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The People Of Cape Town: Heritage

Cape Town heritage

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa and, over the centuries, has become a melting pot of diverse cultures; it’s the people who give Cape Town its soul. Like cities all over the world, brings together people from vastly different backgrounds. And, like other cities, it evokes a diverse range of feelings which reflect the experiences and memories of the people who live in it.

There are various ethnic groups namely:

Bantu
‘Bantu’ is a generic name covering many black tribes. Bantu migration into South Africa began in the 3rd century AD with the occupation of the fertile eastern and coastal stretches of the country, where they came into contact with the Khoekhoe.
The Xhosa people are a Bantu tribe that settled along the south coast a thousand kilometers east of Cape Town. They encountered European and English settlers along their western border, the Great Fish River, from the seventeenth century onwards. Their ability to resist Afrikaners encouraged the Great Trek away from the area.
For perhaps one hundred thousand years, until the nineteenth century, the San lived by hunting and gathering in small nomadic ‘bands’. They concentrated in the mountains after contact with the Khoekhoe (see below) and later the Bantu.
As European settlement advanced the San were joined by Khoekhoe refugees. As the trekboers advanced they attacked the San and drove them deeper into the mountains.
Today there are no distinct communities of San left, although their ‘cousins’ the Bushmen are still evident in the Kalahari, Namibia and Botswana.

Coloureds
Cape Town is a melting pot of different people, exemplified by the fact that the majority of its people are from mixed race-groups (known as “Coloureds”). Most Coloureds are Afrikaans-speaking (though most can speak English as well). Until the 1950s, when the National Party government removed their voting rights, the Coloured people were an integrated part of South Africa’s society.
Although the Coloureds are mostly Christian, a large portion of them are Muslims (their forefathers came from Indonesia). Many of the Cape Muslims settled into an area known as “Bo-Kaap” (upper Cape), which lies on the eastern slope of Signal Hill.
Other than the Coloureds, the Cape’s people range from the indigenous KhoiKhoi to the Dutch, English and isiXhosa who arrived later.

isiXhosa
The majority of Cape Town’s black people are migrants from the Eastern Cape (formerly the Transkei), looking for a better life and a way of feeding their family back home. Driving from Cape Town airport to the foot of Table Mountain, one sees miles of shanty towns where many of the black migrants stay (e.g. Langa, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu) on the Cape Flats.

The San People
For perhaps one hundred thousand years, until the nineteenth century, the San lived by hunting and gathering in small nomadic ‘bands’. They concentrated in the mountains after contact with the Khoekhoe and later the Bantu. As European settlement advanced the San were joined by Khoekhoe refugees. As the trekboers advanced they attacked the San and drove them deeper into the mountains.

Today there are no distinct communities of San left, although their ‘cousins’ the Bushmen are still evident in the Kalahari, Namibia and Botswana.

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