skip to content

South Africa

Geography & Topography

Capital: Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative)

Area: 1,219,090 km²

Population: 50 586 757

Language: Eleven official languages are recognized in the constitution; Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.

Religion: Christian

Currency: Rand

History


South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It is divided into nine provinces, with 2,798 kilometres of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of the country lie the neighbouring territories of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; while Lesotho is an enclave surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa is multi-ethnic and has diverse cultures and languages. Eleven official languages are recognised in the constitution. Two of these languages are of European origin: South African English and Afrikaans, a language which originated mainly from Dutch that is spoken by the majority of white and Coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fifth most-spoken home language. All ethnic and language groups have political representation in the country’s constitutional democracy comprising a parliamentary republic; unlike most parliamentary republics, the positions of head of state and head of government are merged in a parliament-dependent President.

About 79.5% of the South African population is of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. South Africa also contains the largest communities of European, Asian, and racially mixed ancestry in Africa.

South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, one of only four countries in Africa in this category (the others being Botswana, Gabon and Mauritius). It has the largest economy in Africa and the 28th-largest in the world. About a quarter of the population is unemployed and lives on less than US $1.25 a day.

Performing Arts

Music

There is great diversity in music from South Africa. Many black musicians who sang in Afrikaans or English during apartheid have since begun to sing in traditional African languages, and have developed a unique style called Kwaito. Of note is Brenda Fassie, who launched to fame with her song “Weekend Special”, which was sung in English. More famous traditional musicians include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, while the Soweto String Quartet performs classic music with an African flavour. White and Coloured South African singers are historically influenced by European musical styles. South Africa has produced world-famous jazz musicians, notably Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Chris McGregor, and Sathima Bea Benjamin. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr and the punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar. Crossover artists such as Verity (internationally recognised for innovation in the music industry) and Johnny Clegg and his bands Juluka and Savuka have enjoyed various success underground, publicly, and abroad.

The South African music scene includes Kwaito, a new music genre that had developed in the mid-80s and has since developed to become the most popular social economical form of representation among the populous. Though some may argue that the political aspects of Kwaito has since diminished after Apartheid, and the relative interest in politics has become a minor aspect of daily life. Some argue that in a sense, Kwaito is in fact a political force that shows activism in its apolitical actions. Today, major corporations like Sony, BMG, and EMI have appeared on the South African scene to produce and distribute Kwaito music. Due to its overwhelming popularity, as well as the general influence of DJs, who are among the top 5 most influential types of people within the country, Kwaito has taken over radio, television, and magazines.

The most recognizable instruments in traditional South African music are:

Vuvuzela

Vuvuzela: The vuvuzela, also known as lepatata Mambu, is a plastic horn, about 65 centimetres long, which produces a loud monotone note. Some models are made in two parts to facilitate storage, and this design also allows pitch variation. Many types of vuvuzela, made by several manufacturers, may produce various intensity and frequency outputs. The intensity of these outputs depends on the blowing technique and pressure exerted.

Traditionally made and inspired from a kudu horn, the vuvuzela was used to summon distant villagers to attend community gatherings. The vuvuzela is most used at football matches in South Africa, and it has become a symbol of South African football as the stadiums are filled with its loud and raucous sound that reflects the exhilaration of supporters. The intensity of the sound caught the attention of the global football community during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in anticipation of South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

 

Dance



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of traditional South African dances are::

Gumboot Dance

Gumboot Dance: The gumboot dance (or isicathulo) is an African dance that is performed by dancers wearing Wellington boots. In South Africa these are more commonly called gumboots.

The boots may be embellished with bells, so that they ring as the dancers stamp on the ground. This sound would be a code or a different calling to say something to another person a short distance away. It was basically used as a language in the mining grounds.

Gumboot dancing was conceived by black miners in South Africa as an alternative to drumming which authorities restricted. The boots were a solution to a problem of often flooded gold mines in which men otherwise stood in knee-deep water toiling at their work stations.

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Gauteng has the most advanced infrastructure in Africa.
  • South Africa has the longest wine route in the world.
  • South Africa is ranked first in the world for its floral kingdom and South Africa is home to the world’s smallest succulent plants (less than 10 mm) and the largest (the baobab).
  • South Africa has the third highest level of biodiversity in the world.
  • South Africa is one of the most generously endowed geographic solar hotspots in the world, soaking up just over half of the world’s highest category of solar wattage per square metre of land.

South African Community in Australia:

More information on the South African community: