People and Culture in South Africa

Honors English 10

Written by: Torian Cook

South Africa has an interesting and rich culture. The population is 41.2 million people, and it grows by 2.2% each year. An important part of South Africa’s cultural history is the many different and diverse tribes that are part of the country. There are 11 official languages of South Africa! The most widely used languages are isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, sePedi, and English, but the other official languages are seSotho, seTswana, Tsonga, siSwati, tshiVenda, and isiNdebele. In fact, South Africa is commonly referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” to describe the countries multiple cultures and its diverse people. The term was actually coined by Desmond TuTu, a South African civil rights activist and former Archbishop. Several different religions are practiced in South Africa, but the large majority of the citizens of South Africa are Christians. In fact, Christians make up 80% of the country’s population. Another part of South African culture is musical. Genres popular in South Africa include gospel, jazz, and rock. Cultural music styles include kwaito, mbube, and kwela. Kwaito is a style similar to house music, mbube is comprised of Zulu vocals, and kwela is a jazzy street music that sometimes uses pennywhistles and incorporates indigenous elements. South African art is largely a combination of traditional South African art and modern artistic styles. Traditional South African art includes tribal masks, statues, and figurines. However, South African art also includes strong elements of Western culture, artistic techniques, and mediums. These two vastly different ideas come together to inspire South African artists today.