People of the Eastern Cape

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					People of the Eastern Cape
“The vibrancy of and pride of the Xhosa, the slick business acumen of the
Greeks, Indians, Dutch and Portuguese, the freedom fighting spirit of the Scots,
the class and good taste of the Brits, the pioneering courage of the Afrikaners
and Germans, the caring ways of the Malays and humour of the KhoiSan have
created have created this unique group of people from Eastern Cape.


The culturally rich Xhosa established their dynasty in Eastern Cape long before
the arrival of the colonialists. History books quarrel about their precise origin.
Some insist that they formed part of the progressive trek of Bantu, or Nguni,
people from Congo in central Africa five or six centuries ago. Other more recent
revelations evince that the Xhosa, or Cape Nguni, have been in the area a lot
longer. Archaeological traces found at Canasta Place Farm near East London
suggest Xhosa inhabitants of this area as far back as the seventh century.

Either way, what is certain is that the Nguni people, who for centuries have lived
and moved across Eastern Cape have brought to the area a magnificent history
sumptuous with stories, be they fact, legend or myth.


Speckled across the province are the brown people of the land, whose rich
heritage dates back thousands of centuries, but because of western influence
have now had to revive their culture, language and identity.
Descendants of the Khoi-Khoi, Griqua and San are collectively called the
KhoiSan. Europeans and British settlers, Malay and Xhosa interacted with the
KhoiSan from which a vibrant, charismatic culture group referred to as “coloured”
people evolved.

Descendants who feel strongly about their KhoiSan roots, but have been
besieged by western habit, are now fervently hunting their lost culture. KhoiSan
awareness projects are blooming across the country.

According to research by Working Group of Indigenous Minorities (WIMSA), the
San are the oldest genetic stock of contemporary humanity. The KhoiSan taught
the Dutch the medicinal value of plants. Today old herb remedies like perde pis
and buchu are still commonly used to treat ailments.

The KhoiSan, mostly Afrikaans speaking, largely follow Christianity and observe
all celebrations of the faith. Due to oppression, they were denied academic
instruction and were steered into the labour force. A few became teachers and
social workers, the only careers available for them during apartheid.
Cape Malay

Fine artisanship and delicious spicy bredies come to mind when Cape Malay
culture is mentioned. But the influence of this tan skin Muslim ethnic group on
South African culture is not this simplistic.

The Malays came to the Cape as slaves and political exiles from Java and
Indonesia in 1667. Today more than 40 000 Malays live in Eastern Cape where
the legacy of their superb artisanship abounds.

Afrikaans, a language widely spoken by Malays, adopted words like
piering(saucer) and piesang(banana)from Malayo, their original spoken tongue.


The influence of the Portuguese has been felt in the Eastern Cape ever since
Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape and sailed up the East Coast of Africa to
Malindi in present-day Kenya. He was en route to open up a spice route to the
east. The Portuguese
Dominated this trade route throughout the sixteenth century and build forts and
supply stations along the west and east African coasts.

These people have brought the province industry, business, respected civic
leaders, medical people, and of course, the ever reliable café owner.


The Afrikaners are the descendants of the Dutch and French Huguenots who
settled in southern Africa from the 1600’s.They are also commonly known as the
Boers, which means “farmers” in Afrikaans.

Later British settlers prompted them to move further inland, where, isolated from
their European influences, they Africanized and developed their own culture and
language. The Afrikaners have also been called the white tribe of Africa. Their
language is Dutch of origin and structure, similar to the Flemish. It is also
influenced by African, Portuguese, German, French and Malay languages. In
1925, Afrikaans was declared the official language of South Africa besides
English. The Afrikaners, or Boers, have a rich mix of cultures in their blood: one
estimate has 40% Dutch, 40% German, 7.5% British (mainly Scots), 7.5%
French and 5% others. The word Afrikaner was first used in 1707.


The small but steadfast Greek community of Eastern Cape started with the
arrival of George Vranikas in Port Elizabeth in 1879. He settled in South End,
married a German girl, had five children and owned a large portion of South End
by the time he died in1935.

Greek food and culture traditionally revolves around the church and the Greek
calendar features several feasts – especially at Easter when red-dyed eggs are
an important symbol. South Africans can thank Greeks for calamari, feta,
moussaka and brinjels - to name just a few of their wonderful food influences,

British, Dutch and Germans

The Dutch, Germans, Scottish and British settlers came to Eastern Cape and
established farms, fought battles, built towns and adjusted to life in the untamed
valley bushveld.
Place names, surnames, architecture, farms, and churches still hint at the legacy
of these pioneering spirits. As the landing ground of the 1820 settlers, Eastern
Cape boasts some of the oldest and grandest colonial heritage sites.


Plaited into the colourful tapestry of Eastern Cape is the Indian Culture. Indians
came to South Africa as sugarcane farming slaves to neighbouring Kwa Zulu
Natal in the late 1800’s. This heritage-rich nation, with a wonderful mix, displays
exquisite art and creativity when celebrating a host of traditional festivals. Indian
cuisine – their pride – sees dishes individually and uniquely spiced so dinners
can experience layers of flavours unfolding on the palate when they eat. Indians
mostly speak English.


When the South African Nationalist government needed to economically boost
the former homelands of Transkei and Ciskei(now Wild Coast and Amatole) ,
they invited Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants to set up industry in Dimbaza,
close to King William’s Town. This was the most recent introduction of the
Chinese and Taiwanese to Eastern Cape. Others came earlier than this to set up

Though a reticent nation, the Chinese and Taiwanese have made themselves at
home in Eastern Cape. They are known for their hospitality and food, and their
oriental warmth connects them with the locals. Their sense of unity is strongly
accentuated by the round tables around which they eat.”

Eastern Cape Tourism Board

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