In my two-and-a-half years living in Asia, I met a lot of people who couldn’t believe that I was South African. Some thought I hadn’t quite mastered the language and repeated the question. Others refused point blank to accept it, even when I showed them my passport. “Where were you born?” they asked, followed by, “Well, where were your parents born? And your grandparents?” When I explained that at some point my ancestors probably lived in the Netherlands, France and Ireland, they were satisfied. “Ah, well then, you’re Dutch. Or French. Or Irish.”
Except, I’m not. But I learned not to argue, or to point out that my French is limited to two now-forgotten years of high school classes and I can’t speak Dutch at all. Once my heritage was decided, they mentioned how I looked French or Dutch or Irish, and on one occasion, Turkish. Sometimes they would ask me about life in “my” country, which brought us back to the beginning of the cycle of disbelief.
I am a South African. Not a white South African or an English-speaking South African or a Dutch/French/Irish South African. Just South African.
My husband is coloured. In his family tree there are Dutch, French, Khoisan and Indian ancestors. Our daughters – our beautiful rainbow children – have such a rich heritage in their bloodlines. They have Mommy’s blue eyes, and Daddy’s long legs and curls. I see my brother-in-law’s expression in Emmy’s face. I see my husband’s frown in Angie’s. Emmy has her Oupa’s ears and her Grampa’s love of running. Angie likes to make up stories like Mommy does.
It’s important to know where you come from, especially in a country like ours where Jacques and I wouldn’t have been allowed to marry or have children just 20 years ago. More important, however, is to know where you’re going, and this is why our spiritual heritage is such a focus in our family.
South Africa had a lot of brave people who fought hard to end apartheid and create a free South Africa. As a country, we should be proud of how far we have come. But Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate reward.
Even if we don’t read the Bible with the girls every day, we talk about the people in the Bible, we tell them about Jesus, we pray together, and we talk about how one day we’ll be in heaven with all the people who are part of God’s family.
So, I suppose I am not just South African. I am a Christian first, and South African second. It is not my DNA that tells me who I am; it is my faith in my Saviour.
How do you celebrate Heritage Day?