As far as cultures of the world go, the South African Culture is one of the richest and most appreciated in the world – a culture whose appreciation is enhanced by its history. A country which has overcome so much and is still standing tall, considered among the top African economies, its culturally rich existence is just a tip of the iceberg.
Rich in music, dance, wine, language, crafts and literature – an exploration in the culture of South Africa is nothing short of exciting. Known for its profound diversity, culturally and ethnically, its famous tribes include Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, Ndebele, Tsonga and Swati.
South African Culture – The Beginning
The South African Culture have survived for as long as it has because of the considerable amount inhabitants in the rural areas. However, with a sizeable number of South Africans becoming overwhelmingly westernized, as with most parts of the Africa, the thriving of cultures in South Africa has seen a decline to the point that there are quite a number of languages considered as endangered as most of South Africans speak either English or Afrikaans, so it is admirable that certain groups within the country make the effort to keep these languages alive the frequent use and recurrent promotion.
A Place In The World’s History
South Africa has a prominent place in the world’s history as the Oldest Art objects in the world were discovered in South Africa, making South Africa one of the cradles of humanity. The small drilled snail shells are speculated to serve no other function than having been worn on a string necklace. Numerous forms of arts from different eras over the country’s history have persisted from cave paintings to canvas paintings to music to literature and to sculptures. With works by Zanele Muholi, Marlene Dumas, David Goldblatt, William Kentridge and many others being featured in International art circles, it is apparent that till this day, South Africa’s vibrant art scene and collective contributes to the culture that generations many years down the line will appreciate.
South African Customs
While many customs and traditions in South Africa from place to place and tribe to tribe but some customs transcend the boundaries of tribes and location. For example, it is typically considered polite to bring chocolate, flowers or wine when visiting a South African home for the first time. As with most homes in the world, it is considered rude to arrive late when invited to dinner; also, always get in touch with the host or hostess if you tend to bring a dish to dinner.
Some customs, traditions and rites are however particular to certain tribes; for example, in Zulu culture, in a marriage, the groom is required to offer a gift (usually cattle), referred to as Lobola, to the bride’s family. Once the Lobola is as accepted, the marriage is deemed official under Zulu Law.
A huge part of Zulu culture is the reverence they have for their ancestors; this plays a focus role on the spiritual lives of most members of the tribe. They believe the ancestors can influence life on earth and those who honor their forefathers receive protection from evil.
In the Xhosa culture, diviners known as ‘amaggirha’ play a fundamental role. Diviners are mostly women who have been trained for five years. The Xhosas also possess a strong ‘oral tradition’, meaning they pass on stories about their history, culture, heroes and ancestors from generation to generation through stories and folktales.
South African Traditional Clothing
As expected, the traditional South African costumes vary from culture to culture, tribe to tribe. The Zulus traditional attire emanates the hunter-gatherer aspect of their culture. While the men usually wear loincloth made from goatskin, their entire outfit tends to be colorful and bright, especially for the women.
South African Traditional dresses differ among the women too, the Zulu women’s tradition attire include leather skirts called isidwaba and bodies adorned with beads. They also favor inkehli – traditional head covering that is used to signify different stages in life. For the Xhosa tribe, according to culture, the women tend to go shirtless, to signify they are looking for a husband; heavy beadwork is also a dominant part of their attire.
The Venda tribe is known for their distinctive ceremonies, including the rainmaking dance for which the male rain dance wears a feathered headdress, armbands and a skirt made of grass while the women wear animal skins and feathers in their hair.
However, dressing in urban towns is completely different as they tend to favor latest worldwide fashion trends and are fashion conscious. Mostly people tend to dress for the weather which varies from time to time because of location and time of the year.