To celebrate heritage month in September, the Isibani Educational Empowerment Students Organisation (ISEESO) held its inaugural annual heritage celebration event.

The guest speakers at this event were Mr Sbonelo “Shaka” Ndlovu (Buya Africa Students Cultural Organisation), Ndiphiwe Cetywayo (UKZN student), and Ms Samkelisiwe Pretty Nzimande (Indoni Miss Cultural SA 2018). The motive of the event was to portray cultural diversity and assist students to realise the essence of life through arts and culture.

Cetywayo argued that some Africans have abandoned their cultural customs and practices due to how these are portrayed and perceived.

‘When a baby is born there is a ceremony called imbeleko. This ceremony is conducted to introduce a child to the ancestors, but we no longer conduct such ceremonies because Christianity and media taught us that it is demonic, that is why we are a lost generation because we are not introduced to our ancestors’ said Cetywayo.

Ndlovu reminded those attending the event of the origins of Heritage Day in South Africa. ‘The 24th September was called King Shaka’s Day in honour of the great Zulu King who used his spear to embroider together a diverse collection of tribes and clans into one mighty cultural quilt, but now it is called Heritage Day whereby all tribes in South Africa celebrate their heritage. During this day, we would eat, dance and be merry, proud of the legacy, such as it was, that had been bestowed upon us by Shaka,’ he said.

Nzimande said African culture has been stigmatised and those who practice it labelled uncivilised. She said the time to change this has come.

Umemulo is one of the paramount ceremonies that parents do for their girls when they enter into womanhood especially in the Zulu tribe. This ceremony was strictly done for a young woman who had respected her body until the age of 21, but times have changed. These changes have caused a division within our culture. Modern society, media and environment has caused more girls to shy away from the beauty of such ceremony because it is considered uncool and embarrassing to young girls. It is very hard to believe that as the years go by more girls will not have the privilege to experience ceremonies such as umemulo due to media and the negative impact of institutions of higher learning, concluded Nzimande.

ISEESO is a student organisation, operating within UKZN campuses. It is well known for running career guidance programmes.

Words: Kwanda Ndlovu

Photograph: Baxolele Mabhuda