Seeing heritage through a camera lens

Cape Argus photographer Cindy Waxa says Heritage Day is a timely reminder to show we are all Proudly South Africans.

Cape Town - It was last Saturday afternoon when I photographed children from Dunoon, Joe Slovo and Atlantis taking part in an early-Heritage Day celebration.

Girls perform traditional dances during the Miss Heritage Competition in Atlantis in an early celebration of Heritage Day. Picture: Cindy Waxa. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

Know Your Roots was the theme.

Watching children as young as seven dancing with pride and singing with smiles on their faces made me realise the importance of knowing and understanding one’s culture and traditions from an early age. They were all dressed in colourful African attire, dancing barefoot and singing African songs.

This takes intense practice and immense energy. They danced as if they would never dance again.

As an African, the feeling I had could not be put into words. It took me back to when I was a young girl. I used to dance like this. We were called “amagqiyazana”, the young African girls.

Last Saturday, they also held a Miss Heritage competition, where everyone showcased their talent by dancing, singing and reciting their clan names to the judges.

Watching them on stage you could tell they were proud of who they are.

Parents prepared traditional African food; tripe (ulusu), samp (umngqusho), homemade ginger beer, porridge with sour milk (umvubo), homemade bread (umbhako) and dumplings. This is the food I grew up eating.

I realised that South Africans are rich in culture and understanding our heritage can give us a sense of belonging.

It helps us to connect and learn other cultures that we may not be familiar with. We learn to respect each other and it unites people from different backgrounds.

If you don’t know your culture and heritage, it means you don’t know where you come from and where you are going.

It puts us at risk of having a young generation growing up without an identity. We need to celebrate and practise our heritage and traditions with pride.

We need to speak our home languages without fear or favour. We need to rock our afros and braids without being intimidated by anyone. It’s our culture and needs to be respected. If we don’t celebrate heritage we will not understand its values.

I am Proudly South African. I am a Xhosa woman. I speak my language with pride. Ndingu Malisa, uHlathi, uJambase (I am Malisa, uHlathi, uJambase). That’s my clan name and I’m proud of it.