South Africa – Language, Culture and Festivals

South Africa Culture

Last night I sat watching the repeat telecast of one of the football matches, played during the FIFA ’10 World Cup, relayed on some sports channel. I’d had a tiring day, so the idea of going to my cozy bed interested me more than watching the repeated goals-glory. But another thought struck me and was awakened from my virtual sleep. Let me convey you the thought this way – Do we need to know South Africa only as a center for holding the football World Cup? It took time for me to find an answer, and guess what? More than the answer I was interested in knowing more about the country, South Africa, especially in the languages and tribal culture there. Here’s some information for you, which I collected during my sweet hours of sleep.

South Africa is a country with many languages. There are 11 officially recognized languages as well as traces of other African, European and Asian languages are also spoken. The Constitution of South Africa guarantees that all the 11 languages will be treated with equal status. These languages are named as Afrikaans, English,  IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. Other languages spoken in South Africa, that are also mentioned in the constitution of the country are Khoi, Nama, and San languages, Arabic, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Potuguese, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu, Urdu and sign language. English, being the language of business, media, and administration, is commonly understood across the country. But, as a home language, it ranks as fifth among the eleven other national languages. No language spoken in South Africa is a full-fledged sole one. The effect of all being treated equally, and spoken throughout the country, can be seen from the fact that one language is littered with some words of other languages too.

Here’s some distribution of languages among the total population of South Africa, according to a ten year old census. IsiZulu seems to be the mother tongue of around 24% of the South African population. This is followed by the IsiXhosa language, which minds the tongues of 17.5 % heads of the country. Afrikaans is spoken among 13% , Sepedi at 9.3%, and English and Setswana lag behind with each at around 8%. Again, Sesotho is the mother tongue of 8% South Africans, while less than even 5% of the population speaks remaining 4 official languages at home.

IsiZulu is the queen language of South Africa, spoken by the largest ethnic group there, the Zulu people. They derive their name from the chief who founded the royal line in the 16th century. This language is spoken from Cape to Zimbabwe, mainly concentrated in the areas of KwaZulu-Natal.

IsiXhosa is South Africa’s secont largest spoken language, also known as the Southern Cape or Cape Nguni, and it’s closely related to isiZulu. Like many other native languages, it is also a tonal language maily governed by the noun in the sentence.

Afrikaans ranks 3rd among the most spoken official languages in South Africa. It holds its roots in the 17th century Dutch, so initially known as Cape Dutch, and hence it is influences from other languages like English, Malay, German, Portuguese, French and some other African languages. This particular language is spoken mainly by the Afrikaners, the colored South Africans including sections of the black people. Although the language has originated from Europe, majority of the Afrikaans-speakers are non-white. The language you hear most while touring in South Africa, depends on where in the country you are.

Culture is the word that defines the riches in South Africa. There are many different people and tribes across the African continent displaying rich array of ethnic backgrounds and the culture varying from tribe to tribe. South Africa celebrates everything – having a festival for every event, art, place, food, drink, season – they simply have a festival for every reason. There’s a festival called Fiscksburg Cherry Festival, and the National Arts Festival, the Hermanus Whale festival – offering the best whale watching opportunities in the world, the Lambert’s Bay Kreeffees Festival and so many other festivals including mud-and-dust music and games. The Macufe festival is a celeberation where the Africans perform their arts, and this is just one of hundred more of the same kind.

The Prickly Pear festival was the one that caught my interest. It is held in late days of February or in early March, every year, at Cuyler Hofstede farm near Uitenhage, Nelson Mandela Bay in Eastern Cape. It’s a traditional day when the participants wear traditional attires to suit the moods and traditional food like pancakes, home-made jams and puddings, fish braai, bunnychow, and drinks like ginger beer are served and enjoyed along with traditional folk music. Another is the Tonteldoos Peach Festival, held in late March, which offers anything that is made of fruit, especially peach and plums.

To go on describing each and every festival of South Africa, I will have to sacrifice dozens of sleepless nights. But that’ll definitely be fun, but for even more and “real” fun, visiting this marvelous country would be the best option – with culture so rich, diversity so vast, remarkable range o festivals, and people loving good celebration.

What do you think?

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