Johannesburg – At the Saturday Star, we recognise South Africa has come a long way since the days of apartheid, but so much still needs to be done to get people to embrace each other’s diversities.
We pride ourselves on our own journey to transform our newsroom but know a transformed newsroom does not simply mean having journalists with origins across the racial spectrum.
This means having people embracing and accepting one another without prejudice, and much more, breathing life into SA’s motto of Unity in Diversity.
Why I am proud of my heritage
I wrote a version of this story a while ago. Nothing’s changed – except I have entered my forties, my son is a tween and I write this as I cling to power (quite literally) waiting for my round of load shedding to end.
I am what you may call a proverbial breyani. After all, which other dish requires more ingredients than a scrumptious pot of this yellow rice dish?
Just like breyani, with its oriental flavour, I am made up of a little of everything: Chinese, Arab, Persian, Malaysian, black and probably even white.
But here in South Africa, I am coloured, Cape coloured. Muslim.
I couldn’t be more proud.
But I am unsure whether coloured people actually have a heritage. It just isn’t as clear as being Indian or Zulu.
I’ve lived in wonderful, cosmopolitan Joburg since 2004 and, still, I don’t really identify with very many people here.
I am Capetonian. I still have that accent. You know the one.
Which other group of people would stand right across from you and utter the words “Wat lewe jy nog?” (Are you still alive?)
I miss hearing things like “Wat maak jy hier?” (What are you doing here?) Or unwelcome statements such as “Jy raak lekker vet, ne! Jy was anner dag so maer.” (You’ve put on some weight. You used to be so skinny.)
I miss the family beach outings on Boxing Day, the Easter camping trips, the switching-on of the lights in Adderley Street in the city centre during the festive season, the spirit of community at Eid and Christmas time.
Hell, I even miss the Kaapse Klopse (the Cape minstrels) with their multicoloured outfits, painted faces and interesting remixes of popular pop songs.
We may not have a clear-cut heritage, but we certainly do have a rich history and wonderful traditions that make us inordinately unique.
And so I will marinade the meat and make potato salad for the braai tomorrow. Because frankly, their probably won’t be electricity anyway. – Kashiefa Ajam, Editor – Saturday Star.
My heritage story
My mother would tell me a story and I was sure it wasn’t true. It went like this: Her great-great-grandmother had seven sons. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out, six of them went to fight for the British, while the seventh took up arms for the Boers. The story my mother told was that the seventh son was captured and was to be hanged for treason.
In desperation, his mother wrote to Queen Victoria in a plea for clemency and her son was spared.
Not long ago I discovered that my mother’s story was true. Well, sort of.
One evening I encountered the no-nonsense stare of Eliza Cheney, the mother of seven sons and my great-great-great grandma.
Along with the photograph on the web page was a story. The seventh son’s name was William Cheney and he was tried for high treason for fighting for the Boers.
A genealogical website told of how he was fined £3 in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court, but there was no threatening hangman’s noose.
As for that letter? It wasn’t a letter to the queen, it was that photograph of grandma Eliza and her spooky gaze. William’s mother Eliza was so proud of her six boys fighting for the British she had a portrait taken of herself with her sons and sent it to the queen. In return, the story goes, she was sent a signed photograph of Queen Victoria.
We don’t know if she ever forgave William.
My heritage, on my mother’s side, is of pioneering families who arrived in what was then Natal.
They stayed and along the way they were moulded by the historical events of this great country.
And this story, twisted a little by time, tells of a South African family fractured by ideology, and hey, can we relate to that today. – Shaun Smillie, Senior Reporter.
I am proud of his mixed-religion heritage and wouldn’t have it any other way
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have parents of the same religion. Would it have changed the person I am today? Would it have made me a better or a worse person? Would it have changed the course of my life?
But when I have this bizarre thought, I always come to the same conclusion: I wouldn’t change my background for anything in this world.
You see, I come from a very unique home: my mother is a proud Indian Muslim woman and my father is a proud Indian Hindu man. Marriage between Muslims and Hindus is frowned upon. Back in the day, it was almost unheard of. It was unacceptable.
But these days I have noticed a few more of us “mixed breeds” popping up here and there. Let’s be clear, though, coming from a mixed background has its challenge just like any other family dynamic, but the good has always outweighed the bad, and always will.
If anything, I have always felt that I am fortunate to be guided by parents with different religions. My parents have taught me to be open-minded, to be respectful of all religions and races, and to see everyone as equal.
This idea been drummed into my and my siblings’ heads ever since we were little kids.
I am proud of my Indian heritage, proud of my Hindu and Muslim heritage, and incredibly proud of my South African heritage. I wouldn’t have it any other way. – Sameer Naik, Chief Reporter.
A multicultural life
I grew up in a somewhat traditional Hindu household and from an early age, grew accustomed to its practices, customs and rituals. But after 32 years on planet Earth, I would say that my true heritage is much more multifaceted than that. This is something that my extended family from my mother’s side has had a huge influence on.
We are a massive and close-knit family. And through the decades, our family kept expanding and with it, brought an array of cultures and heritages. My cousins, whom I consider siblings, are all different religions. Some are Hindu, some Muslim, others Christian and there are even Tamils.
We all lived relatively close to each other as youngsters and had at least six in the same school at the same time. We were each other’s best friends and this meant we lived this life and went through so many experiences together. We have celebrated Diwali and Eid, and Christmas is our family’s favourite day together, even though not many of us are Christian. We get dressed up, pray and then feast in celebration.
I have also been personally involved in different cultural and religious events, and have been to so many different churches and temples. I was a maid of honour to my Christian best friend and I am a godmother to my gorgeous niece, both something that is not usually practised in Hinduism.
And apart from religion, my family is also multiracial as the continuous expansion of our unit has seen the welcome of many of my brothers- and sisters-in-law from all races.
I know that this has all strengthened my family as we embrace so many different backgrounds. We have thrived in diversity. And for me personally, it has allowed me to think outside my Hindu household, be more open-minded and so much more in touch with others and the different ways they choose to live their lives. I am so grateful for how this has shaped my own life and mindset.
I now identify as so much more that just an Indian Hindu girl. I am also the proud aunt of so many nieces and nephews who are from different religions and races and it is such a blessing to watch them grow up just as we did. Long may that continue! – Karishma Dipa, Social Media Manager and Digital Content Producer.
Heritage is what we make of it, not derived from the past
My heritage is more than where I have been or where I come from.
It is where I am now and where I am going. It is the people I have met throughout my life, it is the lessons learnt, the mistakes made, the struggles endured, the victories won and the hope that remains for the future.
It is not just everything that we’ve inherited. It is the contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviours we’ve adopted now. I would much rather my heritage be determined by the person I am now, instead of who I once was.
Too often, I think, we are stuck in the past and what we perceive our heritage to be.
Heritage, for me, can be made now. It’s in the way I conduct myself and how I treat people. If I am to reclaim my heritage one day, it would be based on my actions now. It is not that the past is not important; I just choose not to be defined by it.
The past is my constant companion. A reminder of what not to do and, at times, what to repeat. But it is not the light that shines on the road I travel now. – Norman Cloete, news editor and senior writer.