Cape Town Local Customs

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    The Minstrel Festival, Jan 2014
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Most Recent Local Customs in Cape Town

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    Xhosa community

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Close community
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    People in Africa are generally more physical with one another. They do not have the same concept of a need for personal space as westerners do. This physical closeness has some positives, one being mum carrying baby on her back with a blanket tucked securely beneath the baby and tied around mums waist. This is a cultural thing too of course, as prams are not available as they are in the west. I personally like this for a baby. Baby feels mums heartbeat and its more comforting, even if your pram (buggy) happens to be a cool 4x4 haha

    Another aspect of their community is friendship. They are very community-orientated, people are readily accepted into their homes to share meals with them (albeit them being meagre anyway), and friends are easily made. They help each other a lot and work well in a community.

    Selfishness is not a word that seems to fit into their clicking vocabulary :)

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    Xhosa homesteads

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Huts in the background - dancing in foreground :)

    Homesteads have always traditionally been circular in format, with screened off kitchen areas outside the circular sleeping area. The hut is made of a frame of poles and shrubbery and boughs from trees in the shape of a bee hive.

    They built these huts in a semi circle, and in the middle was their prized cattle. They made their homesteads like this for safety. Their maize was also safely stored away, in shallow pits beneath the cattle enclosure!

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    Xhosa colours

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Young mum and child
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    Xhosas are often called the 'Red Blanket People'. Their traditional colours are ochre (an orangey yellow colour) and red. An orangey red, not a fire engine red. This colour seeps into every aspect of their lives, their clothing, housing and decoration. It is often made up of an earthy clay.

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    Xhosas, the 'clicking' people :)

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Learning from the locals

    The Xhosa language has clicking sounds throughout it. Hard to do with ones tongue (yes, I have tried! haha), it is a hollow sound.

    When I had my handmade paper manufacturing business in the Cape, many of my employees were Xhosa, and we would spend many a day trying to teach other how to speak the others' language :) Needless to say, their English was ALOT better than my 'clicking' Xhosa!

    Fond memories indeed...

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    Xhosa beliefs

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 19, 2006

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    Decorations at church

    Xhosas are traditionally ancestral worshippers, placing high regard upon their ancestors. Nowadays there is a mix between an acknowledgement of God and ancestor.

    The whole concept of death and burial has complex beliefs and rituals, and a funeral may last for days - believe you me, I know all about it... I had staff gone for days on compassionate leave. With AIDS being at crisis point now, most funerals are somehow AIDS related.

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    Xhosa courtship and marriage

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Xhosa courtship

    Xhosa men are allowed to have more than one wife. The girls all HAVE to be virgins or else they bring much disgrace on her family. Her father receives a 'labola', a type of payment for her, usually in the form of cattle. If she is not a virgin, he will also get far less labola than were she one. The father also pays a dowry to the inlaws for his daughter for her keep.

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    Muslim Malay People in the Cape

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 19, 2006

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    The Malay quarter, on the slopes of Signal Hill, in an old residential area of Cape Town, abounds with the typical, 18th century, flat-roofed Malay houses, many of them recently renovated. This area is famously called 'Bo-Kaap'... which in Afrikaans means 'Above the Cape'.

    The Muslim Malay community is deeply religious and they keep to themselves as much as possible, not wanting 'bad' outside influences to come into their community. This unfirtunately does mean an imposed type of segragation from the local communities.

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    Cape Coloureds

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 19, 2006

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    Coloureds are a unique grouping of people that are of a mixed origin. They constitute more than 3 million, or approximately 8,7% of the total population of South Africa. This group of people, with their own unique culture and customs and speaking mainly a unique dialect of Afrikaans (a 'sing-along type of accent), resides mostly in the Western Cape.

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  • Parking Attendants

    by mke1963 Updated Jan 10, 2006

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    The much-derided unofficial parking attendants are becoming an increasing nuisance in Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa. These people make a great show of helping you into a parking space you have found by yourself and then "require" a tip to watch over your car while you are away. Refusal to pay the few rand can have unfortunate consequences for your paintwork! The most enterprising parking attendants have even gone so far as to get hold of very official-looking high-visibility bibs and some even carry night-sticks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cars regularly get broken into or stolen even after paying your fee.

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    You can set your watch!

    by Martman Written Dec 31, 2005

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    On the hill next to the city, there is a cannon. Every day, this cannon goes off at 12pm. (It does not actually shoot anything, but makes the "boom" sound.) It can be heard through most of the central part of the city. I am not sure how this tradition started, but is useful for setting one's watch correct. Occasionally, if there is an important ship in the harbour, it gives a 21-gun salute instead!

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    South Africans love to have a Braai (BBQ)

    by jo104 Written Feb 22, 2005

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    Show them how its done daddy

    There is nothing better then enjoying a traditional South African braai. It is usually done on a wood burning fire outside. The men traditionally are in charge of cooking the meat whilst drinking several beers whilst the women prepare yummy salads like potatoe salad, carrot & orange salad, coleslew, noodle salad, rice salad curried with peaches & a tossed salad which could contain fruiit.

    The sausage is called borewors which is a spicied sausage coiled into a round. Sosaties are cubes of meat & vegetables on a stick. Chops & chicken are also pretty common. People do fish in tin foil (although I'm not a lover of fish)

    South Africans make a day of having a braai & the goodness is in the eating - hungry just typing this

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    Smily Face

    by Jasoninlondon Written May 20, 2004
    Smiley Face

    In the townships of Cape Town a delicacy is a cooked sheeps head called a smily face. As the head is cooked the skin stretches leaving the face looking like it is smiling, hence the name. This delight will often be the meal for a whole family at night.

    The ladies who cook this feast on the street start early as it takes over four hours to cook it properly.

    Bon Appetite!

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    Tweede Nuwe Jaar

    by glennkasner Written Dec 23, 2003

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    Traditionally the 2nd January has been an unofficial holiday in Cape Town. (no where else in South Africa is "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" celebrated.
    With its origin apparently as a holiday for slaves during the early days of the Cape of Good Hope, the tradition continues today and is celebrated by troops of colourful minstrels or "coons" as they were more commonly known.

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    Ten Rand a bunch!

    by glennkasner Written Nov 17, 2003

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    Flower Sellers

    The Adderley Street flower sellers are as colourful in their use of the English and Afrikaans language as the flowers they sell. The've been there for generations and have become an important part of the Cape Town scene.

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    The Noon Gun

    by glennkasner Written Nov 13, 2003

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    The daily firing of Cape Town's historic Noon Gun. Situated high up on Signal Hill's, Lion Battery, it has a clear view of the sea as well as the city below. There are actually two guns performing this ancient ritual of announcing 12 o' clock to the Mother City, alternating between them every other day, with the 2nd on standby in case the duty gun fails to fire.
    The terrain is now open to the public to see the daily firing of the noon gun, this particular gun has been replaced by a similar one, the two now standing side by side.
    Soon after the English occupation of the Cape in 1795, the Dutch guns were removed from Imhoff Battery at the Castle and replaced by the latest English 18 pounders.
    A time signal has been fired by one of these guns since 1806.
    With the advent of the "galvanic telegraph" it became possible to trigger a gun remotely and since 1864 the noon gun has been accurately fired from the master clock of the oldest timekeeper in the country, the South African Astronomical Observatory as it is still being fired today.
    As Cape Town developed and grew, the noise of the gun became too loud and violent for the city centre and the guns were moved up to signal hill's Lion Battery from where they are still fired today. The first signal fired from here was on the 4th of August 1902. These same guns are still in use today and the 2 guns used are the oldest guns in daily use in the world.

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Cape Town Local Customs

cleocat's Profile Photo

People are friendly and will easily smile at you. Street vendors can be a nuisance, but they are harmless and if you are firm enough they will leave you alone.

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