Heritage Council prioritise decolonising heritage

The new Board of the National Heritage Council (NHC) of South Africa had its first meeting for the year today in Pretoria and already reflected on key areas that it would to prioritise during its term. The composition of the board is in accordance with legislation comprised of members appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture, representatives of all provinces appointed by the various MEC’s of Sport Arts and Culture as well as Chairpersons of Boards from other heritage institutions in South Africa. The Chairperson of the NHC Board, appointed by the Minister, is Dr. Thulani John Mbuli.

The Chief Executive Officer of the NHC, Adv. Sonwabile Mancotywa, is enthusiastic that the pronouncement by the new Board to embark on issues of national strategic importance will contribute to the redress and development of the heritage agenda. He strongly believes that there is still massive work that require South Africa to “decolonise its cultural heritage”.

The decolonisation and affirmation of the African identity programme of the NHC for the next three years as the initial phase will focus on contributing to the school curriculum and cultural performances at schools.

Mancotywa says, “It is disappointing to observe the low levels of awareness and pride of African culture among young people in South Africa especially in urban areas. It essentially means that we are building a society that has forgotten about its roots.”

Another area of focus will be to introduce policy reflections that will lead to policy formulation around the “Ownership of Icons”, “Heritage in private hands”, and revisiting the Heritage Transformation Charter.

Part of the immediate key areas that the NHC intends to place more attention on is the preservation and promotion of the Resistance and Liberation Heritage. Bringing closure to the atrocities and healing the pain inflicted on the people by the past apartheid regime will include the memorialisation of freedom fighters who are still missing. Some historic places where these freedom fighters are said to have been tortured, executed or mysteriously disappeared will be considered for traditional cleansing.

“In our African cultures, certain rituals are performed to restore an acceptable state of being. One of the rituals is to cleanse a space from bad omen. These rituals are also a means of closure and spiritual healing to the affected people or community,” says Sonwabile Mancotywa.

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