South Africa’s culture is one of the most diverse in the world. The country boasts no fewer than eleven official and other recognised languages, and each group has its own vitality and culture. South African tradition is not homogenous but a blend of different traditions and cultures practiced by different ethnic groups in the country. They give the country its unique identity in the world.
Khoikhoi and San were the original inhabitants of present-day South Africa. The KhoiSan were known as the “Bushmen” and were skilled hunters and trackers. Their tracking skills are still necessary for the fight against poachers. They are mainly nomads who live in desert regions of South Africa.
The Zulus are known for their shield-bearing warriors under the leadership of Shaka. They are also famous for their beadworks, grass huts, and basketry. The belief of the Zulu people is based on ancestral spirits which appear mainly in dreams and a supreme being who is rarely involved in the activities of the mortal. Use of magic is common among the Zulus and any tragedy or illness is blamed on the evil spirit.
Xhosa culture is popular for the complex dressing that portrays a person’s social status, position in the society, and whether they are married or not. They also have a strong oral tradition with stories of ancestral heroes. Ancestral worship is a common practice and young men have to undergo a rite of passage. Stick fighting is a common sport among the Xhosa among the young men looking after the cattle. Women mainly tend the crops and look after the home.
Ndebele are known for the skilled women who decorate their houses in beautiful geometric designs. The skills are hereditary and women are tasked with the responsibility of teaching their daughters. The shapes used in the decoration are inspired by their fashioned beadwork. Ndebele women are distinguished from other South African women by the neck rings and the striking traditional blankets.
The culture of the Sotho people differs from those of the Ndebele, Xhosa, and Zulus in several ways, especially on how they organize their villages. The Sotho homes are organized into villages rather than scattered settlements. The villages are further organized into age-sets. Each of the age-set is given a specific responsibility and the age-set graduate from one responsibility to another. They also allow their sons to marry from their kin, especially from the maternal side. Their traditional folk art includes pottery making, beadwork, decoration of houses, and weaving.
The Venda culture and tradition are built on mythical beliefs and water. They believe that lakes and rivers are sacred and that rains are controlled by Python God. Lake Fundudzi is one of the sacred places among the Venda and hosts the annual rites. Traditional healers known as Sangoma are believed to have access to the spirits and ancestors. Venda’s art has also been influenced by the belief in the spirit world. Cattle are considered a sign of wealth while agriculture is the main economic activity.
The younger generation from the above cultures is relocating to the city in search of a “better” life. However, in the city, they tend to abandon their traditions and culture for the western culture and lifestyle. Over time, a unique culture that combines the western culture and the traditional cultures have been developed. This new culture is evident in art, music, and food.