South African arts and culture

South Africa’s arts and culture are as varied as the South African nation itself. European, African and Asian influences mix here. Sometimes they merely exist side by side, creating a patchwork effect. Sometimes they come together, with different elements interacting and enriching each other to produce something new and surprising.

Art and culture facts and figures:

  • The oldest rock art in South Africa, dating from 10,200 years ago, was discovered in the Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman in the Northern Cape. The oldest painted stones were recovered at Boomplaas Cave in the Cango Valley near Oudtshoorn; they are 6,400 years old.
  • The world’s first free public library service was established in South Africa by Lord Charles Somerset in 1820, by levying a tax on the sale of wine; however, this experiment did not last long.
  • Started in 1934, the Cape Town City Ballet is the oldest ballet company in the country. Ninety-nine percent of the artists employed by the company are local artists.
  • South Africa has more than 300 museums.
  • South Africa is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to boast two Nobel laureates for literature, JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer.
  • The net turnover of the book sector in South Africa was estimated at about R5 billion in 2007. This included about R3,2 billion earned through publishing and R1,8 billion from book sales. Books for sale online is increasing and contributing to the growth in book sales.
  • The biggest art festival in South Africa is the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, held every year in June or July for eleven days.
  • South Africa is the 25th largest market for recorded music, with the industry employing more than 20,000 people. Local music accounts for a third of all the music bought by South Africans.
  • Crafts industry employs about one million people, with South African crafts being exported all over the world.
  • Television was introduced to South Africa only in 1976.

Also see: SA Government Information