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Rich Cultural Heritage

Himba Woman in the Namib Desert - Rich Cultural Heritage | Southern African Safaris | Classic Africa

Southern Africa's cultural heritage predates history, by a long way. Some of our most important knowledge of human evolution stems from archaeological evidence found in sites around southern Africa. For example, the 'Cradle of Humankind', a series of three ancient caves just outside Johannesburg, has produced approximately one third of all the world's hominid fossils from between 3.3 and 1 million years ago. Caves in other parts of South Africa have delivered the oldest known remains of our species, Homo sapiens sapiens, dated at 120,000 years old. While most of the significant research sites are not accessible to the general public (except by special arrangement), the context of southern Africa as the probable birthplace of mankind is a very imporant backdrop to the region's historic and cultural resources.

Among the most invaluable of these treasures is the wealth of ancient rock art - over 16,000 sites across the region - bequeated to us by the San (Bushmen). The original artists, the /Xum  (or southern San) are extinct as a cultural group, but their hauntingly beautiful pictographs leave us with tantalizing insights into the lives of our very earliest ancestors. And the /Xum's distant cousins, the !Kung and Khwe peoples, still exist in isolated pockets in the Kalahari Desert, providing travelers with the possibility for cultural interaction with the descendants of the region's earliest inhabitants.

The San were eventually displaced by migrant iron-age pastoralists from central and east Africa, Bantu tribes who were to establish extensive civilizations (such as Great Zimbabwe) and mighty kingdoms (like the empire built by Zulu warriors). They were followed by a rag-tag mix of outcasts and adventurers from Europe -  for 350 years these white Africans have been an indelible part of the cultural landscape in southern Africa and, for better or worse, have changed the face of the region forever. In their wake came immigrants from Asia, first as slaves, then indentured laborers, and finally as merchants.

Contemporary southern Africa is a potpourri of cultural, ethnic, and religious groups. South Africa alone has 11 official languages and 20 major ethnic groups, with origins in Africa, Europe, and Asia. It is a country at the cutting edge of politics in Africa, with one of the most sophisticated constitutions and complex racial structures in the world. Its peaceful transition to democracy during the early 1990s is widely regarded as one of the great miracles of the 20th century. Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia are equally as diverse and varied, with an emerging class of urbane African professionals alongside vibrant urban townships and some of the world's most traditional rural tribes.

Each of the many peoples of southern Africa possesses a unique way of life, embodied in their socio-political and economic systems, spiritual and ritual practices, material culture (including art, architecture, clothing and adornments), music, cuisine, and daily-life activities. The Classic African cultural experience offers a rare opportunity to explore our common African past and gain insight into different 'ways of seeing', opening the pathways towards mutual human understanding and a celebration of our diversity.

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