The Arts and Literature

The history of South African art dates back to the Stone Age. More than 3000 sites containing San and Chicha art, in the form of wall murals depicting animals and people of the period, have been preserved.

The earliest examples of western art are the sketches made by cartographers and chronicles written by the first settlers. Professional artists usually painted landscapes and were influenced by the British and Dutch traditions. Although landscape painting is still popular the political environment has also influenced contemporary art.

South African music and dance is vibrant and colourful. Traditional Native forms of dance and music are often blended with classical or modern elements to create original forms of musical expression. These have helped unite the various ethnic populations.

South Africa has a rich oral tradition that is centuries old and is passed from generation to generation. Songs and stories tell of changes in social conditions and family values. Modern poetry often deals with contemporary problems plaguing South Africa, from apartheid and ethnic strife to environmental degradation and the erosion of traditional values. Some contemporary poetry contains nostalgic reminiscences about the old South Africa. Some well-known poets include Alfred Temba Qabula, Nise Malange, Dennis Brutus, Makholotso Makhomo, Patrick Cullinam, and Ingrid de Kok.

Many literary works express the struggles of the disadvantaged under apartheid, the wrongs of segregation and a longing for unity. Some well-known authors who have written about apartheid include Steve Biko, Rian Milan, Nadine Gordimer, Andre Brink and Alex La Guma. The biggest bestseller in South Africa in recent years has been Nelson Mandala's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.