South Africa is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, as demonstrated by its eleven official languages. However, there are also more languages not officially recognized, including the endangered Khoisan and Indian languages, such as Hindi. It is also considered the 8th most ethnically diverse country in the world, according to the Ethnic Fractionalization Index. The population is composed of numerous tribes native to the region, including the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Khoisan and many more, combined with the mixed-race Coloured population, the Afrikaner white population, and a number of Asian groups, mostly made up of Indians.
The oldest known art objects originate from Africa. The oldest of these are two “kits” dating from around 100,000 years ago, which are thought to have been used for the production and storing of ochre. Another artifact includes a bundle snail shells, thought to be around 75,000 years old and used as a necklace. There are also numerous cave paintings of eland and other animals dating around ten to thirty-thousand years old, created by the Khoisan and Bantu peoples.
Since the nineteenth century modern art is often locally influenced from the various towns and even mines throughout South Africa. Contemporary artists are well versed in technologically based mediums, such as photography, animation, and film. Marlene Dumas is South Africa’s most famous painter, most famous for her portraits. She currently lives in Amsterdam. Other famous artists include filmmaker William Kentridge and photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa.
Alan Paton became one of the most famous novelists of the twentieth century with his landmark novel Cry the Beloved Country, a novel of social protest against the structures that would come to be called apartheid. Paton himself was an anti-apartheid activist who died in 1988, less than a decade before the apartheid era came to an end. Famous fantasy novelist JRR Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1897, though he only lived there for a few months as an infant. South Africa also has a rich tradition of oral poetry, stemming from the tribes in the region. Several poets, such as Zakes Mda and Mongane Wally Serote have also rose to prominence and are regularly taught in schools.
Western music was first taught in South Africa by Christian missionaries, which created a unique genre of South African gospel music. It maintained a distinctly South African flavor, however, while incorporating spiritual Western themes. Over the years music in South Africa has evolved, being influenced by, while simultaneously influencing, Western music. The best example of this is Paul Simon’s Graceland. In 1986 Paul Simon, in defiance of the cultural embargo on South Africa due to apartheid, collaborated with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on his landmark album. Aside from bringing South African music and musicians to the attention of Western consumers, the collaboration also demonstrates the influence South African musicians have had on Western popular music.
Cuisine in South Africa can, like many things, be broken up into two kinds: the traditional, pre-colonial cuisine and colonial-nfluenced cuisine.
The Pre-colonial diet mainly consisted of cooked grains, fermented milk, and roasted or stewed meats. Sorghum used to be the primary grain, but at some point it was replaced with maize. There is debate about whether maize, a Central American crop, was introduced by colonists or native Africans returning from the slave trade. Sheep, goat, cattle, and native game are the most commonly used meats and they are all central to the diet of South Africans; vegetarianism is often perplexing to South Africans. Pumpkins are a traditionally used vegetable, as there are many varieties of pumpkin native to South Africa.
A number of cuisines were brought to South Africa due to colonialism. Cape Dutch is a style of cooking that makes frequent use of nutmeg, allspice, and chili peppers. Due to the importation of Indian workers in the nineteenth century, Indian cuisine is incredibly popular as well. Curried dishes made with lemon and chutneys are common. Bunny chow, a hollowed out loaf of bread filled wiht curry, is a popular fast food dish that originates with the South African Indian population.
Interestingly, South Africa has also developed into one of the worlds leading wine producers, producing the ninth most wine in the world. Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town, is particularly known for its delicious wine and long history. The Constantia vineyard was first established in 1659, though Stellenbosch, the country’s second oldest winery, has surpassed it in terms of production.