There are numerous cultures that make up the country known as South Africa, explaining why its citizens refer to it as the Rainbow Nation. The aboriginal indigenous people – the Khoikhoi and San Bushmen (collectively termed Khoisan) were later joined by Europeans and Bantu to grow into the cultural mix that is seen in South Africa today.
The aboriginal Khoikhoi people have lived here for thousands of years. The country’s indigenous Africans descend from immigrants from elsewhere in Africa who entered the country’s northern areas approximately 1700 years ago. White South Africans descended from European settlers who came later, mainly from Britain and the Netherlands. The coloured people descend, at least, in part, from each of these groups, in addition to slaves from East Africa, Madagascar, and what was then called the East Indies. There are also numerous South Africans from Chinese and Indian origin, descendants of workers who came here in the 19th and 20 centuries.
Even further back
Since Charles Darwin first suggested that the first humans were born in Africa, we have seen the continent’s archaeological findings, particularity in South Africa, support this notion. Modern evidence backs up the claim that modern humans have resided in South Africa for more than 100,000 years.
They were organised in compact, mobile groups of Stone-Age hunter-gatherers who created rock art. They were also the ancestors of San and the Khoikhoi, which European settlers used to refer to as “Bushmen” and “Hottentots”. Around 2,000 years ago, the Khoikhoi lived a pastoralist lifestyle where they herded sheep and cattle. The hunter-gatherers were scattered around the subcontinent and adapted to their local environments. Also, around that time, farmers who spoke Bantu started to arrive in Southern Africa from the north, accompanied by domesticated crops and an iron-age culture. After they established themselves in southern African’s eastern coastal region, they spread out and expanded their cattle-farming culture.
Evidence exists of material, political, and sophisticated cultures at a number of archaeological sites like Thulamela and Mapungubwe in the Limpopo Valley, partly based on contact with the East African trading company. These cultures were around for several centuries before European encroachment. The farmers didn’t settle into the south west’s winter-rainfall regions of the western desert. The Khoisan remained here, though the Europeans later settled at the Cape of Good Hope.
The early colonial period
In the 15th century, Portuguese seafarers regularly visited the South African coast. This history can be seen in Mossel Bay’s Diaz Museum. From the16th century, other Europeans began to follow. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a Table Bat (Cape Town) station in 1652. The Cape Town Castle soon became the officials’ living quarters and fort.
The authorities from Cape Town’s arable regions gave farms to European settlers. Wheat and wine became the farms’ primary products. The VOC responded to demand for labour by the colonists by importing slaves from Madagascar and East Africa, as well as its belongings from the East Indies.