South Africa is crowned with a large number of cultures. Together with the indigenous peoples, there are a large number of cultural groups who share this land. Some of the immigrant groups were brought to our shores as slaves and indentured labour. But the majority are here by choice. And no wonder! Our land is known globally for her endless scenic beauty in a variety of guises. Majestic mountains. Rivers and grand waterfalls. Swathes of grassland. Breath-taking canyons and gorges. And beaches –among the best in the world, many pristine. Our biodiversity teems with a multitude of plant and animal life. On top of that, our wines and fruits are renowned worldwide. And within the earth, there is a treasure of gold, diamonds, and other minerals.
“Diversity is the one true thing we have in common. Celebrate it every day.” –Anonymous
Culture is what makes us who we are. Getting to really know someone requires learning about their culture from them personally. Wikipedia defines cultural diversity as “the quality of diverse or different cultures”. It can also mean recognising and respecting the cultures of people with whom we share our spaces. Our painful history worldwide has revealed the need for this. In 2001, UNESCO adopted The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity that recognises cultural diversity as the “common heritage of humanity”. It finds it necessary to safeguard cultural diversity, as it sees it as part and parcel of respect for human dignity. South Africa is one of the 116 states who have signed the Declaration.
“Also, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own, so that as we interact with others we can build bridges to trust, respect, and understanding across cultures. Furthermore, this diversity makes our country a more interesting place to live, as people from diverse cultures contribute language skills, new ways of thinking, new knowledge, and different experiences.” – Dr Lisa D. Belfield
Our cultures give us a sense of belonging. The familiarity of “the way we do things” creates a feeling of connection. When we belong, we feel that we are accepted as a member of a group. It makes us feel safe. We enjoy the support of people in the group as we scale the hills and trudge through the valleys of life.
“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable” – Bondei (Tanzania) people proverb
Over one million members of #ImStaying have been demonstrating the fragility of cultural barriers that have kept us apart for centuries. They have been reaching out. Paying forward. Helping, caring, giving, sharing, loving, praising, and lifting up one another. Regardless of cultural differences. Indeed, many of these beautiful acts have stemmed from cultural beliefs, norms and traditions. In this way they have been building a culture of supporting one another through teaching by example. Strengthening our diversity.
Respect for cultures which are not our own means we need to learn about them
During Heritage Month we want to celebrate as many of the cultures that flourish in our country as we can. We will include various language groups, as well as a few groups who have been here since early colonial times. We are excited about this journey and invite you to join us this month as we travel around our country. Some of the peoples we are hoping to visit are: Khoikhoi, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Muslim, Hindu, Ndebele, Tswana, Cape Malay, Pedi, Sesotho, and various groups of European descent.
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GOOD THOUGHTS • GOOD WORDS • GOOD DEEDS
I am a retired executive PA, library assistant and English teacher. I love words, so reading, writing, editing and word games are my favourite things to do. I run an editing business, working mostly on academic theses. It gives me so much satisfaction, knowing that I am giving back by making it possible for many a struggling student to have their work edited. When I was anticipating retirement, I felt I wanted to do volunteer work, so I am delighted to be working for #ImStaying.