Though South Africa may be most famous as the home of renowned president, activist, and spiritual leader Nelson Mandela, it nonetheless has an ancient, rich history dating back hundreds of thousands of years.
Throughout the country’s history the land has been home to incredibly diverse people and cultures, reflected in the contemporary use of eleven official languages. However, since the colonial and post-colonial eras, this diversity has also been a source of internal strife and tension.
South Africa was called home by the descendants of the Bantu people before European colonization, and the first Dutch settlement in the area was founded in the mid seventeenth century near Table Bay. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century, with the discovery of gold and diamonds in the region, that the region became a coveted colonial prize for European powers. The South Africa Act of 1909 united four colonial regions into unified South African colony. This region became a self-governed state within the United Kingdom in 1934 before gaining full independence in 1961.
From 1961 until the 90s, South African was dominated by the white Afrikaner minority and infamous for the segregationist legislation known as apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning separateness. However, after decades of armed struggle against the apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela and the ANC were victorious in the South Africa’s first fully democratic election in 1994.