Culture and People of South Africa

If you want to visit a country where the people are just as interesting as the place itself, then South Africa is where you need to be heading! With several local native tribes living within its borders, a huge Indian community, and the descendants of countless white settlers from a mixed bag of European nations, South Africa is literally a melting pot of race, religions and cultures.


Despite a somewhat bloody history that is filled with tales of violence and discord, this plucky little African nation endeavours to find some sort of harmony, doggedly striving to respect and protect each and every one of its citizens, regardless of race or creed - making for an extremely interesting Constitution and an even more unusual attitude of “anything goes”. The most obvious example of this all embracing acceptance is in the fact that there are eleven official languages in South Africa. Don’t be intimidated by this though, since English remains the most spoken language and even rudimentary knowledge of it will get you where you want to be going most of the time.

Of the numerous tribes to be found in this beautiful land, the Xhosa and the Zulu dominate as the two largest and most powerful. The Zulu, once a renowned warring nation that was led by the famous Shaka Zulu, hail from the KwaZulu Natal Province on the eastern coast. There are several reconstructed Zulu villages to visit, providing tourists with a fun yet educational look into African history and tribal living. This province is also the childhood home of current South African leader, President Jacob Zuma. Also found in the provincial capital, Durban, is South Africa’s largest Indian community, investing this province with an extremely colourful and rich cultural diversity. The Xhosa tribe are mainly found in the Eastern Cape and many of South Africa’s most revered leaders and political martyrs have counted this as their home, including the legendary Nelson Mandela. The Xhosa’s rural stronghold is in the old “homelands” of the Transkei and Ciskei, which are wonderful to visit, not only to experience traditional Xhosa living, but also because of the beautiful landscape and unforgettable coastlines found there.

The white population also enjoys a patchwork past, comprising of Dutch Settlers, British colonialists, and a host of other immigrants including French, German and Greek. That said, no one works harder to retain their individual cultural identities than the South African. Using a wide variety of techniques ranging from verbal histories told around the village camp fire, to textbook learning at local schools, South Africans keep their ancestry alive in a thousand different ways but make sure to have fun while doing it.

When it comes to art, the choices are endless. Whether it’s viewing ancient Bushmen cave paintings or attending the theatre in fabulous Cape Town, you will enjoy every minute of what this creative and inspiring nation has to offer.

It is impossible to list all the different people to be found in this vibrant country, but just about any South African will tell you that they are first and foremost, African.

Live it and learn it, mhlobo wam!