Heralded and punctuated by torrential rains that drenched large parts of Gauteng – which signifies a good omen in African culture – the third edition of Ancestors Day was celebrated with festivities, revelry and a poignant spiritual reawakening in Muldersdrift north of Johannesburg, in a partnership between Castle Milk Stout, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa), and the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders.

Castle Milk Stout, in partnership with organised leadership of traditional leaders, has championed the campaign to lobby the government to officially recognise Ancestors Day, which is commemorated on 8 May, and to accord it similar stature with other religious holidays on the national calendar.

The festivities were marked by the captivating and soothing live music from Afro-pop sensation Berita and the hypnotic beats by Phila, the rhythmic poetry and enthralling lecture on African spirituality by Bishop Joshua Maphonga, and enchanting intonations from traditional leaders in attendance.

The third edition of Ancestors Day, which was marked under the hashtags #AncestorsDay and #ICarryTheirNames, was preceded by the inaugural commemoration of the day in 2021, and last year.

Said Khwezi Vika, Castle Milk Stout marketing manager: “As Castle Milk Stout, one of our primary objectives is to inspire Africans to rediscover and embrace their ancestry, identity and way of life. The campaign for the official realisation of Ancestors Day stems from our quest for self-realisation and affirmation, and a celebration and acknowledgement of those who came before us.”

Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi, one of the country’s foremost spiritualists and traditional leaders, said it is remiss that Africans in South Africa, which is home to the Cradle of Humankind, have to validate the commemoration of Ancestors Day.

“The essence of being African is understanding the role that ancestors play in our lives. Ancestors Day is not exclusive to a certain group of people, or those practising a particular traditional belief system. In as much as one cannot celebrate Christmas if they are not Christians, Ramadan if they are not Muslims or Diwali if they are not practising Hindus, Ancestors Day is underpinned by the conviction that all religions are anchored in ancestry because they speak of those who lived before us and had a heightened relationship with divinity. So Ancestors Day is a day of unity, of oneness. Africa is a Cradle of Humankind, and therefore we cannot surpass the African identities and ethos that anchor us.”

Ndlanzi’s sentiments were echoed by Zolani Mkiva, secretary-general of Contralesa: “Ancestors Day is an instrument that reunites our people with their spirituality, reminds them to celebrate the sacrifices of those who came before them, and instils them with a newfound sense of pride in their identity. Our relationship with those who preceded us is not only biological but is deeply spiritual as well.”

Mkiva acknowledged that the process to get Ancestors Day officially recognised will be a long and tedious one, due to the painstaking process entailed in getting new legislation enacted through parliament.

“Over the past three years, we have done amazing groundwork to lobby our people and all relevant stakeholders to rally behind this lofty initiative. We cultivated the field and created platforms that encouraged people to openly and frankly discuss controversial yet important conversation in a programme called Black Conversations. We are encouraged by the progress we are making in preserving African culture and spirituality, and of the partnerships we have forged with like-minded partners to raise awareness about Ancestors Day,” Vika concluded.

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