Heritage Day was busy in the Bo-Kaap. Not only did the duke and duchess of Sussex visit the Auwal Mosque to celebrate the day, but the Stigting vir Bemagtiging deur Afrikaans (Foundation of Empowerment through Afrikaans) launched a colouring book for cultural, language and visual literacy at the Boorhaanol Centre.
What makes the Auwal Mosque significant is the hand-written text of the Qur’an that its first imam, Abdullah Qadi Abdus, wrote from memory in the 17th century. What makes the colouring book significant is that it is written in Afrikaans, Arabic, Xhosa, English, braille and, on video, in sign language.
These events were but two of many that took place across the city and the province to mark Heritage Day. The Cape Cultural Collective and Open Streets Cape Town held a march between Langa and Bonteheuwel to call on diverse communities to bridge the divides and unite.
In Stellenbosch the Uniting Reformed Church hosted an academic seminar as part of its 25th celebration, dealing with such themes as violence in society and politics, identity and the church. These events represent and are symbolic of the diversity of South African society and the ways in which its people choose to celebrate their unique and shared heritage – action and reflection, memory and hope.
However, and even more importantly, these initiatives represent and are symbolic of the unique and shared aspirations of diverse communities. Aspirations are more than individual dreams and hopes for your future. They are a fundamental and deeply rooted part of transforming society.
This is so, because a society that struggles to renew itself calls for and offers the opportunity to its citizens to rethink who they are and what they are able to imagine, do and achieve. As a rule we understand aspirations to be an individual ability to imagine a different future for yourself – a future focused on upward social and economic mobility; receiving and owning more.
We may also broaden this view by including social aspirations that you may want to make a difference in your community. However, aspirations are bound and directed, in major part, by the context in which people live.
This includes their actual daily experiences in their immediate environment, as well as conversations in families and communities. Broader discourses in society, such as through the media, also contribute to who people think they should be and what they as individuals must do and achieve. These realities may cause a lack of original imagination and a silencing of diverse voices to become the norm.
This means that, on the one hand, people may simply reproduce what they observe, or resign themselves to what circumstance dictate. However, aspirations that are given voice in shared communities where people together reflect on what the future may bring, counter these threats.
* Buys is the executive dean and dean of humanities at the private and non-profit higher education institution, Cornerstone Institute.