The Rainbow Nation – South Africa

South Africa is fairly new to democracy unlike its counter parts in Africa, yet it is said to be the most westernised country in Africa. As a South African I never paid attention to this fact until it was pointed out to me by my fellow African man. This got me thinking, why is a young democracy the most saturated. Colonialism obviously had a huge influence on the urbanisation and westernisation of native South Africans. European colonial origin can be dated back to America, UK, Greece and Rome.

To my knowledge the process of influence began with the voyage of discovery, colonisation, conquest and exploitation of Spain and Portugal: it continued with the rise of the Dutch East India Company, and the creation and expansion of the British and french colonial empires. Due to the reach of these empires, Western institutions expanded throughout the world, even after decolonisation these institutions persisted.

My focus here is not on what was but on what is, and that is a diverse and rich culture. On the streets of South Africa you will notice a western trend and South African township style. By western trend I mean the influence on the South African youth is a reflection of visual, print and social media. There is a mix of eclectic, chic, dated, contemporary and video vixen style of dressing. It is not just about style but about what defines the individual, I am inclined to say a person who is passionate about their ‘art’ “yes art” becomes a sort of brand. An individual who loves rap will treat it like an art, follow popular trends from celebrities from dressing, swagger, gesture, dance, slang and even write music or be involved in rap battles.
A great platform to witness this is a social event preferably a party scene where you can witness the different looks and behaviour.

South African restaurants have more of an obvious western culture by this I mean, as an African country one would expect to find a traditional menu or part thereof this is not the case. As a result when you attend a black function for example a family function the menu will have a large western influence. One thing I can tell you where there is no compromise is the slaughtering of an animal for meat this might be a cow, lamb or goat. Which is cooked outside on a three-legged pot in an open wood fire, the meat from this is absolutely manufique. It is the highlight of the entire event, every part of the animal is consumed including intestines and hooves it is accompanied by dumplings a sought of bread but its consistency is wet/sticky where as bread dough is dry and should not stick.

Here is a recipe you can try: Note the dough should be a bit sticky not dry.

Dumplings and Lamb Stew Recipe
Serves: 5-6
For Dumplings:
575ml (2¼ cup) cake flour
250ml (1 cup) warm water
5ml (1tsp) instant dry yeast
5ml salt
10ml (2 tsp) sugar
For Stew:
1 onion, chopped
25ml cooking oil
± 500g stewing lamb, trimmed and cubed
2 tsp (10ml) salt
4 black pepper cons
50 ml chutney
4 carrots, chopped
4-6 baby potatoes, peeled
1 stock cube
75ml split peas
2ml crushed chilli
2.5ml medium curry powder
5ml fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
5m1 worcestershire sauce
  1. Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
  2. Add water and knead.  Do not add more water if it looks dry, just continue kneading until combined.
  3. Cover the dough and let it rest at a warm place for about 30-45 minutes.
  4. Make round balls the size of a golf ball.
  1. Heat the oil in a big saucepan, throw in the onions.
  2. Add the lamb pieces stirring with a wooden spoon to lightly brown.
  3. Add the spices, chutney, split peas and herbs.
  4. Dissolve the stock cube in 500ml warm water and add to the stew. Simmer at low heat for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, carrots and neatly place the balls on top of the stew.  Simmer for 30 minutes.
You can replace the lamb with mutton or beef and adjust your water and cooking times accordingly

Even with these obvious trends I do not know if I have answered my initial question of how in a young democracy can westernisation be so ingrained. Maybe I can attribute it to the large influx into the cities during urbanisation and the apartheid era that saw many South Africans abandon their rural homes to work in the cities to sustain their families back home in the rural area. This gave rise to broken families and children that grew up without a mother or father to parent them and instill culture and tradition in them. This gave rise to an erosion of culture and tradition which lead to the future generations to identify with that which surrounded and influenced their daily lives.

 Westernisation as such is not a bad thing its a diversity and an intertwining of cultures. The loss of one culture to another is unacceptable but the coexistence of more than one culture makes for a rainbow nation, which is what South Africa is.


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