Be a Homeland Tourist

Exploring our culture

  • We have 11 official languages and eight other recognised languages.
  • The original people living here were the Khoikhoi and San.
  • Two main migrations took place – that of the Bantu peoples from the north in Africa, and the Europeans from the south.

Bantu migrants comprised of many cultures, including Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Ndebele, Shangaan and others. Historically the most prominent cultures are known for the following:

NGUNI GROUP

ZULU

  • Assegai and shield-bearing warriors, especially under Shaka
  • Ancestral spirits often present in dreams are communicated with by diviners.
  • Beadwork and basketry
  • "Beehive" grass huts in KwaZulu-Natal

XHOSA

  • Complex dress code and headdress reflect social standing like seniority and marital status.
  • Beaded pipes smoked by Xhosa women.
  • Daubing red clay on the body and cosmetic white clay on the face.
  • Known for stick fighting.
  • Famous Xhosas: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu

NDEBELE

  • Skilled women decorate homes in colourful geometric designs inspired by intricate beadwork, both passed down from mother to daughter.
  • Women wear neck rings and striking, coloured traditional blankets.

SHANGAAN

  • From the Kruger National Park area, Mpumalanga
  • Mixed ancestry due to the military general, Soshangane, who escaped from Shaka northwards through Swaziland to Mozambique. His men married local Tsongas and established the Shangaan people.
  • Known for eating Mopani worms, fishing and eating game meat (not common elsewhere in southern Africa).

Sangoma – an important spiritual guide and healer amongst Nguni people of south-eastern Africa. The Sangoma’s medicine gourd is a symbol of the Shangaan culture.

VENDA

  • Smallest cultural group
  • From the Soutpansberg Mountains, Limpopo Province
  • Venda art is influenced by spiritual world beliefs, often featuring water and the important python god on building decoration, woodcarvings and pottery.
  • Drums are an important symbol linked to legend.

SOTHO GROUP comprising SOUTH SOTHO, PEDI & TSWANA (in SA and Lesotho)

SOUTH SOTHO

  • The people of Lesotho (Basotho) are identified with the brightly coloured blankets, worn instead of coats.
  • Traditional art includes beadwork, sewing, pottery, house decoration, and weaving, with functional items like sleeping mats, baskets and beer strainers woven by hand from grass.

The Nguni are grouped in clans, while totems or praise names derived from animals distinguish Sotho speakers. The Sotho people tend to organise their homes into villages, rather than scattered settlements.

Get an insight into the past with...

aha Lesedi Cultural Village

Set in the Cradle of Humankind bushveld, less than one hour’s drive from Joburg and on the way to Sun City, Lesedi Cultural Village is a chance to encounter people of Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Ndebele and Basotho origin. You’ll meet real people (not actors in contrived dress-up), enter their homes and listen to stories about their individual cultures and rituals of daily life.

You can even stay in a traditional beehive hut with all the luxuries and mod cons you could wish for inside, and shop at the craft market. For prices and show details, call 071 507 1447 or visit www.lesedi.com –Kalkheuwel/Broederstroom R512, Lanseria

Basotho Cultural Village

Located in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State, a tour involves interaction with local residents to see and experience their traditional clothing, herbs, architecture, food and day-to-day living. The village lies next to the R712 from Harrismith in the eastern side of the Golden Gate National Park or from Clarens travelling through the park. Call 058 721 0300/083 978 1212 for prices and tour times including museum tours on weekends.

EUROPEANS

  • The Dutch were the most influential immigrants on our shores.
  • Immigrants also included French Huguenots (religious refugees who brought with them the art of winemaking), British and German settlers (especially in the Eastern Cape where they were farmers).
  • The Great Trek: Dutch-speaking farmers escaped British Rule in the Western Cape in the mid 19th century, moving through the Free State.
  • The Dutch language evolved into Afrikaans.
  • Roman-Dutch Law was implemented.
  • Cape Dutch architecture influences are seen in historic buildings, as well as British influences: In 1909 (Sir) Herbert Baker was commissioned to design the Government Building of the Union of South Africa (which was formed on 31 May 1910) in Pretoria.
  • The British brought with them the missionary schooling system and grew the mining industry.
  • Afrikaners governed from 1948 to 1994, at which time the first multi-racial elections took place.

INDIAN, CHINESE and CAPE MALAY

  • These people were brought in as indentured labourers for the sugar industry in KZN, along with slaves from Madagascar, East Africa and the East Indies.
  • Indian South Africans maintain cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs (Christian, Hindu and Muslim) and speak English and Hindi, Telugu, Tamil or Gujarati.
  • The diverse Indian population in South Africa is concentrated in Durban, which has the most substantial Indian population in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • South Africa as a whole also has a substantial Indian population, with over one million people of Indian descent.
  • Experience Indian food and culture at its best at the Oriental Plaza, Fordsburg, Joburg.
  • Experience Chinese food and culture at China Town, Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene, Joburg.
  • Cape Malays maintain their mostly Muslim religion and are known for the brightly coloured homes in the Bo-Kaap District of Cape Town, formerly known as the Malay Quarter.
  • The Auwal Mosque on Dorp Street in Bo-Kaap was established in 1740!

The colourfully painted façades of houses of Bo-Kaap are an expression of freedom by the homeowners as all houses were painted white while on lease previously. The residents fend off developers as the preservation of this central area in Cape Town is imperative to save decades of history, culture and heritage.

Informal & alternative cultures

CAPETONIAN SURF CULTURE

Dominique Nelson-Esch is a Cape Town-based visual designer at Donald & Fish. At the age of four, she was introduced to waterskiing by her parents, both Springbok waterskiers. She sustained multiple serious injuries after a high-speed crash at the World Ski Racing Championships, halting her waterskiing career. After two hip replacements, a traumatic brain injury and badly torn knee ligaments, she continued wakeboarding but was always attracted to surf culture.

Ten years ago, she moved to the coast and fell in love with surfing which gave her a new lease on life! Dominique lives in the quaint town on Melkbosstrand which has a strong, tight surfing community.

"Surf culture" explained...

Cape Town is a surfer's paradise – a real 360-degree, 365 days-a-year ride! You need to have an open mind and be willing to embrace our complex relationship with wind and swell directions to appreciate it all. We have harsh conditions such as gale force winds, icy water, and it gets really hot too, but you can always find a wave in Cape Town. A short drive and you’ve passed 10 or more surf spots – we’re also lucky to have many uncrowded surf spots.

Surfers know each other from the water. Even if you don’t know someone’s name, surfing will bring you together and connect you with people around you. Out there in the sea, we share a common love – a love that creates a community that's strong and protective. Once you’re in, you’re in! Mostly we don’t have a big localism issue… the sea is a playground for all ages and all walks of life.

Capetonian surfers share a common love for healthy food and coffee. It’s a “thing” to have a surf session and then hang out afterwards. Muizenberg and Melkbos are awesome for this. We hang out at The Hart and I Love Melkies – you will always find a surf crew around there!


The perfect surfing day!

On days when the water's crystal clear, the waves are perfect, and it's quiet, it’s a different world – and I need that! Then we get those beautiful evening “glass-offs” – riding waves into the sunset, watching light fade and shimmer on the glassy ocean surface and floating around with the people of the sea.

Capetonians also learn to appreciate surfing in really windy conditions, salt water spraying in your face and where it’s almost impossible to get onto the face of the wave. We love it all!

It’s amazing how the ocean can heal and revive you under any circumstance, no matter how you’re feeling. Once you’ve been in the water, everything seems to be okay!


And the Top Cape Town surf spots are...

  • Elands Bay, further up the West Coast is probably one of the best left-hand point breaks in the world.
  • Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean side of the peninsula has warmer water and a buzzing "Surfers' Corner", which is great for beginners and longboarding.
  • Long Beach in Kommetjie has a consistent shore break and is really beautiful.
  • Kalk Bay has consistent, left-breaking waves.
  • Big Bay is great!
  • Derdesteen on the West Coast towards Melkbos is a super-fun shore break wave.
  • In Melkbos, the go-to wave is Tubewave and when it’s working, locals head to a spot called “Corner”.


The culture of surfing attracts innovators, shapers and icons, and many great surfers have come out of Cape Town. It's culturally rich and a culinary hub – so surfing culture here has a bit of the Mother City attitude sprinkled with creative, artsy individuality that comes with living in this beautiful city.

DURBAN FISHING CULTURE

A word from Steve Ferriera from Durban, pictured with a catch of the day – a diamond skate (which was thrown back in) – and his children, Luke and Kiera.

So, what’s the undercover vibe in the Durban fishing community? There are those that fish for a living and those that fish for relaxation. Then we have a focused group that do it for the sport. Yes, you have read correctly, for the battle between man and fish.

Much has changed in the past 20 years in the angling community – the majority of us now practice "catch and release" on a more regular basis as opposed to "that’s a good size for the pan". But we as fishermen, anglers, surfers, paddlers, divers and "spearo’s" all have one thing in common – the weather! You can always spot a beach man at your braai. They'll tell you about tomorrow's tide, this weekend’s wind, or the predicted swell size. Or last week's ‘’viz’’ at Aliwal Shoal.

All of us have Windguru or Magicseaweed or Windfinder apps on our phones. Always "checking" for when everything "lines up" perfectly to go and spin, spoon, launch, bottom, drift, trawl, pop, drone or simply lob some big baits for some "flatties".

Summer for the competitive angler generally remains our "peak" season from the shore – when flatties and sandies arrive. Boaties can’t wait for winter as dagga and geelbek appear in numbers. Those that prefer pelagics on the boats start catching dorado from November onwards, with February/March peaking. Then, of course, there are the old "coutta"* hands that can’t wait for the larger fish in the April-June timeline. Spots are too many to mention. Whether you're a boatie or shore angler, the spots are numerous: Bardge, Caysons, Containers, SBend, Virginia, Rocket Hut – all in the Durban area.

Then for the shore angling traveller, after three days of NE** and they all take the trek up north to Garlands or Durnford to fish for the big flappers, the diamond rays. All in all, the Durban angling community is as colourful, complicated and dedicated as a 100-metre sprinting sensation. But hey, we welcome the newbies that simply want to chill, cast a line and appreciate the escape from it all!

* King mackerel – Not to be confused with the barracuda, which is another species entirely.

** NE – North-easterly (wind direction), which fishermen in Durban generally refer to as "Eastlies".

JOBURG HIPSTER CULTURE

Look around Joburg and a growing wave of hipster culture cannot be denied. Coloured braids, reading glasses, felt hats, short stovepipe pants – this trendy group is setting new standards in being cool and 'Afropolitan'.

"JOHANNESBURG ...FROM NO-GO TO GOTTA-GO!"

Did you know? CNN has referred to Johannesburg as a ‘hipster hangout’, GQ magazine calls it the ‘cool capital of the southern hemisphere’, and the BBC describes how Johannesburg has changed "from no-go to gotta-go"!

Blog.sa-venues.com tips these as the top-five Joburg Hipster Hoods to hang out in...

1. Maboneng ("Place of Light") – Famous SA artist William Kentridge, has had a studio in this arts hub since 2008.

"...the people who hang out here are of mixed race, diverse ages and mixed income; a space in which people live, work and play." Jonathan Liebmann, gentrification founder

2. Braamfontein – entrepreneurs, young creatives and now Joburg's tech hub

3. Newtown – trendy cultural precinct with the Market Theatre and graffiti tours

4. Melville – Bohemian home of liberals and academics

5. 1Fox Precinct – remodelled warehouses ideal for large-scale events, with a great market, breweries and bars.

Learn an African language

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela said: "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

The best way to cross cultures, break down barriers and share the South African spirit would be if all South Africans spoke an African language!

Learning languages face-to-face can transform our society.

Imbeko is a non-profit initiative that links a group of people – you and some friends at home, or a group of work colleagues at your office – who are keen to learn isiXhosa or isiZulu, with a trained tutor for a 12 or 15-week course. 

The course costs as little as R1 600, with special rates for corporates, and includes an “Everyday Phrases” CD and study notes. Buying lessons is easy: once your group size is confirmed, pay easily online with EFT or credit card. The best thing is you're providing an income for your tutor!

Call 021 791 1017; email info@imbeko.orgwww.imbeko.org