SomaliPress.com

Culture of South Africa

Blending Western technology with indigenous technology, Western traditions with African and Asian traditions, South Africa is a study in contrasts. It also provides lessons in how cultures can sometimes blend, sometimes collide: for example, within a short distance of one another can be found the villas of South Africa's white elite and the tar-paper shacks of black day labourers, office buildings with the most sophisticated electronic wiring and one-room houses that lack electricity.


A great gulf still exists between the white minority and the black majority in matters of education and economic opportunity.

Daily life is better for most of its people, and culture and the arts, which sometimes were forced into exile, are flourishing in the free climate of the postapartheid era.

As they are everywhere in the world, patterns of daily life in South Africa are conditioned by social class, ethnicity, religion, and residence: the life of a black diamond miner in Limpopo province is much different from that of an Indian shopkeeper in Durban, an Afrikaner office worker in Johannesburg, or a teacher of English extraction in Cape Town.

As the government struggles to expand the economy in order to provide equally for all citizens, great disparities continue to exist. Yet, all these people are likely to enjoy much the same pleasures: the company of family and friends, films from the studios of Johannesburg and Hollywood alike, music and dance, and visits to South Africa's magnificent national parks and scenic landscapes.

The great mixture of cultures makes for a wide variety of food choices in the country, from the traditional food of various cultures to the cosmopolitan cuisine that is available in many large cities throughout the world.

A century and a half of white domination in most of the country (more than three centuries in the Western Cape) and the great extent of its ties to the global market economy have profoundly transformed black culture in South Africa. The strongest links to traditional societies have been through the many languages embodying the country's cultural diversity, whose nuances of idiom and sensibility carry over into the arts.

Decorated houses, Drakensberg MountainsIt may be argued that there is no "single" culture in South Africa because of its ethnic diversity. Today, the diversity in foods from many cultures is enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine. In addition to food, music and dance feature prominently.

There is great diversity in music from South Africa. Many black musicians who sang in Afrikaans or English during apartheid have since begun to sing in traditional African languages, and have developed a unique style called Kwaito. Crossover artists such as Johnny Clegg and his bands Juluka and Savuka have enjoyed various success underground, publicly, and abroad.

The country's black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives. It is among these people, however, that cultural traditions survive most strongly; as blacks have become increasingly urbanised and westernised, aspects of traditional culture have declined.

Urban blacks usually speak English or Afrikaans in addition to their native tongue. There are smaller but still significant groups of speakers of Khoisan languages which are not included in the eleven official languages, but are one of the eight other officially recognised languages.

There are small groups of speakers of endangered languages, most of which are from the Khoi-San family, that receive no official status; however, some groups within South Africa are attempting to promote their use and revival.

The middle class lifestyle, predominantly of the white minority but with growing numbers of Black, Coloured and Indian people, is similar in many respects to that of people found in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. Members of the middle class often study and work abroad for greater exposure to the world's markets.

Asians, predominantly of Indian origin, preserve their own cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs, being either Christian, Hindu or Sunni Muslim and speaking English, with Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu, Tamil or Gujarati being spoken less frequently, but the majority of Indians being able to understand their mother tongue. The first Indians arrived on the famous Truro ship as indentured labourers in Natal to work the Sugar Cane Fields. There is a much smaller Chinese community in South Africa, although its numbers have increased due to immigration from Republic of China (Taiwan).

South Africa has also had a large influence in the Scouting movement. The experiences of Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting) during his time in South Africa as a military officer in the 1890s, the South African Scout Association was one of the first youth organisations to open its doors to youth and adults of all races in South Africa.

Traditional art forms such as dancing and textile weaving are used as vehicles of ethnic identity and are carefully preserved, while modern art forms from painting to literature have flourished in the years since the end of apartheid. Still, much of this has taken place through private initiatives because major institutional support for culture has been largely abandoned, especially for cultural projects perceived as elitist or European in orientation; the closing of the National Symphony Orchestra in 2000 is one such example.

Know more -

Last Updated on Wednesday 29th December 2010