Arts + Culture

8 Perspectives On South Africa's Braai Day Debate

September 24th is Heritage Day in South Africa, also known as National Braai Day. Okayafrica looked at 8 perspectives in the debate.


Today is a day in South Africa filled with good times, national reflection, and, inevitably, debate. Originally celebrated as Shaka Day in KZN, September 24th was reclaimed as Heritage Day for the sake of political compromise between the SA parliament and the IFP. In 2005 a then 25 year-old South African by the name of Jan Scanell (aka Jan Braai) launched a "National Braai Day" campaign. And so it came to be that the 24th of September would be a day of braaing as a means of unified celebration. Below we highlight eight perspectives on the reclaiming of Heritage Day.

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“This is about much more than cooking meat on a fire... In fact, whether you actually cook meat on a fire is utterly unimportant. You can cook vegetables on that fire, or fish, or just stand around the fire. This is about uniting a nation, a nation so divided by its past, but a nation that has everything going for it to be a fantastic place, and we are a fantastic place."

-Jan Scannell

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"The government is trying to give people the space to define for themselves who they are, what their heritage is and where they are going. This was done in an effort to bring dignity to who our people are. It will really be a sad day if braaing one day becomes more important than celebrating our heritage."

-Former ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga

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"But if you're going to require that people take these things seriously, at least let that mean more than reading op-eds and attending boring speeches by aged politicians. So if somebody suggests that I could spend the day having a braai with my nearest and dearest, who am I to argue? Mathole Motshekga is certainly not offering up any helpful ideas on how to celebrate the day."

-Mail & Guardian Columnist Faranaaz Parker (Heritage Day: Braai, and braai proudly!, 2013)

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“It’s a fantastic thing, a very simple idea. Irrespective of your politics, of your culture, of your race, of your whatever, hierdie ding doen ons saam…Here is one thing that can unite us irrespective of all of the things that are trying to tear us apart.”

-Desmond Tutu, patron saint of Braai Day

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"I must admit, I supported Braai Day for the longest time until I thought about it. I still support it, but it can’t be bigger than Heritage Day. We need to step in. To use the words that were used in the struggle, 'Each one, teach one.'"

-Khaya Dlanga (Braai Day is a farce, 2010)

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"Next time you savour the idea of National Braai Day – an adaption of Heritage Day that attempts to unite us in our collective love as a nation of shisanyama in its various formats – bear in mind that globally almost half of the world’s food is thrown away."

-City Press Columnist Kay Sexwale (Food for Thought, 2013)

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"Braai Day is a slap in the face of our efforts to regain who we are. And should make any self respecting South African cringe."

-Simphiwe Dana via twitter

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"Our national heritage is being reduced to a braai, as Heritage Day is taken over by commercial interests that are rebranding it 'national braai day'."

-Muzi Kuzwayo (Friends & Friction: Is our heritage just about burnt meat, 2013)

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Photo by Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez

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