With a population of 50 million people, 11 official languages and religions including Christianity, indigenous diviner practices, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, modern South Africa is a diverse nation.
From the initial migration of indigenous people into the southern-most region of the African continent and subsequent European colonization, to the apartheid and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the country’s history has been layered in both hatred and hope. Today, with the inspiration and guidance of the late “father of South Africa,” Nelson Mandela, the nation strives to move forward in unity with respect toward all race and ethnicities.
In the timeline below we highlight some of South Africa’s defining and noteworthy moments throughout history.
As South Africa is so diverse, it can be difficult to pinpoint specific national customs that represent the South African cultural identity. Dance, ceremonial rights of passage and respect for the elders have always had a place in indigenous and pre-colonial black South African culture, while many Indian South Africans retain religious customs brought over during migration. Since 1994, however, as the country progresses past apartheid, there are a few things that South Africans come together around.
Cross of Vasco de Gamma at Cape of Good Hope South Africa. Photo Credit: James G. Howes
Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, named by Portugese Explorer António de Saldanhafamous in the 16th Century for its flat top, is a beautiful attraction for residents, hikers and tourists. Photo Credit: Danie van der Merwe
Rock pile at Robben Island started by prisoner Nelson Mandela where he served 18 years. Photo Credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson
The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg South Africa was opened in 2001, and provides visitors with an important look at the experience of Apartheid and what can be learned from it today. Photo Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:NJR_ZA
Voortrekker Monument outside Pretoria, South Africa remembers the descendants of Dutch settlers, mainly farmers, who fled inland away from British colonial rule, and commemorates a victorious battle against the Zulus.
Photo Credit: John Walker
One of the world's most important wildlife reserves, and loved tourist attractions, Kruger National Park in northern South Africa is home to hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles and birds.
Photo Credit: Felix Andrews
Biltong is a common snack in South Africa that has roots in indigenous, colonial as well as modern populations. Before refrigeration came along, drying, curing and seasoning game or beef meat was a simple way to preserve their food food and easily take it on the go. Similar to beef jerky, it can even be added to other dishes.
Photo Credit: Borisgorelik http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Biltongshop.jpg
Sosatie is a lot like the shish kabob. This traditional South African meat dish is typically made up of spicy, marinated lamb or mutton layered onto skewers and grilled.
Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40135642@N00
Melktart is a sweet, custard-filled "milk tart" dessert made with milk, sugar, flour and eggs.
Photo Source: DimiTalen http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:DimiTalen
Sport is one unifying cultural practice that has united South Africa, with most popular sports being rugby, football (also known as soccer here in the United States) and cricket. The country won the 1995 Rugby World Cup on its own soil while Nelson Mandela was president, just a year after apartheid ended. This played a huge symbolic role for the nation. South Africa also hosted the 2010 World Cup — also a moment of national pride as the global community recognized the country’s progress.
The South African cuisine has a varied landscape of influences. Special gatherings of family, friends and communities to barbecue meat-based dishes, or braais, are a beloved tradition among black populations and Afrikaners.
As a nation, South Africans celebrate several national holidays based around the celebration of human rights including “Reconciliation Day” and “Youth Day.” Youth Day observes the lives lost as part of the Soweto uprisings during Apartheid. And while Reconciliation Day, observed December 16, historically marks the victory of white colonial Voortrekkers in 1838 over the Zulu kingdom, since 1994, it is a celebration of the new path forward in respect to the country’s diverse population.
Test your knowledge of South Africa — take our quiz below:
Africa is a very large continent and has been around for a long time…Even if it is just (South) Africa they have many historic artifacts that have been discovered and still need to be discovered
You know, we have watched movies about areas in south africa. One of them quite recently acually, you see, there was a prince.. one of extreme loyalty..and he finally saw something he was searching for.. death. He decides to go on this journey into the budha religion and attempts to find some answers to death and details about it. The point im trying to get at is that we all know how low education is in africa…but we didnt know how low. Its not that well off if some people dont know what death is.