What is South African Culture?
South Africa is known as the rainbow nation as it has complex and diverse cultures. (South African Languages and Cultures. It is a melting pot of culture; here are a few cultural aspects to admire about South Africa:
Mapungubwe, Limpopo Province, is one of the richest archaeological sites in Africa.
Two globally important battles namely, The Anglo Boer War and the Anglo Zulu War were both fought on South African soil.
Since the freedom from Apartheid, dance has become a prime means of artistic expression.
The Magaliesberg mountain range is said to be the oldest mountain range on earth.
The Drakensberg mountain range runs the length of the country and is a Unesco World Heritage site.
The Vredefort Dome is the oldest and largest visible meteorite impact site in the world.
South Africa has a celebration for every event, place, art form, food, drink and agricultural commodity.
South Africa has a wide variety of arts and crafts, as well as a wide range of craftwork styles; tribal designs, Afro-French wirework, wood carvings, world-class pottery and bronze casting, stained glass, basket weaving, clay and stone sculpting, dung paper and waste ornaments.
The Drakensberg mountain range is the world’s largest art gallery and is a monument to the San Bushmen.
Jukskei, a game which involves a player throwing a wooden pin at a peg in the ground. It has been identified as one of the seven indigenous games that should be encouraged and developed.
After the Apartheid era, the youth of South Africa started to find their own voice in a style of music called Kwaito.
Nguni cattle, they are indigenous to South Africa and might possibly be the most beautiful cattle in the world with their variously patterned and multicoloured hides.
The Owl House, Nieu Bethesda, is a fascinating world of sculptures made from concrete and glass.
The Cradle of Humankind has one of the world’s richest concentrations of hominid fossils.
The Quagga, was extinct but has been rebred. It is a zebra-like animal but only has stripes on the front half of its body.
Mark Shuttleworth was the first African in space.
South Africa is home to seven Unesco World Heritage sites.
South African cultural villages allow visitor to experience firsthand the cultures and traditions of our country, including food, drink and accommodation.
South Africa produces 3.1% of the world’s wine and ranks number nine in overall volume production.
The above text was referenced from: The A to Z of South African Culture 2010:1
During the Apartheid era, the government divided this diverse country into four population groups, namely white, black, coloured and Asian. (South African culture is impossible to capture in a nutshell, as the country is home to a rich variety of cultural groups of diverse ethnic and national origins. [sa]) These population groups were grouped as follows:
White: English, Afrikaans, Jewish, Portuguese, Greek and Lebanese.
Black: tribal groups, namely Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Swazi, Tswana and Sotho.
Coloured: people of mixed origin, mainly Afrikaans speaking and also a lot closer to the white cultural trends.
Asian: people of Indian decent.
The above text was referenced from: South African culture is impossible to capture in a nutshell, as the country is home to a rich variety of cultural groups of diverse ethnic and national origins. [sa]
South Africa has eleven official languages, namely English, Afrikaans, Tsonga, Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa, Venda, Swazi, Southern Sotho, Ndebele and Sepedi. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
South Africa’s language distribution is as follows:
Figure: Language distribution chart (South Africa Info)
‘The word ‘Xhosa’ is derived from the Khoisan language, which means ‘angry men’.’ – South African Languages and Cultures [sa]
There are about eighteen percent of Xhosa speaking people in South Africa, and are mainly found in the Eastern Cape. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) This makes Xhosa the second most spoken language in South Africa. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
There are nine Xhosa speaking groups, some chiefdom’s are larger than others, but there is conformity among them, the conformity can be seen in the homestead layouts. (Magubane 1998:10)
The Xhosa speaking people were one of the first chiefdom’s to be ‘exposed to European explorers, hunters, traders, missionaries, soldiers and colonial administrators.’ – (Magubane 1998:12) This exposure therefore altered the culture of the Xhosa people.
Xhosa marriage is a polygynous affair as the chiefs and wealthy men, who had lots of cattle married more than one woman and in some instanced has as many as four wives. (Magubane 1998:20) These wives were ‘distinguished in rank according to different houses.’ (Magubane 1998:20)
The Great Wife was responsible in bearing a son, and of course heir who would eventually take over his father’s possessions, i.e. cattle. (Magubane 1998:24)
Labola is a big part of the Xhosa culture, labola also meant that different groups could forge alliances as marriage within a clan is prohibited. (Magubane 1998:28) In a modern day Xhosa marriage negotiation it is common that money instead of cattle will be accepted. (Magubane 1998:25)
Traditional rituals are performed throughout the life-cycle of the Xhosa people, from birth to puberty, marriage to menopause and filly to death. (Magubane 1998:32) One of these rituals is that of male initiation through circumcision. This ritual came about as men had to be circumcised to become a warrior, and had to be a warrior before he could marry. (Magubane 1998:33)
‘Dwellings consisted of a circular frame of poles and saplings, which were bent and bound in the shape of a beehive and thatched from top to bottom with grass.’ (Magubane 1998:18) this structure was then plastered with a mixture of mud and dug to provide adequate insulation. (Magubane 1998:18)
‘…screened off cooking areas,’ had an earthen oven for baking. (Magubane 1998:18)
Zulu people form the largest ethnic group in South Africa (Languages of South Africa 2010:1) and therefore Zulu is one of the most spoken languages in South Africa and is also understood by half of the South African inhabitants. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
South African English has adapted and was also inspired by many of the Zulu words, and therefore incorporate it into the English language. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The Zulu nation arose in the 16th century; the Zulu warrior Shaka raised the nation to prominence in the 19th century. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1) The classic novel Chaka, by Thomas Mofolo, reinvents king Shaka into a heroic figure. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
‘The current monarch is King Goodwill Zwelithini.’ – (Languages of South Africa 2010:1) ‘the present king’s powers are essentially symbolic…he carries a sacred axe on important state occasions and he presides over key rituals,’ – (Magubane 1998:37)
Zulu children are exposed to nature at an early age which encompasses a deep understanding and empathy for the environment they live in. (Magubane 1998:45)
Traditional foods include amasi (curds of milk) which is eaten either with maize meal or vegetables. Maize meal is either boiled into a thick porridge or eaten with vegetables. Meat was only eaten on special occasions, such as a wedding. (Magubane 1998:47)
The Zulu’s are very crafty. The women are responsible for mat-making, beadwork and pottery. The men do woodwork and specialise in spoons, meat trays and milk pails which are crafted out of one piece of wood. (Magubane 1998:47)
Traditional medicines in the Zulu culture are ancient, these medicines are divided into two parts, the Traditional Herbalist who administers medicine made from plants and animals, and the Diviner who ‘smells out’ the complaints using bones, shells, seeds or other artefacts. (Magubane 1998:61) A category in the Diviners is the isangoma, who is a medium that makes contact with the ancestral spirits and prescribes medicine according to their dictates. (Magubane 1998:62)
Music, song and dance have always been important in Zulu culture as it helps maintain a ‘sense of group solidity especially in times of strees, joy and change.’ – (Magubane 1998:62) The Zulu society had many stringed instruments, such as the uGubu which stringed bow with a calabash attached to the end. (Magubane 1998:62)
The extended homestead was ‘roughly circular in form and was build on sloping ground facing east wherever possible, with the slope falling away to the main entrance, so that the chief dwelling would be on the highest ground.’ – (Magubane 1998:40) In the centre of this homestead would be the cattle byre which is also linked to the temple, which is where traditional rituals would take place. (Magubane 1998:40)
The building of these dwellings were the men’s job and would often be a social event where the women would brew beer and neighbours, even passers-by, would come and lend a hand in erecting these dwellings. (Magubane 1998:43)
The dwellings were either beehive or dome shaped. Saplings would be embedded into a circular dug trench; the saplings were then bent over and tied down to create framework which would then be tightly thatched. (Magubane 1998:43) There were no windows but the door was very low, people had to entre on their hands and knees. This door was then closed at night by means of a wicker door that was fastened with a cross-stick. (Magubane 1998:43)
Afrikaans is spoken by a majority of South Africans, either as a first or second language.
Afrikaans is a rich cultural languages with much heritage from the Dutch, Afrikaans even means ‘Africa’ in Dutch. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
‘Afrikaans is mainly spoken by white Afrikaners, coloured South Africans and a section of the black population.’ – (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
Venda is also known as ‘Luvenda or Tshivenda’ and is mostly spoken in the Northern parts of South Africa. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The people who speak Venda have a Royal Family and show women great respect, therefore ‘women are allowed to become Queens and Chiefs of their own tribes’ – (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
For a Venda person, music is one of the most important aspects to their culture, especially drum beats. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) They are hard working people but after working all day on a field, there is always ‘music, a few drinks and dancing.’ – (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) A drum, named Ngoma Lungundu, is the centural feature in Venda culture. (Magubane 1998:82)
Status and power are expressed through music, dance, and song. (Magubane 1998:87) Venda people use many musical instruments, even instruments that have vanished from other cultures in Africa; they use xylophones, thumb pianos, reed flutes, and three different types of drums. (Magubane 1998:87)
The Venda pottery style was established in the 14th and 15th Century. (Magubane 1998:82)
The young Venda men and old Venda men were highly regarded, as the Venda people believe that the young men are still close to the ancestors, while the old men are about to rejoin the ancestors. (Magubane 1998:84)
Initiation played a big role in Venda culture, as with most South African cultures. (Magubane 1998:84) Initiation ceremonies were held for the many stages in life and would be made possible through external forces such as the ancestors, good and bad spirits, as well as witches. (Magubane 1998:84)
A python, in Venda culture, is ‘associated with fertility and the movements of a baby in the womb.’ (Magubane 1998:87)
Venda women were held in much regard, unlike most African women. (Magubane 1998:89) venda women were in absolute control if in her courtyard, and elderly women played an important role in Venda society by telling the children traditional stories. (Magubane 1998:89) Venda women are able to own property and can become ruler of a clan if there was no male heir. (Magubane 1998:89)
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Traditional Venda villages are surrounded by stone walls, which can still be seen near/under cliffs. (Magubane 1998:84) These villages are laid out so that the King is on the highest part of the land, with his wives and children around him, who are then surrounded by the rest of the inhabitants, who will protect the King and his family if there were to be a threat. (Magubane 1998:84)
Ndebele language is split into two chief dialects namely, Southern Ndebele and Northern Ndebele, but the more common spoken dialect is Southern Ndebele. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Ndebele is only spoken at home, and therefore only moves through generations, therefore it is thought to be a vanishing language. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
To tourists, the Ndebele culture is best known for their vibrant geometric patterns which decorate their houses, clothes and can also be seen in their beadwork. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1) These vibrant patterns embrace a variety of forms and symbols, such as natural objects, geometric forms and now day’s ‘letters of the alphabet, numbers, representations of urban buildins, windmills and aeroplanes.’ – (Magubane 1998:76)
Ndebele life is characterized, life many other African groups, by the spirit world. (Magubane 1998:67) The spirit world is made up of the Ndebele ancestors who require constant sacrificing to keep them placid. (Magubane 1998:67)
The Ndebele society is patriarchal; this was intensified by the white farmers who looked to Ndebele family labour where the men had to work for the white farmer. (Magubane 1998:70) The Ndebele man then moved away from the white farms and ‘started their own businesses as taxi drivers or builders.’ – (Magubane 1998:70)
The Ndebele women would work as domestic servants in Pretoria but always returned home to look after the children and set up the homestead. (Magubane 1998:70) While the women were at the homestead, they would be supported by their husbands as well as making and selling beadwork, mats and dolls. (Magubane 1998:70)
There is much deliberation on if the adornments worn by the Ndebele women are strictly for their own sensuality or whether their husbands want their wealth to be shown on their wives. (Magubane 1998:76) The most popular adornemnts worn by Ndebele women are the beaded wire hoops and/or copper or brass rings that they wear around their necks, arms, legs and stomach. (Magubane 1998:77)
Sepedi is also known as Sesotho or Northern Sotho. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) But this language is best known for their wedding ceremonies. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
In the Sepedi culture, it is well known that the bride’s father ask the groom for lebola. Lebola is item/s exchanged for their daughter, for example money or livestock. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The wedding is held at the brides or grooms home, but before the ceremony, the bride (dressed in a cow’s hide dress) has to go down to the river and collect water and wood for the ceremony. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) Once the ceremony is done, a sheep is then slaughtered in the back yard and the meat is equally divided between both families. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Setswana is commonly known as Tswana, which is related to the other Sotho languages. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Setswana was mostly spoken in Botswana, but migrated into North Western South Africa. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
Dr. Robert Moffat built the first school in Botswana and realised that he needed to use and write Setswana in his teachings, therefore Setswana was the first Sotho language to be in a written format. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
Setswana is part of the Sotho-Tswana division, which use totems to contact their ancestors and these totems symbolise the sacred creature which is not to be hunted, the Setswana totem is a fish. (Magubane 1998:11)
In the Setswana culture, wealth is measured by how many cattle they have in their possession; this is then ranked and put into a document called the Setswana Forbes, which lists all the names of the wealthy Setswana people. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Setswana culture is also widely known for their Traditional healers, or sangomas, which play an important role in their culture. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Southern Sotho is spoken by more than five million South African inhabitants. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) It is a very complicated language, but once you get to understand it, it is a beautiful language. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Sesotho originally was spoken in Lesotho, but moved into South Africa. It was also one of the first African languages, along with Setswana and Zulu, to be put into a written form as well as into literature. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
Southern Sotho is part of the Sotho-Tswana division, which use totems to contact their ancestors and these totems symbolise the sacred creature which is not to be hunted, the Southern Sotho totem is a crocodile. (Magubane 1998:10-11)
The Southern Sotho culture is one that believes strongly that ‘Children benefit from serving their elders.’ – (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Marriages are more often than not pre-arranged but in today’s day and age, this has become less of normality as they are now able to pick their life partners. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The Swati language is also known as the Swazi language. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
It is a very similar language to the Ndebele, Xhosa and Zulu language, and often gets confused with these languages. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The language and culture of the Swati was highly influenced by the Zulu’s. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The Swati’s have many traditional events and the culture is one of ‘colourful outfits with red feathers, carrying shields and wearing multicoloured necklaces.’ – (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The Reed dance festival is one of their great festivals. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) The ceremony is held for eight days which runs through the end of August till the beginning of September. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) This ceremony is for all unmarried women and is to ‘protect the women’s chastity’ – (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
The Tsonga language is ‘spoken throughout southern Africa’. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa])
Tsonga is a language that does not use the English alphabet, but instead the Latin alphabet. (South African Languages and Cultures [sa]) Therefore it is a difficult language to learn or understand.
The first Tsonga speaking people were traders of cloth and beads for ivory, copper and salt that was eventually ‘joined by co-linguists pushed from the coast by Nguni raiders.’ – Magubane 1998:90
The birth of a child is a great time for all Tsonga speaking people. (Magubane 1998:95) ‘Babies are doctored with medicines and decorated with charms and beaded bangles.’ – Magubane 1998:95
A Tsonga marriage is not just a relationship of two individuals, but an agreement and new relationship between the two families. (Magubane 1998:96) There is a sacrifice before the bride leaves her family and her ancestors to join her new family, her new family will now take her in as one of them and she will have to learn their etiquette and rules of behaviour. (Magubane 1998:96)
Most of the agricultural work was done by women, but the harvesting was done in collaboration with the surrounding communities, with the owner/host of the land providing beer and refreshments therefore making it a festive occasion. (Magubane 1998:98)
Venison was a vital part in Tsonga diet, so was fish as fishing was an important community activity. (Magubane 1998:98)
Tsonga men have through the ages started working in the South African mines and send money home to their families. (Magubane 1998:99) They have to spend copious amounts of time on busses and trains, and have to live in hostels near to the mining towns. (Magubane 1998:99)
The Tsonga people are able to play wind, stringed and percussion instruments, the string instruments being the most important. (Magubane 1998:99) The two other instruments they are able to play, but fall out of the mentioned catagories is the hand piano and the xylophone. (Magubane 1998:99)
The stringed instruments they are able to play:
- Vibrating Bow
- Stringed bow attached to a calabash
- Hollow reed bow
- Wire stringed bow with a thickened handle plucked with a flat piece of wire
The above text was reference from: (Magubane 1998:99)
The wind instruments they are able to play:
- Cross flute
- Shepherd’s pipe
- Antelope horn trumpet
The above text was reference from: (Magubane 1998:99)
The percussion instruments they are able to play:
The above text was referenced from: (Magubane 1998:99)
A Tsonga homestead comprises of the man, his wife/wives, their children and their son’s families. (Magubane 1998:94) The houses are ‘cylindrical with earthen walls and conical thatched or reed roofs.’ – Magubane 1998:94
The homestead is generally circular with a central cattle byre and a main entrance on the eastern side, there may also be sub-entrances on the side of the water and fields. (Magubane 1998:94)
South African English is rich and peculiar as it is influenced by most of the other ten languages. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1) For example: ‘..cars stop at robots, not traffic lights. A pickup truck is a bakkie, sneakers are takkies, a hangover is a babbelas,’ – (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
English is understood across South Africa and is generally the chosen language in business, politics and media. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
English is only spoken by 10% of South Africans, but is the primary language tought at primary, secondary and tertiary educational centres. (Languages of South Africa 2010:1)
What artefacts are unique to each culture?
Archaeology is important as it is able to tell us when and where people settled and how they lived. Archaeology is also able to link different cultural groups ‘through the artefacts they leave behind.’ – (Magubane 1998:8)
Archaeological time periods and artefacts found from each period:
- Early Stone Age – stone artefacts such as hand axes and cleavers.
- Middle Stone Age – stone artefacts such as points and scrapers, as well as grindstones.
- Later Stone Age – new technologies made way for the bow and arrow, and traps and snares.
- Early Iron Age – new technology made way for hoes, axes, decorative pots and bowls, ornate metal work and complex terracotta sculptures.
The above text was referenced from: Magubane 1998:8
The Bantu-speaking people have been thought to emerge from the Iron Age communities; the bantu-speaking people are divided into two groups, the Nguni speaking and the Sotho-Tswana speaking people. (Magubane 1998:10) These two groups are ‘linguistically and culturally distinct’ – (Magubane 1998:10)
What is a Boutique Hotel?
There are a number of characteristics and attributes that constitute a Boutique Hotel.
Firstly a Boutique hotel is much smaller than a chain-hotel as the maximum amount of rooms a Boutique Hotel has is one-hundred. (Nobles & Thompson 2001:1)
Atmosphere is very important in a Boutique Hotel as it creates a memorable experience. (Nobles & Thompson 2001:1)
Management and staff need to anticipate guest’s needs and wants, knowing what a guest wants, when they want it and how they want it. (Nobles & Thompson 2001:1)
Unique and interesting themes, design and architecture. (What is a Boutique Hotel? 2003 – 2010)
Stylish appearance (What is a Boutique Hotel? 2003 – 2010)
‘Equally appropriate for business, honeymoon or vacation.’ – (What is a Boutique Hotel? 2003 – 2010)
Target market for Boutique Hotels is 25 – 55 age range and middle to upper income level. (What is a Boutique Hotel? 2003 – 2010)
Boutique hotels offer a completely unique experience. Boutique Hotels can be hip and happening or historic in theme. (What is a Boutique Hotel? 2003 – 2010) Boutique Hotel’s offer comforts, such as bathrobes and fireplaces; spa-like services, such as healthy food choices, mind and body cleansing; the latest technology, as well as on-site dining, bar and lounge areas that are open to the public. (What is a Boutique Hotel? 2003 – 2010)
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How do you reuse an old building to create a new exciting interior?
By preserving historic buildings and by ‘updating the building and its interior for a new use’ (Bijelic 2006:1), the population and generations to come will be able to understand and appreciate South African heritage and culture. (The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1) By reusing existing buildings and transforming them into a new purpose, the architects and designers are in essence being environmentally responsible. (The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1)
Existing buildings are in essence energy efficient as they already exist and therefore there is no need to create new building materials, which leave a carbon footprint behind. (The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1) Minor modification to the exterior or interior of these historical/existing buildings are possible and plausible as this will then create a new use for these buildings as well as upgrade these buildings in order to meet the modern building requirements and codes. (The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1)
Converting historical buildings to meet modern demands might be a challenge, but there are advantages as clients will eventually realise the potential financial, cultural and marketing advantages of preserving architectural history. (Bijelic 2006:1)
Practical benefits of preserving existing/historical buildings:
- Preservation of the history and authenticity.
- Increases the commercial value of the building and its ornaments/material which are more often than not high quality and not affordable.
- Sustainable building practice as there is less construction and demolition, and less need for new building materials as the existing infrastructure will be used.
- Energy efficient as there will be no energy waste on demolition and new construction.
The above text was referenced from: The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1
Identify, Investigate, Develop, Execute and Educate are the five basic steps of preserving a historical building. (The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1)
The four treatment approaches for historic buildings are:
- Preservation – maintenance, stabilisation and repair of existing historic materials.
- Rehabilitation – to alter or add to historic property.
- Restoration – depicting the property at a particular period of time while erasing the evidence of other eras.
- Reconstruction – re-creates non-surviving parts of the property.
The above text was referenced from: The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1
Before preserving or reusing an existing building, the architect and/or designer needs to make sure that the original function of the building and the proposed new function of the building coincide and/or are compatible in order to reduce the deconstruction of the historic materials and ornaments. (The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1)
In order to maintain the integrity of the historical building, the following preservation design goals need to be implemented:
- Update building systems – this requires striking a balance between original building features and accommodating the new technologies and equipment.
- Life safety and security needs – accommodate new functions, changes in technology and improved standards of protection.
- Comply with accessibility requirements – provide access for persons with disabilities while meeting preservation goals.
The above text was referenced from: The WBDG Historic Preservation Subcommittee 2010:1
Relevant Codes and Standards
Previous research that has been done on the topic
I have sent out questionnaires to a number of architectural firms and travel agencies, as well as the Department of Tourism, Department of Home Affairs, The City Council of Johannesburg and the City Council of Tshwane.
Explain in detail who, what, where, how and why
The above mentioned parties will be able to advise me on (1) if there is a need for Boutique hotels in South Africa and (2) how to go about reusing/renovating existing buildings in order to preserve the environment as well as create a new, fresh Boutique hotel with the correct regulations.
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