Prologue: A few Years from NOW…
After the African Aeronautics Space Administration (AASA) launched Nelius ‘Ngalo eQilile’ Xozwa into space on mission Athena, we join him floating among the stars contemplating his place in the future. Rocking a Dashiki and the latest Gorilla x AIR Mags collaboration, these are the thoughts that pass through this young man’s mind…
Heritage by definition is ‘property that is or may be inherited; an inheritance’. Culture is defined as ‘the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’. These two concepts are pretty close to each other; I think they may even be 2 sides of the same coin. But, if culture is the customs, teachings and more we learn throughout our lives, helping us identify with a greater ideal, how we give these learnings to the next generation is heritage. So as time passes, who decides what we pass on?
Lobola is observed by many cultures in South Africa. In this custom, the groom pays a fee to the parents of the bride to say ‘thank you’ for raising her. She will leave their care, will be accepted into her new family and create a home with the groom. A gesture steeped in history which raises a few eyebrows in this brave new world. Nowadays you hear comments like:
“Does it mean that’s how much a woman costs?”
“This African tradition devalues women.”
“Does this tradition apply to a multicultural, multinational relationship in a globalised world?”
Valid questions; and in an ever-changing world… how do I stay rooted and still move with the times? How does a conversation between a German groom and a Xhosa maiden go when it gets to Lobola negotiations in Tokyo? Would the family apply pressure for him to pay or leave it to their daughter to recognise the custom as she sees fit? I don’t have the answers.
In this case, I’m gonna assume the end result would be, hopefully, some sort of coming together of the two cultures, honouring the heritage of both and, in the process, creating new legacies for future generations. The adoption of foreign customs in a globalised, internet-charged society is becoming a daily phenomenon. Is this appropriation or the consequences of a global melting pot? If people buy into these customs, can we feel comfortable that the next generation will be taught their heritage and observe it? Will the next generation of German – Xhosa kids keep it alive? A funny thought, but the future of heritage is definitely mixed.
A friend once told me ”I had a job travelling the world living in a bunch of different countries. I met the woman of my dreams and spent years talking about what would happen if we got married. Which traditions would we keep since I was Zulu and she was Italian? We never really got to a conclusion, but we always agreed that we would raise amazing people.”
I guess that’s a clue where we’re going. The main function of culture is continuity, re-affirming certain ideals into a society that form the foundation of the people. But what we’re all trying to do is raise kids to be amazing people with firm beliefs on who they are and where they’re going. A simple, noble thought for any parent raising a child in this world. Whatever you think the future holds, I’m certain of one thing; the shape of it is defined by the parts of our past we choose to bring with us. Have an awesome Heritage Day, South Africa.