Preservation of our common cultural heritage

Breathtaking views from Cape Point.

We have untold challenges, uncounted issues surrounding how we collectively view and understand our heritage. On so many levels. The debates are endless, heated and seem mostly insurmountable.

Social justice warriors, snowflakes, learned academics, the old struggle stalwarts, the blatantly ill- or (un) informed – and everyone on the middle road – all sharing opinions and points of view which collide, crash and burn with pneumatic regularity.

There are the “born-frees”, desperately trying to live up to the expectations of those who endured so much, to provide them with a freedom some take for granted, cheek by jowl with those their own age who don’t care one whit for the angst or actions of those, just a generation or two ago. Kin or not.

There’s a whole lot of history – and most of its official recordings are challenged. It is complex. It’s a little bit wild. It is a little bit crowded. And it’s all very taxing. So thank all that is good, for the opportunity to visit the wide, calm spaces of the Cape Point National Park during Heritage Month, SANParks week.

A free visit – for all South Africans.

CEO of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni, says along with protecting South Africa’s natural heritage, the latest objective of South African National Parks involves the preservation of cultural heritage resources relevant to living communities.

He cites the Khomani Cultural Landscape being named a World Heritage Site as being an example of this. Of course, we all know that the Cape Floral Region which includes Table Mountain, Bontebok, Agulhas and parts of the Garden Route, are a World Heritage Site directly managed by SANParks. “The onus is on all of us today to ensure that our cultural heritage is sustained, protected and embraced,” he said.

And so it is, at the Cape Point entrance – we receive a gracious welcome and wave through the big gates. And the ensuing sense of all else falling away, as the road – this one road we all use – wends its way through the almost unimaginable – but real – beauty of this country we share. Up to the centre, the lighthouse, in mild sunshine. And about three quarters of the way to the top, the clouds descended and we couldn’t see beyond our noses. How symbolic, I thought. But we persevered, with a handful of hardy European tourists. And we reached the uppermost viewpoint, the lighthouse, drenched – with absolutely no view in any direction, but with the absolute knowledge that there is an incredible view. That this is a magnificent place.

Also, symbolic. We chose to walk back down rather than take the funicular, which didn’t look like any fun was being had. None of the visitors returned my happy wave. Instead they peered down their noses at this crazy South African gambolling about in the pouring rain. Another symbolic moment – for all our differences – we South Africans do know how to take punches on the chin, and how to weather dramatic changes. So we headed merrily down the slope, to our misted up car in which we had snacks and tea, and when the rains cleared we spent the rest of the time enjoying the breathtaking natural environment among tourists (even the grumpy ones) and proud fellow South Africans, all lit with the wonder of what we share; in our country and at this incredible site in the Cape. And that was the whole point.