Every year around Heritage Day, it is the same mad scramble in the Abarder household. On the eve of September 24, we need to satisfy the school’s request for the kids to dress up to represent their culture. 

Do we revert to the same Islamic wear they wore last year? Would anyone even notice? Or do we choose from the multitude of cultures from our beautiful country?

It is the same with food when the boss asks to you to bring a dish to work to represent your heritage.

(So, is curry a Malay, Indian or British dish these days? It is hard to tell.)

And therein lies the beauty. As a brown person, I am far more than the sum of my parts or what you see on the face of it. 

Truth be told, I see myself as black and coloured. African with mixed DNA. I identify politically as black and subscribe to the notions of black consciousness. I am culturally coloured and love dancing to the tune of the Cape Town minstrels, ghoema music and enjoying koesisters on a Sunday morning.

I have Khoisan blood coursing through my veins. I am the son of Autshumato, a descendent of Krotoa. Jan van Riebeeck? Perhaps…

I am the product of slaves who arrived in the Cape in the 17th century by ship to be in service of the colonial masters. Brutally beaten, tortured and often killed. The slaves who forged their own culture and identity and maintained their religion from the East and other parts of the world. 

I am the tongue of my colonial masters too, who chose English as the language of business and instruction. I speak it with effortless ease and write with aplomb. I am able to string a decent conversation together in Arabic, am a full-time Afrikaaps scholar, and an enthusiast of prison gang slang. Hoe change die nommer? (How does the number change?)

I am the mannequin of American and European pop culture – wearing Adidas, Nike and Puma. I am a slave to globalisation as I write my musings on an Apple Mac while taking my calls on an iPhone, after arriving at my destination in a luxury German vehicle. 

I am proudly African. I feel the pain of the tribes of the continent and their movement from place to place as the first people of the world. 

I am a victim of gentrification. I am a hapless witness to the stripping away of my heritage and culture at the cost of craft beer, overpriced food and hipster wear. 

I am a mimic of pop culture, Netflix, TikTok and an addict of Twitter, having posted 192 000 tweets since joining the platform in April 2013. 

My address: Cape Flats, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, Africa, the World, a galaxy somewhere in the Universe.

When I now see those mandatory forms at the Department of Home Affairs, I no longer grimace but rather smile. I could choose any number of the boxes that read Black, Coloured, Asian or Other. I can be all of these things and more.

And isn’t that just the beauty of Heritage Day? We get to celebrate – often over a braai – the best parts of who we are and how we shape the world around us in our own little way. 

  • Gasant Abarder is an author, former newspaper editor and media professional. 

Tell us: Who are you? And how do you celebrate Heritage Day?