Heritage Day hangouts: Three local experiences to immerse yourself in South African culture
03 November 2017
Heritage day is something of a cultural anomaly in South Africa. What began as a day dedicated to celebrating our diverse heritage across the spectrum of vastly different cultures in our rainbow nation has transformed into an excuse to partake in two of our most popular national activities: braaing and drinking.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a braai with friends on your day off, it would truly be a shame if we allowed heritage day to become a meaningless public holiday. So come this Saturday, the 24th of October, instead of firing up the Weber, why not pay a visit to one of the spots listed below to remind yourself what heritage day is really about.
1) The Apartheid Museum - Johannesburg
For better or worse, nothing in the history of South Africa is quite as symbolic as Apartheid. It simultaneously represents the worst of humanity and the strength and courage of the human spirit in a way that is as heartbreaking as it is heartening. Though we may not want to confront such a heavy subject on a public holiday, a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg will leave you with a deep appreciation of how far we’ve come and how much our people have sacrificed to get here.
As the pre-eminent museum of its kind in the world, a visit to the Apartheid Museum is like a journey through time. You’re transported back to the early years of apartheid - as you enter the museum either through a door for ‘whites’ or ‘non-whites’ - and chronicling the history of the struggle and heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo and many more, until the ultimate fall of this evil system of segregation.
You will leave the museum with a profound understanding of what it means to live in a rainbow nation, in which our entirely unique cultural diversity is now celebrated instead of being shunned, and this truly is the essence of what heritage day is all about.
2) uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park - Durban
It may seem a little unorthodox to include a park in this list, but uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is a not only a World Heritage Site, but it perfectly embodies the natural beauty and splendour of our country that is so integral to our heritage as a people, so we just couldn’t overlook this one.
With some of the most breathtaking vistas in South Africa, from the world renowned amphitheatre - a 5km long and 1km high rock wall - to the cascading Tugela Falls spilling over the Mont-aux-Sources, there is nothing that quite compares. A day in the park gives visitors the chance to go hiking, rock climbing, fly-fishing or to just sit and take in the sights while breathing in the fresh mountain air.
The park is also home to over 30 000 indigenous San rock paintings, scattered amongst the 600 odd different caves, providing an unmatched opportunity to immerse oneself in the lives of the San, the true pioneers of South African society.
3) Mzoli’s - Cape Town
Ok, let’s face it: the thought of not braaing on heritage day is just far too unbearable for some. So we feel like this one is a fair compromise!
Mzoli’s, located in the heart of Cape Town’s Gugulethu Township, is essentially the ultimate South African braai experience. So if you just have to do ‘Braai day,’ do it right! This vibey spot is a veritable cultural melting pot, featuring South Africans - and a healthy quota of wide-eyed tourists - from all walks of life gathering to feast on a smorgasbord of wors, chops, ribs, wings, steak, pap, garlic bread, salad and just about everything else you’d expect from a good braai, all washed down with generous glugs of beer and brandy.
It doesn’t get more genuinely South African than this, and the best part is that the warm, friendly atmosphere of this heritage hotspot makes it inevitable that you’ll interact with people from many different cultures and backgrounds, giving you a real sense of what makes our country so unique and endearing!
So however way you may be spending this heritage day, take a minute to reflect on what it is to be South African, and how truly lucky we are to live in one of the most colourful, culturally diverse nations in the world.
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