South Africa Coast

Anthropology: South Africa Is Known as the Rainbow Nation Due to Its Cultural Diversity, Tradition, and Lifestyle

Why is South Africa known as the Rainbow Nation?

Photo of Camps Bay Cape Town
The busy town of Cape Town South Africa by the beach of Camps Bay.

South Africa, also known as the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country located in the southern part of the African continent. The population of the country is dominated by a large number of black people compared to other races. In addition to that, there are four different races in South Africa namely, the Indian race, black, white and colored. There are 11 official languages in the country, the fourth highest number in the world. Therefore, the language of communication in South Africa is English and this then makes Isizulu the most spoken African language. 

RSA is a rainbow nation because of its cultural diversity, tradition and lifestyle. With 11 languages, this concludes how diverse RSA is as a nation. We have the Zulu culture, Sotho culture, Tswana, Pedi, Tsonga, Venda, Ndebele, Swati, Xhosa, English and Afrikaans. Thus, we also have nine different provinces. The Western Cape, Eastern Cape, North West, Northern Cape, Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng, Kwa Zulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity definition: A group of people from parts of the world who do not share similar religious beliefs, behavior and/or sexual orientation compared to other individuals. These are also people who do not share the same cultural aspects. For example, the Xhosa and Tswana cultural group.

The Batswana Cultural Group

The Tswana people

The Batswana people are located in the North West province of RSA. One can also find the Batswana people in Botswana, which is another separate African country within the African continent. Setswana is the language that they speak. This cultural group also believe in the supreme being known to be Modimo or Motsamai, which translates to “God or the traveler” in English translation. Thus, they also believe in ancestors whom they call Badimo. But because of western colonialism, most of the Tswana people later converted to Christianity. This cultural group consists of very tasty foods. The most famous Tswana dish, especially among the people of RSA and Botswana, is Ting (sorghum porridge). Another well recognized dish is Bogobe jwa logala prepared with sorghum porridge together with milk. The Tswana people also have a traditional beer. People drink it at almost every cultural ceremony, like at weddings and at funerals.

Bojwala, Batswana traditional beer

In addition to that, the Tswana people perform various cultural ceremonies for different occasions. For example, at child birth, wedding negotiations, circumcision, weddings, including ceremonies to give thanks to the ancestors.

The Xhosa Cultural Group

Xhosa women attire
A Xhosa Women In Traditional Attire

Then we have the Xhosa cultural group who speak IsiXhosa. One can find a large population of them in the Eastern Cape province in RSA. The Xhosa cultural group create the most stunning beadwork, which is important in terms of women’s traditional clothing. The beads are different and people wear them for different occasions. For example, Ithuba is a necklace worn by Xhosa women when they perform a traditional dance.

Photo Credit: Zoleka Mkangaye

Vulwakabini is a beaded top that covers the shoulders or upper body and breasts. The Xhosa traditional healers also wear an animal skin hat during a certain dance and when consulting a client.

Food and Beverages, Traditional Clothes

Braai food
Pap and Wors

One can never go wrong when it comes to traditional foods in RSA. This is what most visitors look out for, which, in return, helps them connect with the particular country. Traditional foods are much more healthy than the food we buy from the supermarket, thus they are cheaper and more convenient. There is a variety of options one can choose from in RSA in terms of traditional foods and beverages. This is because of the number of cultures we have as a nation. Lets talk about the various traditional food and beverages RSA has to offer and how that makes us a diverse country. That is how food and beverages make the Zulu and Sotho cultural group diverse.

Food and Beverages of the Zulu People

Amasi and Uphuthu
Amasi and Uphuthu

Amazi is a Zulu traditional drink that tastes cheesy and more like yoghurt. It is therefore good for the digestive system. This drink is only shared with family members. The Zulu people also have a traditional beer which women prepare for specific ceremonies like weddings. It takes a 3 day plus process to prepare the beer to-its desired taste. Ujege is a form of bread. You steam it and it is preferred with meat or stew. Uphuthu is a Zulu dish which is basically maize meal. First you cook it more like porridge, then it is made to crumble as time goes by. The Zulu cultural group is a very famous group around the world, especially for their great attire, which is mainly the leopard’s skin and feathers. Like the Xhosa people, the Zulu people also wear their traditional attires at a certain stage of their lives.

Traditional Attires for The Zulu Cultural Group

A young single Zulu woman must have short hair and wear a short grass skirt with beads on it. An engaged woman usually has long hair or rather can grow their hair and must cover their breasts. A married woman must cover her entire body. She therefore dresses up in a thick cowhide which has animal fat and charcoal. A married woman wears a well-known hat-Izicolo, made from grass and cotton.

The Zulu Tribal Clothing
The Zulu Tribal Clothing

When it comes to Zulu men, they wear animal skin  and feathers. Mostly the leopard, as they believe it is the queen or king of the jungle, so only people from royalty are allowed to wear the leopard skin. Isinene and Ibheshu are traditional attires. Men wear them to cover their buttocks and private parts. Some individuals call them the front and back  aprons. Then Amashoba, which is a cow’s tail and men wear this on their upper arms as well as below their knees. And lastly, it is only people who can wear headbands.

The late King Goodwill Zwelithile wearing the leopard skin.
The late King Goodwill Zwelithile wearing the leopard skin.

Traditional Attires for The Sotho Cultural Group

Basotho traditional attires
A Married Couple Wearing A Sotho Attire

In the case of young boys, they wear an undergarment with the sheep’s skin on. Its purpose is to cover men’s private parts. Then older men wear a longer garment to cover more of their legs. The Basotho men are famous for wearing their beautifully designed blankets, also made from animal skin. These blankets are Setipe and Mokhahla in Sesotho, which is a language that the Basotho people speak. The blankets may differ, as for kings, they call this blanket Lehlosi. Wild cat and leopard skin  are the ingredients to design this blanket.

The Basotho people also wear hats made from animal skin, that is, Kharetsana, Sekola and Kuoane. Most, if not some, use straws and leaves to design hats. For example, Mokorotlo. Moseha is a hat made from grass.The Basotho people also have initiation schools where both males and females have to attend. It is in these schools where they learn how to become good women and men of the community or within their society. Male children learn to have courage and endure life difficulties.

Provinces of South Africa

Provinces also concluded with the fact that in South Africa we are diverse. We therefore have nine provinces, which is an approximation of the various lifestyles we have as a country.

Mpumalanga Province

the ndebeles
the ndebeles people

Before it was called Mpumalanga, it was known as the Eastern Transvaal. Mpumalanga is therefore adored by many tourists and visitors. Most people who live in this province are the Ndebele people. They are famous for their desirable traditional costumes and painting decorated houses. Mpumalanga is surrounded by captivating mountains, valley rivers, beautiful water falls and forests. There are various activities one can treat one to. That is, quad and mountain biking, horse trails, river rafting, big game viewing and the big jump. Most tourists are familiar with Mpumalanga. The majority of them enjoy visiting the Kruger National Park. Kruger national park is known for providing a wildlife experience. Therefore, it was established in 1868 in order to protect South Africa’s lowveld wildlife. Mpumalanga is a great area for activities such as bird watching, fishing and horse riding.

Krugr National Park
Krugr National Park

Limpopo Province

The Limpopo province is in the northern part of the country, RSA. The name Limpopo derives from a river also called the Limpopo River, which combines the north and the west borders of the province. In the Limpopo province one will find three different cultural groups. Thus, there is the Venda cultural group, the Tsonga cultural group and, lastly, the Pedi cultural group.

The Venda Cultural Group

Venda cultural group
Photo Credit: Thiofhi Ravele

The Venda people enjoy eating maize porridge. They therefore enjoy eating it with meat and/or spinach. These people, the Venda people, also enjoy eating mopane worms. There are two ways to prepare the mopane worms. You can either cook the worms or just let them dry in order to consume them. Their lifestyle is mostly based on agriculture. Men and women play different roles, whereas men are mostly responsible for livestock, building and ploughing. On the other hand, women focus on domestic duties and harvesting. Now, because of changing times, traditional life has changed, but Polygamy is something that is practiced to date and, because people are profiting from their farms, a few men leave the village to work in mines.

Mopane worms
Mopane worms

The Pedi Cultural Group

Then we have the Pedi cultural group, very different from the Venda and Tsonga tribes. The Pedi people have a traditional beer which is prepared using different types of sorghum and meal then mixed with a lot of water. In addition, to that, the Pedi people serve  this beer during ancestral ceremonies and weddings. The Pedi people also have one of the greatest traditional music one would enjoy. Mpepetlwane  mostly played by young girls.  Mmatshidi this type of music is played mostly by older men and women. Dinaka or kuba young boys play this type of music, including men. Women can therefore join in if they wish to. Dipela. Everyone can play dipela and  Makgakgasa. Older women play this type of music.

In addition to the topic of traditional music, the Pedi people also have great traditional dishes one can try, which includes. Thopi. One can prepare this with a melon like fruit and mix it with maize meal. It is similar to Mopane worms, which is a Venda dish. Moroga wa dikgopana. This is a type of spinach, if not spinach, basically, you cook the spinach and dry it. Lastly, the Pedi people eat Dikgobe. This consists of sump and beans. The Pedi people cook most of their food on the ground using a steel pot with three legs. 

The legged pot used by the Pedi tribe

The Tsonga Cultural Group

The Tsonga cultural group is located in the Limpopo province. They speak Xitsonga. They are therefore famous for their beautiful, colorful clothes. Another thing that this tribe is famous for is their vibrant music, dance moves and, of course, their cultural clothing. The production of their music is mainly  focused on various types of instruments which are divided into three. The first one being the wind instrument followed by the stringed instrument and the third is the percussion instrument. Xibelani is a tsonga cultural dance. This dance is a very well known Tsonga dance in RSA. It is, therefore, similar to twerking. Thus, an English translation for Xibelani is “hitting the  rhythm”. 

tribal dance

South African Provinces 

The Free State Province

The Golden Gate Highlands Park

The Free State province is mainly dominated by the Basotho people. It is a very marvelous province consisting of wide horizons, diverse cultures and one of the most gorgeous blue skies. A place to visit in the Free State is the Golden Gate Highlands national Park. It is near the Maluti mountains and also a town that has green pastures. It has sandstone rocks which provide a great view when one is up. This stone therefore changes color during nighttime to a golden color. The Cheetah experience is another great tourist attraction one can visit. It is a non-profit organization located in Bloemfontein. 

emoya hotel and spa
Cheetah Experience

Tourists or, rather, visitors visit this place in order to spend time with leopards at a closer range. They cuddle cubs and they are then educated about the behavior of the creatures by the volunteers. This is also a great opportunity for one to get that social media picture to post. In the heart of the Free State is the gorgeous town of Clarens, located right at the edge of the Maluti mountains. The town itself is really amazing and has a wonderful landscape. During the winter season, the trees become gorgeously colorful and this is when most events or rather festivals are held. One can also participate in outdoor activities such as fishing, horseback riding, ATV trails, playing golf and mountain biking. Including white water rafting on the ash river. 

The Gauteng Province

View of the Capital City of Gauteng, Johannesburg.

Gauteng province in English translation means “where the gold is”. We call it Gauteng because this is where they discovered gold. This is a very diverse province and the majority of people living in this province are therefore black people. Most people come to Gauteng for employment reasons. Gauteng’s capital city is Johannesburg, a young and vibrant location. It is also a busy area.

This province has so many art galleries and museums. A good number of artists host most of their events in Gauteng. In addition to that, Johannesburg is about the night life with the country’s most famous clubs, pubs and bars. It is filled with beautiful malls with great architecture. The main attraction in this province is big business, because the majority of individuals living here come to make money. This is also where most individuals learn about different cultures, because they bump into different people on a daily basis from other provinces and even countries. The music in Gauteng is not as cultural as the music produced in other provinces. Their music is all about fun, emotions and clubbing. 

Night life
A night in the city of Johannesburg.

The Significance of Cultural Diversity

South Africa is a rainbow nation because of its various cultures, traditions and different lifestyles. From the many different South African provinces to the many different native cultural groups and traditions, it is easy to see why South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation. Learning about these different cultures and provinces is important because of the understanding that it brings those around the world. 

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