The Culture Focus: South Africa

Diversity is a term that is strongly associated with South Africa – a region where eleven languages are recognised as official, with just as many ethnic groups, and where community leaders range from rugby players to rabbis. Palatial homes sit next to mud huts, while traditional healers work alongside stockbrokers.

After years of oppression under a white minority government which only came to an end in 1994, South Africa is now in the process of establishing itself as a democratic culture. It is sad that many local customs and traditions have been eroded over years of Westernisation, but there is now a sense of great diversity as the country plays host to a variety of cultures and practices from around the world.

Trance Festivals

Located on the southernmost tip of the African continent, Cape Town is the perfect haven for lovers of trance. The outdoor psy-trance season runs from September through to March, when the city plays host to over thirty trance festivals.

Vortex music festival is a three day event located in a mountain sanctuary – with panoramic views, plenty of forest and an ‘endless’ river, this beautiful location is the ideal space for days of psychedelic adventure.

Trance is a genre that developed in the 90s and is characterised by hypnotic patterns and shifting textures. Described as the music of consciousness, the ‘psychedelic trance journey’ stimulates the mind and draws you into a universe beyond time and space. Deeply reflective, trance music encourages a virtual voyage into uncharted realms of the brain.

Other popular Cape Town trance festivals include Earthdance, Organik, Beartrap and Mother Earth.

Ostrich Racing

Oudsthoorn, located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa is home to the world’s largest population of ostriches and, unsurprisingly, a unique culture has grown around these flightless birds. As well as a vast array of ostrich cuisine, including scrambled ostrich eggs, ostrich steak, or ostrich sausage, visitors have the chance to ride and race ostriches. Wild ostriches can reach speeds of up to 70km/h, but the ostriches that can be raced won’t be running quite as fast. However, the town isn’t just about eating and racing ostriches. The ostrich farms offer tours and focus on education too, showing visitors the development of these birds whilst the chicks are cared for and bred into maturity.

J.M Coetzee

John Maxwell Coetzee, reclusive writer and man of letters, is internationally famous for having been at the forefront of anti-apartheid literature in South Africa and since the apartheid government’s fall, as a novelist Coetzee has charted the journey of South Africa’s reconciliation with its grim and recent past. Of Afrikaner descent, Coetzee’s work has seen him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003 and the Booker Prize twice, in 1983 for his work ‘The Life and Times of Michael K’ and again in 1999 for his seminal work ‘Disgrace’, a chilling novel showing the fall and disgrace of a white South African Professor as a nation struggles to form a new identity in the wake of apartheid. Coetzee’s work succinctly blends contemporary politics and African issues with the lives and thoughts of South Africans themselves.

Richard Collett & Helena Murphy

Photo courtesy of United Nations Photo


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