred. A good time was had indeed. However, one thing that I can’t quite pinpoint and that has been troubling me since is the question of my heritage.

This question stemmed from a 21st I attended on Thursday the 24th of September (Heritage day) themed: “Semi-formal with a touch of heritage”. I had just returned from a braai, but when I got home and searched for what to wear I was stumped, what is my heritage? This is fairly tough to decipher as my mother was born in Duisburg, Germany. My father on the other hand was born in Nelspruit, South Africa. A formidable pairing they have made. I was born in Grahamstown, South Africa, with the stubbornness of the German and the easy-going nature of the South African.

If we break down Heritage:

[her-i-tij] 

noun.

  1. Something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; 
  2. An inherited lot or portion: 
  3. A heritage of poverty and suffering; 
  4. A national heritage of honor, pride, and courage.

By simple logic then I have inherited a unique mixture of South African and German heritage. Hence my confusion when asked to dress with a touch of heritage. I am 100% South African, as I was born on this great country’s soil, there is no denying that. Yet I have both a German passport as well as a South African passport. This confusion did not only lead to what I had to wear, but also to whether I belonged in South Africa or not.

At times I feel stuck, trapped by my heritage, forcing me into an identity crisis. I accept where I come from, but at the same time it makes me uneasy. Do I really belong here; does it really feel like home? I am lulled into a false sense of security by my thoughts. Of course you belong, I say. You love this country just as much as the next person. Sometimes I struggle with the notion of “fitting in”, and sharing a common identity.

I believe that it is good to question these notions. I believe that it will help, on days like Heritage Day, to understand each other. Learn and grow through telling your story and taking the time to listen to the stories of others. Engaging in dialogue about peoples’ heritage, their different religious views, their contrasting cultural identities. Where would you be without self-reflection? Where would you be without your heritage? It can help immensely in defining our common identity as South Africans, something I am sure a lot of people struggle with.

On Thursday night I wore my favorite bucket hat, made by a company called Township. A bucket hat in “Khayelitsha” print that features various interesting and vibrant colors around the whole hat, much like the population of South Africa.  This hat is as much a part of this country as I am. It is of the soil as I am of the soil. This is my heritage, it may confuse me from time to time, but it is mine.

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