Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

September 24 is celebrated as Heritage Day. The central discourse relative to this day is our shared culture, diversity and traditions in the context of a nation that belongs to all.

However, can we celebrate heritage without land?

The burning land question is actually not a land question. It is more about symbolism, history and inequality than about land to live on and farm.

Land is our identity, it enables us to belong, to express our culture and produce bread. Land is our heritage, everything that is beneath — the mineral wealth, the seas, the animals, including the skies.

The land connects us in this corner of the earth. It is worth working for, fighting for and dying for because it is the only thing that lasts for ourselves and our descendants.

It is only through the collective ownership of land that we would truly share a collective identity, self-worth and become a truly reconciled society.

There is no heritage without land. Land is our master heritage for any art, culture or language to find expression.

Until it is returned, our heritage will continue to be in flux, to be cheated into a braai day celebrated at parks across the country. The dangerous illusion that our heritage is to wear traditional dress, dance, sing and braai is absurd.

"Give back the land" has also become a popular mantra on social media and is now being repeated so often that few stop and ask what it would actually mean.

Most if not all black South Africans feel justifiably strongly about the great injustice done to them and their ancestors by the descendants of the white arrivals of centuries ago by taking most of the land for themselves, a situation that hasn’t changed fundamentally.

But in 2017, the solution cannot be as simplistic as handing all the land to the government to dish out to black citizens. The very nature of ownership of land, at least agricultural land, has changed fundamentally over the past decades.

Agricultural land has shifted from being about identity, history and heritage to more of a business commodity, a means to create wealth, jobs and food security.

This doesn’t mean some land doesn’t still have historical and sentimental value, but it is true of land as a whole.

Tshepo DialeNkwe Estate

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