An Overview of the South African Culture

south african culture

It is a culture that is boundless, vibrant, creative, eclectic, and infinitely respectful of its vast array of different ethnicities, religions, and skin colors. You are probably familiar with some of these things; perhaps you even participate in some or all of them. The point I am trying to make is that you don’t have to participate in all of them, or even any of them, to appreciate what South African culture has to offer you.

You may have heard that most people in Africa speak Swahili, which is a language primarily spoken by tribal ethnic groups. This may be true, but the truth is there are many other languages spoken throughout the rest of the country, which are also very important cultural influences. If you take a look at the history of South African politics for a moment, you will find that the creation of the Afrikaans language, for example, was an attempt to inscribe the language of the indigenous Masai tribesmen into the writing system of the Dutch. In this way, the Masai and the Dutch were able to maintain their cultures despite the advent of mass communication. While the Dutch language may not be considered the first language in South Africa, it certainly helped to shape it.

Traditional Ways Of Doing Things

A young boy sitting on a bench

Another important aspect of South African culture involves the preservation of traditional ways of doing things, both through religion and through the social order established by indigenous cultures. This is perhaps one of the most intangible aspects of South African life. For example, most communities still adhere to the customary exchange of children as part of the ritual blessing process. Many people in rural areas still live in small farming and fishing villages, relying on this system of gifting children to relatives. Even the urban areas of Cape Town, which has experienced significant urban development, continue to practice gifting children among family and friends.

A third, but by no means the least, facet of the south African culture is evident in the art and craft of that country. The art that is created in Africa is truly unique. There are many different tribes, ethnic groups, tribes and members who all possess their own distinctive style of jewelry making, ceramics and other artwork. This is in part due to differences in gender roles within those groups. While some tribes emphasize the role of the woman, others show more emphasis on the men.

Language And Its Various Cultural Forms

A man sitting on a sidewalk

The fourth and final facet of South African culture is seen in its language and its various cultural forms. In rural communities, there is a great emphasis on speaking and communicating through the spoken language, known as Swahili. This is a language that has been shaped by the history of the area and the way that its people have communicated over time. In cities like Cape Town, there are many differences in the languages that are used. Some of the most commonly used languages include Bantu, English and Maori.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing facets of the south African culture and its people is found in the art and history of jewelry making. This can be seen in both the form of tools and the style of jewelry being made. Many modern artists are beginning to tap into this wealth of talent in order to present the world with beautiful and meaningful jewelry. One of the most common forms of jewelry being crafted right now is the bantu. Bantus are South African tribal adornments that are made from colored glass and metal.

New Forms Being Discovered On A Daily Basis

It is very interesting to note that the art of South African culture continues to evolve even today with new forms being discovered on a daily basis. There is a great amount of pride that can be taken in knowing that a valuable piece of jewelry such as a bantu has been created out of the creativity of the local people. In many cultures throughout the world, especially those that are native to Africa, there is great pride in knowing that you are wearing an item that was created by your own tribe. 

However, while this is very true, it must also be noted that the beauty of an individual item of jewelry is only part of what makes it unique. Because of the efforts of the local people to capture the unique aspects of their surroundings, the designs and colors that are found within the jewelry are also very important.


In conclusion, we see that there are many different aspects of South African culture and how it has developed through the years. One of the most important areas is the level of communication styles that are used. No matter where one goes within the country or abroad, it can still be quickly recognized when two people are talking to one another. This is because of the local language that has been incorporated into the South African cultural DNA. In this way, we can see that the evolution of South African culture has been a steady one despite changing borders and changing times.

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