What heritage means to Salt River


Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Nadia Agherdien  writes

There are many communities that have been decimated either through a process of acculturation, or planned destruction of the values, traditions and cultures of peoples across the world. In many instances no trace is left of communities who have been absorbed in the surrounding setting by legislation, by denying opportunities to many who have a particular historical or religious context or where, through sheer racist approach, as to how the “other” should be dealt with. Africa is a great example of this model; of a continent conquered and colonised by mainly European nations.

However, this has transpired in many other regions of the world – even in so-called egalitarian or secular states where particularly the dominant economic tribe unashamedly practiced rank discrimination. The abuse and genocide of children by the Catholic Church in its quest to de-heathenise children for long-term absorption into the mainstream western model has been recently exposed.

And so nations, societies and communities were forced to lose their identities by straight-jacketing them into more acceptable, predominantly white Eurocentric cultures. Millions lost their historical hinterland, shed their values and adopted a more prudent economic approach to become more acceptable and adaptable in a system designed to dehumanise peoples and to develop automatons ready for the capitalist factories.

This was the reality faced by millions across the globe. The development of faceless, nameless and barren communities who have no historical anchor that predates their existence has been the disastrous outcome of the colonial project.

The fear is that if communities do not value their own heritage, whether tangible or intangible, the slide into cultures foreign to the original will be a victory for engineered outcome desired by imperialist forces.

In a small way, this is the desire of the Salt River Heritage Society(SRHS). An attempt to capture, record, collate and restore valuable oral and physical traditions that would otherwise be lost to generations to come.

It is to restore dignity more than only telling the stories of the schools, churches, mosques, temples and sports institutions. It is about forcing the true narrative into a media space that still presupposes, and peddles, the falsity that Euro-centricity is still the dominant tradition and that the value system of every other culture, heritage and nuance is secondary. This therefore is the recordal of the contribution of individuals who shaped not only principles of the Salt River community but also created the spaces for others to enjoy their true values without fear. Exposing the true nature of a multi-cultured people to light for all to see and appreciate is the end game.

It is, after all, much more than reminiscing. It is about proactivity in calling for a restoration and preservation of the heritage, cultures and traditions and indeed the dignity of people across the nation –not limited to Salt River. The SRHS is but a channel that was conceived as a lead for others to participate in and spread so that the true nature of humanity is established and then to further build upon.


*Nadia Agherdien is member of the Salt River Heritage Society


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