No more Braai Day

2014-09-28 15:00

Before I delve into why I don’t want to braai any more, let me start with why I should be.

I was born to freedom fighter parents of Xhosa and Zulu lineage. Both have bloodlines that include Khoisan, Scottish, Sotho and Ndebele. Their ancestors and their respective relatives include people who have travelled far and wide on the continent or from the northern hemisphere.

They counted among their relatives warriors, royalty, vagabonds, scholars, amaqaba, pious men of the cloth, sangomas, doctors, men who were present when the ANC was founded, drunkards and teetotallers.

They included brave men and women who fought against the occupation of their land, and the spineless and self-indulgent who collaborated in their oppression.

There were those who ate maize, bread and greens alone, and those who slaughtered and feasted every weekend.

To reduce all of this to meat on the braai is shallow and offensive. And, like a woman who knows her worth and demands that a man not treat her like a piece of meat, I’m a black who knows the worth of my heritage.

I demand that it not be surreptitiously taken away from me?–?especially not in the name of “reconciliation or nation building”.

These are the words that Jan Scannell, the founder of National Braai Day, throws around. I met him and we spoke about this initiative.

He felt our collective heritage was best represented by a singular act that many of us partake in?– braaiing.

But our collective heritage that includes an unprecedented Nobel peace prize laureate cannot be captured by that single act any more than it can be captured by any other single act that many of us partake in?–?drinking, talking, gossiping, fornicating, tweeting (you get the point).

Although Scannell sort of gets it, he is reticent about letting a decade of his life count for naught, meaning that if he lets National Braai Day go, he will lose 10 years of his life. So rather erase thousands of years of tradition and millions of years since Australopithecus sediba lived.

This sort of arrogance is borne of the privilege of his race and class.

He also ignores the stories and lessons from the struggles of Afrikaners who sat in concentration camps, and were treated as subhuman and then rose to a triumphant position of economic dominance within 70 years. Rather settle for the triumph of gluttony.

It is not going to help reconciliation or nation building for every marketer to speak about National Braai Day at the expense of the opportunity for young and old to discover how Heritage Day could best be celebrated.

It is a reminder of a time when people’s names were recorded erroneously by government officials because they couldn’t be bothered to ask how they were spelt.

It recalls a time when some bright spark decided that the language for learning for all students regardless of what they had learnt the year before should be Afrikaans, so that Afrikaner managers wouldn’t struggle to explain themselves on the factory floor or a mine shaft.

To this end, I and anyone else who is gatvol with this whitewashing of our essence should put a stake in the ground and declare: “No more.” No more Braai Day.

Here’s what we’re going to do. We will petition the department of arts and culture to institute a levy on all the retailers that advertise any specials with the words ‘Braai Day’ on it. Call it a heritage levy.

If store owners must make money out of burning our society’s historical, cultural and social identities, then they might as well pay it back to society.

And since the biggest proponents of this day are the retailers, we will demonstrate in their stores in a most dramatic fashion.

We will surreptitiously place rancid meat in and among the wares they’re so proud of. You know what they say about rotten apples; try rotten meat.

We will petition our CEOs so that our companies do not participate and we’ll show them why with flash mobs of traditional dances outside their annual general meetings.

At those meetings we, who would have bought shares, will exercise our voting powers. It will be a shame for an executive to lose a good post just because they jumped on a silly fad.

And lastly, we’re going to offer options.

We will organise festivals where different cultures will be celebrated, reading rooms where different languages will be read to our children, cookouts where different foods will be shared between different people, fashion shows where different traditional attire will be remixed and shown off.

There will be traditional dance-offs, singing competitions in the different styles and languages of our land and fires around which different stories of our respective pasts will be told.

We might decide to put some meat on the flame, but we will not call our day after it. It is our day after all.

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