South African Coloured Heritage
South African Coloured heritage is inextricably bound-up with the arrival of Europeans in southern Africa. The San and Khoi-Khoi, collectively referred to as the Khoisan, encountered white colonists in significant numbers with the establishment of the first permanent European settlement at the Cape Peninsula in 1652, and again in the late 18th and early 19th Century, as colonists began to migrate away from the Cape.
The Cape's European merchants, soldiers, and farmers wiped out, drove off, or enslaved the indigenous population. Miscegenation (often not consenting) between settlers and the Khoisan was common in the early Cape. With the importation of slaves from India, Indonesia, Ceylon, and Malaysia, combined with southern and East Africans that drifted through the early colony, the heterogeneity of the Coloured people intensified. Genetic studies suggest that the Coloured people of South Africa have among the highest levels of mixed ancestry in the world.
In the South African context, Coloured culture is not easy to define, as it refers to all people artificially categorised in the Population Registration Act No. 30 of 1950, as non-white, black, or Asian under racial classifications during apartheid. Not withstanding the country's racial policies post 1994, the historical ethnonym “Coloured” has persisted.
Historically, the term Coloured often alludes to South Africans of mixed cultural and racial heritage, and specifically to their origin in, and around the city of Cape Town. Though prevalent in the Western and Northern Cape provinces, sizeable Coloured communities occur across South Africa. Among urban ‘Cape’ Coloureds, the Cape Malays (who are typically Muslims) are distinct, and they have made an indelible mark on South Africa’s culinary heritage through their cuisine.
South African Coloured beliefs are predominantly Christian. The majority of South African Coloured people speak Afrikaans, though a large number are bilingual. In Cape Town especially, dialects of both English and Afrikaans, called Kaapse Taal, are spoken. In rural areas, some Coloured families still speak Khoe, or other indigenous Khoisan language derivatives.