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Culture of South Africa

South African culture reflects the ethnic diversity of its people. Traditional Afrikaans culture is based on a fusion of the concepts of race and culture, and contains a strong emphasis on community, along with an ingrained suspicion of foreigners. After years of neglect under apartheid, native tribal and African culture of groups like the Xhosa and the Zulu and the San (whose fantastic rock paintings in the Drakensburg mountains are among the best tribal art in the continent) are finally receiving their due in museums and cultural events that take place throughout the year.

There are about 500 museums in South Africa today with various specialties such as geology, natural history, archaeology, history and art. There is also a renewed attempt to reclaim all the aspects of contemporary African and Asian culture that were suppressed for long – this includes the development of Cape Town’s District Six, a watering hole for radical intellectuals and artists that was mowed down by the South African government during the heyday of apartheid, and the increasing popularity of formerly black districts like Soweto that have developed a distinct sub-culture based around working-class haunts like pubs and jazz clubs, showcasing local jazz forms like Kwela. The encouragement of mine-dancing (a form of dance developed by poor black miners which combines traditional tribal influences with modern mining attire!) in Johannesburg is also an example of the above.

There are also craft centres showing the skills of South African artists in many South African cities today. Traditional South African craft work, such as bowls, clay pots, beadwork, carvings, tapestries and paintings are good value and make interesting souvenirs. South Africa is the home of gold and diamonds, so jewellery making is predictably one of the biggest cottage industries here.

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