Impact of globalization on cultural identity in South Africa

Posted: August 12th, 2013





Impact of globalization on cultural identity in South Africa

            The Republic of South Africa is a state that is located on the southern tip of the continent of Africa. It is the 25th largest state in the world. In addition, South Africa (SA) is also ranked 24 as the most populous state in the world. The total population is estimated at 51 million. SA is recognized as a multi-ethnic state comprising of diverse languages and cultures. The constitution recognizes 11 official languages. Two languages in this collection originated from Europe. Afrikaans is a language that mainly originated from the Dutch. The language is mainly spoken by colored and white South Africans. English is also used commonly among the citizens. However, it is the fifth spoken language in the state.

Close to 80 percent of the South African population traces its ancestry from the black origin. These people are further divided into various ethnic groups that speak different Bantu languages. Nine of these languages have been given official status. South Africa’s diversity also incorporates people of Asian, European and other racially mixed ancestries from Africa. South Africa is rich is culture and is recognized among the largest cultural centers in the world. There are areas in the country that acquired recognition from UNESCO as World Heritage sites. The Gauteng province is commonly referred to as the cradle of mankind (Reid,, 98).

South Africa is also considered the largest economy in Africa (Blauer,, 56). It is also ranked among the rapidly growing frontiers of investment. However, with the new economic status some of the cultural identity is slowly being lost as a result of globalization. Some South Africans still live in rural areas and maintain the South African culture. These people are also impoverished. However, the blacks in the cities have become increasingly westernized and urbanized. Various aspects of their culture are slowly declining. The changes in lifestyle have also influenced their change and preference for western culture.

Some of the major areas affected by cultural change are in urban centers such as Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. The annual South African survey revealed that more people are moving to urban centers. This is because of the perception that urban centers provide areas for economic opportunities. In addition, the rural areas are highly underdeveloped to cater for their economic needs. According to the survey, in the year 1990 only 52 percent of the total population lived in urban areas. However, the numbers have increased to 62 percent in 2010. In addition, more people are projected to move into urban centers in the near future.

The increase in rural-urban migration poses many challenges for the government and citizens in general (Ettagale,, 86). In addition, urbanization causes disparities in the process of service delivery. These sections of urban South Africans are the primary drivers of the change in culture, in the country. The increase in global connectivity through trade, government, culture, education and technology has also led to globalization. Globalization has led to the erosion of culture in South Africa. This has particularly affected the young people in urban areas. Some of the major aspects of culture affected include language, cuisine, lifestyles, music, religion, social norms, social institutions, art, literature, sports and education.

South Africa is popular across the globe (Muller, 62). Some of the major traditional styles are used in this music. They also make use of traditional musical instruments. Music is a major aspect of the traditional culture in South Africa. All of the major communities in South Africa used music as a form of expression. Zulu music and dance are one of the most popular traditional forms of music. Music was also used to mark major traditional ceremonies and celebrations. Traditional music was also categorized for children with children folk songs. Many of the traditional songs in South Africa have their roots in style of music called Isicathamiya. Most of the traditional songs were also passed from one generation to another.

Traditional music in South Africa also integrated the use of traditional instruments. These musical instruments composed of horns, whistles, likembe (thumb piano) and the kakai (piano). They also used string instruments such as violins and fiddles made form hollowed guards. Music in the traditional system was also associated with song and dance. People would gather together in the villages, in dance celebrations. Song and dance were also used during various significant events in the community. They were also associated with religious festivities and acts of veneration. For instance, some communities had the “earth bow” that was used to worship the beauty of nature. In addition, it was used to request for bountiful hunting and fishing.

In recent years, the music in South Africa has experienced dynamic change. The traditional music and musical instruments are also being replaced by westernized music. The internet has also been one of the major sources of western music. Therefore, there is limited value for traditional South African music in urban areas. The role of traditional music as a form of cultural identity has reduced among the young people in urban areas. The music from the region is also primarily westernized. This is because the musicians are seeking to capture and appeal to the youth in urban areas. Therefore, the music in South Africa is slowly losing its identity. The traditional instruments have also been replaced with modernized ones. It is a rare occurrence for young musicians to use the horns or likembe. Accordingly, young people have little or no preference to the traditional approach of South African music and dance.

Some of the major traditional languages in South Africa are the Sotho, Zulu and Fanagolo. Other languages spoken in the country include Xitsonga, Setswana, Sesotho and Tshivenda. Language gives a group of people identity. It is through language that people also identify and incorporate aspects of their culture. However, the influence of (Gerdes, 97) has changed the speaking patterns in urban centers. Young people in these areas have been influenced strongly by western culture. These young people mainly prefer to speak English instead of their traditional language. In addition, they have developed their own urban slang. This has caused a decline in the use of traditional language. Most of the children born in these urban areas have little or no knowledge of their traditional language. Consequently, they cannot identify or see the value of language as a form of cultural identity.

The social structure in the traditional South African system had an integrated approach. People within most the traditional communities would interact regularly. Most of the traditional activities were done communally. For instance, most of the communities carried out division of labor. Therefore, it was a common phenomenon for men to hunt together and women to undertake household activities. In addition, the family unit integrated the extended members of the family. The roles were therefore defined, as the grandparents in some communities would teach their children sex education. It was the responsibility of senior members of the family to take care of the children. In some communities, the children were considered the children of the community. Therefore, members of the entire community were tasked with the role of caring for the child in the absence of the parents.

Communal integration was also important in the process of transmission of culture. For instance, children in the Zulu community would sit together and listen to myths and legends from their grandparents. It was therefore easier to transmit the culture and traditions of the community through this system. Major feasts and celebrations were marked by the entire community bringing together all the members of the society. These ceremonies included major rites of passage such as initiation ceremonies and marriages. These ceremonies created the opportunity for members of different families to come together and unite under the umbrella of the community. Therefore, the traditional communities were unified. A common ancestry also gave these communities a unique form of identity. The cultures of the community would be passed on to the younger generations through word of mouth.

However, the modern approaches to social structures in urban centers are distinct from most of the traditional systems. The societies in most urban areas, in South Africa, have become increasingly urbanized (Coquery, 52). The western concept of individuality has been adopted in most urban centers, in South Africa, such as Johannesburg and Pretoria. Most of the people living in these areas can attest to the fact that they have little or no knowledge of their neighbors. Most of the reasons cited would be the demand from their businesses or profession and lack of interest. This is contrary to the traditional structure whereby people within the same community interacted to form lasting relationships. Most people are driven by economic interest with little or no motivation towards socialization. This is also another impact of globalization and the influence of the capitalist system that focuses on individuality (Stiglitz, 89).

Children in the urban areas have limited opportunities to learn their customs and traditions. This is because of the reduced interactions with members of their extended families and particularly those from the older generation. In the traditional system, children learnt valuable customs from their grandparents. However, urbanization has reduced contacts among people from urban areas. The opportunities to learn various issues related to traditions are limited. In addition, traditional feasts and ceremonies are not held as regularly. Therefore, the younger generations lack the opportunity to learn their culture first hand. The use of internet as a global tool has become the primary source of information for the younger generation.

The traditional African society placed considerable importance on children. The children were considered gifts from the Supreme Being. Therefore, the society had the sole responsibility of taking care of them. However, the modernization of society has had negative consequences. Children in the modern South African society are taken care by their parents and guardians. Reduced interactions have also limited the influence of the older generation among the children. Consequently, major towns in South Africa are ravaged by vast numbers of street children. It is estimated that close to 60000 children live in the streets of major cities in South Africa. The concept of street or neglected children was a foreign one among traditional South African communities. Children in the traditional society would always find a caretaker.

Traditional South African attires were worn in relation to the individual’s tribe. Therefore, attire was used to identify the people from different tribes and culture. These attires were of much importance. The community’s would adorn these attires for different occasions. It was a rare occurrence for people to wear similar attires in different occasions. Therefore, the attires were essential for distinguishing the different events within the community. In addition, attire was used to distinguish the different roles played by members of the society. However, these traditional attires are slowly being replaced by the western culture. The young people in urban centers disregard the traditional attires as unsophisticated and “uncool.” Those who claim to make traditional clothing have also polluted them with westernized designs therefore reducing their cultural function.

Traditional South African cuisine is drawn from different cultures and tribes. In the traditional system, each tribe had their unique food and cooking methodology. Food was a significant part of their culture. In addition, it formed a distinction form other cultures. The most common staple meals among majority of the traditional cuisines were maize and meat. Meat was particularly eaten to mark special occasions such as winning the war and wedding ceremonies. Meat was traditionally prepared through grilling over an open fire. Some of the main traditional foods include braai, boerewors and biltong. However, the influence of globalization has changed the role of traditional cuisine in South Africa. The cuisines are replaced with the westernized fast food culture. Many young people cannot identify with the traditional cuisines. In addition, some of these cuisines are influenced by western cooking to reduce their essence and traditionalism.

Another challenge of globalization is the effects of the growth of the economy (Suter, 64). This has led to an increase in the disparities as the middle class rises at the expense of the poor. Though the country is categorized as an upper middle-income state, the levels of poverty are still high. Close to half of the South African population lives below the R500 poverty line. However, this is a significant number that has improved from 1993. Poverty statistics are higher in rural areas. These areas are faced with numerous challenges on the economic front (Harrison, 82). Uneven distribution of resources within the state has led to poor development and marginalization of some areas. Consequently, people move from rural areas to urban areas in search of better prospects. Ultimately, this creates the challenges of the effects of urbanization.

The integration of the world into a small village has had numerous benefits for South Africa. Globalization has enabled people of diverse backgrounds and customs to interact. This has created a system of interconnectivity and reliance among different countries. These cultural interactions have created a stage for the recognition and popularity of the South African culture. This culture is in the form of language, fashion, music and cuisine. Many people can familiarize with the songs and dance from South Africa. In addition, South Africa is one of the most culturally recognized states in the African continent.

Globalization has also reestablished South Africa from its dark past. People are aware of the racialism. In addition, people also familiarize with the period of the apartheid regime that was oppressive to Africans (Allen, 57). This recognition provides a study and analysis of the countries roots and a deep history. Therefore, some of the major historical figures are recognized as ambassadors of South Africa. In addition, some of the major figures of South Africa like Nelson Mandela are renowned globally. His role against the apartheid government has been a major feature in the international media and film industry.

Globalization has also been instrumental in establishing South Africa as a global cultural centre. South Africa has overwhelming statistics on cultural diversity. Asians and people from Australasia, Western Europe and America can also be found in various parts of the country. The constitution guarantees cultural freedom. Therefore, these groups of people are free to practice their customs in South Africa. Asians living in South Africa are predominantly from the Indian origin. They practice their cultural heritage, religious beliefs and language freely in South Africa. Interactions with these communities have also increased cultural exchange.

In conclusion, urbanization has had both positive and negative effects on the major cities in South Africa. Culture in South Africa has been one of the fronts affected by globalization. The reduction of cultural practices in South Africa is alarming. However, there is a section of communities that still cherish and foster their culture. This has led to the term “rainbow nation” in reference to South Africa. In addition, the benefits of cultural exchange as a result of globalization cannot be overlooked.



Expert paper writers are just a few clicks away

Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.

Calculate the price of your order

You will get a personal manager and a discount.
We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price: