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6 books to read to celebrate Heritage Month

In commemoration of Heritage Month, we’ve curated a must-read list of classic and relevant books exploring the intersections of culture and heritage of South Africa through various lenses. With this selection of books, we reflect on our diverse identities, histories and lived realities indicative of the bond we share with our past, present and future.

Cry, the Beloved Country


First published in 1948, this novel is a timeless classic. Renowned late author Alan Paton narrates the tale of a South African preacher searching for his son who’s committed a crime in Joburg. He contextualises and contests against the structures of the society that gave rise to apartheid, a system embedded in our nation’s history.

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Don’t upset ooMalume


In her new book, Hombakazi Mercy Nqandeka explores the essence of Xhosa heritage and culture, hoping to tap into city dwellers’ yearning to reconnect with their roots in one of the largest Nguni tribes. It offers an in-depth understanding of rural life, what it means to exist in those spaces and the stories and lessons passed down through generations.

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Lauretta Ngcobo: Writing as the Practice of Freedom (Voices of Liberation Series)


Feminist literary scholar and creative writer Barbara Boswell offers an insightful analysis of the significant work of activist and essayist Lauretta Ngcobo. This book immerses you in Lauretta’s deft illustrations of how Africans exist and have been positioned by oppressive systems, adversely affecting their children’s lives and their own. Barbara maps Lauretta’s life as well as some of her key texts. She divides her book into three broad categories: Her life, voice and legacy, with stories relevant to the modern-day South African woman.

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Khamr: The Makings of a Waterslams


The author narrates their experiences of living with an alcoholic father whilst belonging to a strict Muslim community. Jamil offers a detailed account of their childhood and adulthood alongside the intersections of living in a middle-class home in a coloured community in Cape Town.

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These are the things that sit with us


This book exposes readers to the undocumented everyday experiences that shaped the lives of ordinary South Africans. It’s a record of things that ‘sit’ within all of us and creates a space for a conversation, particularly about South Africa’s history and what it means to engage with different perspectives within the context of our history. These stories are beautifully told in local languages to stimulate conversation amongst us across languages and enable us to connect in a manner that seeks mutual understanding about the complicated aspects of our shared history and its continuing impact on the lives of individuals and communities.

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Famous for exploring Zulu music, Johnny Clegg writes about his life story. The son of an unconventional mother and grandson of Jewish immigrants, he realised you can choose your identity, and a home is a place you can leave and return to as surely as the seasons change. This book serves as a cross-cultural celebration of music, language, storytelling, dance and song that stirred the hearts of millions worldwide.

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