Unique cultures of South Africa
Did you know?
Our language is culturally diverse - with Zulu, English and Afrikaans words and phrases commonly used by all South Africans.
South Africa's cultural diversity often amazes visitors to the country. They are surprised to learn we have 11 different official languages, astonished to discover a Zulu-speaker of Indian or Chinese descent, and intrigued to see a priest clad in leopard skins reciting psalms.
Cultural diversity in South Africa is one of our greatest assets. We are a fascinating mix of indigenous inhabitants. There are the San and the Nguni (comprising the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi people). There are the Sotho-Tswana, who include the southern, northern and western Sotho/Tswana people. There are the Tsonga and Venda. Then there are 'coloured' people of mixed race and immigrants from Europe, and Asia. As our democracy evolves, we are becoming ever more diverse, yet integrated.
To experience just how comfortable we are in our very mixed collective skins, just try our cuisine. We claim bobotie - a casserole of Malay origin - as our national dish. South Africans also love curry – a spicy bequest from our countrymen of Indian descent. For diverse and democratic dining, nothing beats a braai: from snoek on the coals in the Cape Flats to a 'shisa nyama' in the middle of Manguang (Bloemfontein).
Music speaks volumes about South Africa's diverse culture and our ability to celebrate our differences. This starts with our multilingual national anthem, 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika'. Turn on the radio and you'll hear kwaito, jazz, African gospel, classical, rock, pop, traditional music and more.
You'll find crossover pop songs by the likes of Freshly Ground, Lira, the Parlotones and JR on everyone's iPods. Not to mention million-album-selling artists like the internationally-acclaimed Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
South Africa's cultural diversity is evident in the way we transform each other's cultural motifs – where else in the world could you see a German-designed BMW, manufactured outside Pretoria and hand painted by a famous Ndebele artist like Esther Mahlangu? Or see traditional Zulu weaving and beadwork beside a Picasso or a Pierneef in an art gallery?
On the catwalk, we love to show off South Africa's diverse culture, as African heritage meets high-end European couture to stunning effect. Walk the streets of any South African city and you'll see a fashion mélange of African beads, braids and patterns creatively combined with local and international designer labels for a look that's pure Mzansi.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Eastern Cape Tourism Board
Tel: +27 (0)43 701 9600
Free State Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)51 411 4300
Tel: +27 (0)11 639 1600
KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)31 366 7500
Limpopo Tourism and Parks
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 7300
Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Authority
Tel: +27 (0)13 759 5300/01
Northern Cape Tourism
Tel +27 (0)53 832 2657
North-West Tourism Authority
Tel: + 27 (0)18 397 1500
Western Cape Tourism
(Cape Town Routes Unlimited)
Tel: +27 (0)21 405 4500