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By Maditshaba Mafora

Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that is inherited from past generations. Not all legacies of past generations are “heritage”, rather heritage is a product of selection by society. Wikipedia

My mother passed on when I was seven years old and I can only remember a few life lessons from her, as a result I had my grandmother to glean from. According to Wikipedia, my selection of the legacy that I now teach my own children.

As a Child I would visit my grandparents during school holidays, these were the best days of my young life. And the end of the visit would always be dreaded except when my grandmother would tell my grandfather to bring out “my treasure”. This was our little tradition every time I left, we would say our farewell, teary eyed-breaking hearts; and then the cold drink and beer cans filled with coins and R50 notes folded to close the openings of the cans so that no coin would be lost; would be given to me. Along with a simple instruction: to go and deposit the loot in my “Junior Bob” savings account.

My granny (Koko in Setswana) ran an informal tuck shop at a primary school opposite her home, every school morning she would have my grandad (Rrakgolo in Setswana) push her wheelbarrow with a small bench to sit on and a make-shift table for her display as well as an umbrella and a bottle of water to set up her business. Then Rrakgolo would do a second trip for the stockpile of goodies, while Koko prepared her storefront on the outside of the school fence. And that is how she supplemented their meagre pension income.

At the end of everyday she would do a cash count and all the coins under 50 cents (that is 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c and 20c) would be put into the cans Rrakgolo would have collected and washed, ready for my treasure. Every business day they would do this, diligently so. Because I lived in the Transvaal and my grandparents lived in Bophuthatswana, the school holidays were not always congruent; and often had the opportunity to play shop with Koko while my cousins attended school.

From these treasured memories, I realise that the legacy my mother passed on to me in the 2 years leading to her passing was being reiterated by the sources of her wisdom; her parents. Except she had taught me a different lesson. She would give me money, often to bribe me to stay behind when she took my older sister (who was 10 years my senior) shopping or on an adult outing. With this money I could buy anything I want; my wish was always junk food. But if she came back and I hadn’t spent any of it, she would double it.

I didn’t understand the logic at the time but when my grandparents started teaching me to save, the only reason I obeyed their instruction was because I thought saving all my money would cause it to double as it had with my own mother. This might seem like a simple lesson but therein lies the mystery of compounding.

Koko passed on in Heritage month, and this is my time of celebrating her wisdom and the legacy she left with me; which I proudly pass to my two daughters.

Among our everyday decisions are life lessons we pass on to the next generation, a pool for their selection. Heritage is a choice!

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