South Africa is home to a diverse nation rich in cultural diversity, from the food eaten, to the colourful vibrant garments worn, not to mention the various genres of music that South Africans listen to, which contributes to why South Africa is often referred to as a rainbow nation. With Heritage Day (also known as National Braai Day), festivities took place over the long weekend where South Africans took the opportunity to embrace and celebrate their uniqueness as Africans.
Heritage Day is about celebrating everyone’s diversity and culture and what better way to celebrate this momentous day than by looking at how some of the formidable Mamas who form part of the Clover Mama Afrika Project, celebrated with their communities. The Clover Mama Afrika project was inspired by these women; their mission statement exemplifies what they stand for: Ukwakha Isizwe (building and nurturing our nation).
Mama Mirriam, Toni Western Cape
In 2012, Mama Mirriam Toni opened her centre named Ncedisizwe Centre which means help the nation. She saw a need to better the livelihood of the people in her community, and to date, she currently has 28 children and 17 elderlies in her care with an outreach programme that positively impacts the lives of 105 members of the community. The proudly Xhosa woman who is passionate about her culture and takes pride in her heritage believes that what makes her heritage unique is her IsiXhosa traditional attire which makes her stand out as an African woman.
As part of celebrating Heritage Day, Mama Mirriam hosted the elderly and young children at her centre by cooking traditional food that she grew up eating which formed part of her heritage. On the day, her menu included; potjiekos, tripe and white samp which was washed down with Umqombothi (African beer).
Mama Mirriam explained that she felt that it was important for her to include children in her celebrations as we live in such a westernised world which has led to our heritage being diluted. Mama Miriam says, “For me, Heritage Day is where I get to reflect on my culture and the principles that I was raised under – that I should lend a helping hand to those in need in my community.”
Mama Selestien Moses, Western Cape
Also, in the Western Cape area is Mama Selestien who has been running the Khayalethu Care Centre since 2007, which takes care of 290 children and 84 elderlies. Mama Selestien’s describes herself as a proudly Afrikaans speaking coloured woman and believes that part of her life’s purpose is to help those in need. Mama Selestien celebrated Heritage Day by hosting her community to an event themed, “reclaiming, restoring and celebrating our living heritage”, where the elderly people in her community were her special guests.
On the day, various dishes were displayed on tables which depicted a time travel where authentic traditional food that everyone grew up eating was sold. Such food included jelly and custard, coconut sweets as well as ginger beer and many more. Activities of the day included Gumboot dancing where the entire community arrived to witness the celebrations. “While growing up I was taught to love my neighbour, I try my best to raise my two sons under these same principles,” explains Mama Selestien.
Mama Nondumiso Mpitimpiti
All the way from East London is Mama Nondumiso Mpitimpiti who started her centre in 1997 named the Step Ahead Early Childhood Development Centre. Mama Nondumiso is committed to serving the 153 children in her care as well as her outreach programme that serves 210 crèches and five foster homes with 37 orphans. When asked about what Heritage Day means to her, she explains that it solidifies who she is as an African woman. Mama Nondumiso is thankful for her upbringing, as this has contributed to the woman that she is today.
To celebrate, she hosted a talent show for the elderly and other members of the community, where they were given the opportunity to showcase their various talents which included singing, dancing, modelling in their traditional outfits as well as reciting traditional poetry. Traditional food such as wild spinach, samp, and beans, Umphokoqo (crumbly mealie pap with Amasi) as well as hard body chicken was served to her guests. Mama Nondumiso believes that the elderly form an integral part of our heritage and the talent show afforded the senior citizens the chance to share folk tales that they grew up being told to ensure that they are carried to the next generation.
Professor Elain Vlok, Founder of Clover Mama Afrika says, “The work that these Mamas do in their communities make me so proud. In a country where job opportunities are scarce, these Mamas are taking a leap of faith and fighting against the odds to empower themselves while uplifting others.”
“As we celebrated Heritage Day this past long weekend, these Mamas make us remember that as South Africans it takes a village to raise a child and that together we stand to gain and achieve so much more than when we stand alone,” Vlok concludes.