Call for retention of African values

INDIGENOUS DANCE: A group celebrates Heritage Day in Limpopo yesterday. Pic. Chester Makana. 25/09/07. © Sowetan.
INDIGENOUS DANCE: A group celebrates Heritage Day in Limpopo yesterday. Pic. Chester Makana. 25/09/07. © Sowetan.

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

If sentiments at the last public hearings on the heritage transformation charter held in Soweto on Friday are anything to go by, black people are proud of their culture and heritage and they want it preserved.

Delegates came from all over Gauteng to express their emotional views - mostly in their languages - about the importance of their heritage, during consultations at Ubuntu Kraal, a cultural village in Orlando West, Soweto.

The National Heritage Council (NCH) organised this last of nine legs of the consultation process that will culminate in the formulation of the heritage transformation charter.

The hearings, which the NHC's chief operations officer, Somadoda Fikeni, said were more about "nothing about us without us", heard ordinary people expressing concern about the role of some spiritual churches in destroying African cultures and values. They said some churches exorcised their members who practised their culture, while encouraging Western values.

While not all churches were anti-culture, it was resolved that all churches must be engaged in a dialogue about heritage transformation.

Traditional leaders and healers, and NGOs were also identified as possible agents of heritage transformation.

Mabuto Sithole, of the Creative Workers Union, criticised the SABC for marginalising indigenous language dramas on television, while giving prominence to Western films. He said the move by the SABC to air indigenous dramas on regional stations was wrong as it returned "bantustan-style" ethnicity.

Some of the delegates called for heritage studies to be included in the school curriculum to preserve black history. One called for a quota of books on African literature, history and heritage in township libraries. Parents were challenged to revive story-telling.

Professor Yonah Seleti, chief director of indigenous knowledge systems in the Department of Science and Technology, related the importance of indigenous knowledge and its benefits.

He highlighted the economic benefits of African medicines and the need to protect the knowledge from being stolen.

Neo Moerane, of the Gauteng department of arts and culture's geographic names committee, said the renaming of places was about reclaiming that "which belongs to us and our heritage".

He said the process was about identity and who we were.

Curtis Nkondo, chairman of the facilitation committee of the heritage transformation charter, described the process as a "historic".

"The issue of culture and heritage has not been dealt with explicitly. If this is not reversed, we are really going into deep waters," said Nkondo.

Nkondo expressed great concern that the culture of the black majority was going on the margins, saying even parliament was driven by Western values.