Culture in South Africa

Culture in South Africa - A Brimming Cauldron of Rich Flavors

South Africa is a kaleidoscope of culture; a big warm colorful melting pot of culture that is full of exotic ingredients and tasty surprises, and has since then evolved and developed its rich flavors over the centuries. Get a taste of the South African rainbow of culture right from Zulu to archeology, and with a dollop of Kwaito, Quagga, Jukskei, and Corné.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular features about the culture in South Africa would be that there isn't just one single culture, but instead a whole cornucopia of different cultures that represent every level of an extremely-stratified community. There are of course many hybrid mixtures of these varied cultures, making this nation one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world.

A Brief History

Culture can't get more diverse than it is in South Africa. This is a multiracial community and defining certain distinct subgroups by skin color alone will land you into a great deal of trouble. Those of British and Afrikaner descent most certainly won't be too happy to be mistaken as one another, and there are many different major and minor groupings that come under the traditional black African cultures.

The meddling and mingling in the urban areas of South Africa, together with the intense suppression if the age-old traditional cultures during the years of apartheid, means that the older, more pleasant ways of life are all beginning to fade, but the traditional black cultures are still going strong in many parts of the countryside. Across the different tribes and groups, taboos and marriage customs tend to differ, but one common point that you will notice amongst most of the African traditional cultures is that they are all based on beliefs in ancestral spirits, masculine deities, and supernatural forces. On the whole, polygamy is acceptable and a dowry is generally paid. Cattle also play a very big role in most South African cultures as sacrificial animals and are looked upon as symbols of wealth and riches.

Art and Soul

Looking at the art that has come out of the aboriginal populations of South Africa is probably the only way that we can connect with many of its lost cultures. Cave paintings and rock paintings by the San that date back to nearly 26,000 years ago are just a small example of the art that has come out of this diverse culture. There are many other cases, like the intricately 'coded' beadwork made by the Zulus, which is another good example of the traditional African art that have been created and adapted to survive in different conditions. The Zulu is probably one of the strongest black cultures that survive till date and the Zulu songs along with their massed singing demonstrations are a very powerful reflection of this ancient culture. The Xhosa tribe also has a very strong presence in the cultural stage of South Africa and they are also known as the red people because of the red clothing worn by the adults.

Religion and Diversity

The distinct culture of the Afrikaner's has been developed throughout the years in a very deliberate isolation. They developed their own religion, language, and history. The rural communities of today still revolve around the conservative churches.

Apart from the Afrikaners, most of the white South Africans are of British descent. The British tend to be a lot more urbanized and dominate most of the financial and business sectors today. There is quite a large and extremely influential Jewish population as well, and a very significant Indian minority.

Food

The British can be blamed for the large part of the food that is dished out in South Africa, although it isn't as bad as it may seem, the situation is indeed improving dramatically. Boerewors sausages or steak, over boiled veggies (bland to say the least), and many meat-based preparations are the staple diet. Vegetarians will certainly not have a good time here. Traditional African dishes are generally not served in restaurants, but you'll probably come across places that serve stew belly-fillers and cheap rice in most towns. Brandy and beer are the most popular beverages, and the excellent wines that come out of the South African vineyards are becoming increasingly popular.

Even though South Africa is home to many different cultures, most of these were suppressed during the years of apartheid, when all the daily practices of traditional as well as contemporary cultures were ignored, destroyed, or trivialized. In a society where a person could be imprisoned for just owning a politically incorrect piece of art like a painting, all the serious works of art were forced underground and the galleries and theaters were full of bland works of art.

Music

One of the best prospects of South Africa is that this country is always in the process of reinventing itself, and with such a large amount of the population that is marginalized from the economic mainstream. This is taking place without much input from any of those professional image makers. Music is another part of the culture that aptly displays its diversity and scope. Jazz is a favorite in the larger towns and has diversified and developed into three very distinctive genres, namely Black jazz, township jazz, and Marabi. Famous South African jazz musicians include Chris McGreggor, Abdullah Ibrahim, Jonathan Butler, and Sathima Benjamin among others. Classical music is enjoyed occasionally at concerts throughout the country despite its European nature. Pop and rock and Kwaito are also favorites. Kwaito is a relatively new genre that was created in the 1980s. Many South African musicians have even created sounds that cannot really be confined to any particular genre, but are distinctly South African in nature.

The diverse, vast, and wonderful culture of South Africa can be described only so much in words. To get the actual feel of its wide range, it is best to experience it in person.