4 truly South African customs and traditions

South Africa

With a population of over 52 million and an enormous assortment of ethnicities and cultures, it is not surprising that South Africa boasts some of the most captivating customs and traditions in the world. From rural KwaZulu-Natal to the vibrant heart of the Johannesburg metropolitan, fascinating lifestyles and ideals abound. This article explores some of the most interesting of these:


Lobola (or Lobolo) is an age-old African custom whereby the groom bestows a combination of items (modern families typically use cash payments, as opposed to the traditional payments of cattle) upon the family of the bride as a token of appreciation for allowing him to marry their daughter. While it demonstrates respectability and how much the girl is valued by both sides, it is also aimed at bringing the two families together by developing mutual respect and showing that the groom is capable of financially supporting his future wife.


Umqombothi is a traditional Xhosa beer that is usually drunk from a calabash. The recipe (a combination of maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast, and water) is passed down through the generations, and preparation is done outside of the home. Umqombothi has two traditional uses: to celebrate the home-coming of young men known as abakwethu (in Xhosa culture) and during the practice of contacting ancestors in the Zulu culture (known as amadlozi).

The barber


In the Zulu culture, it is believed that ancestors (known as amadlozi) are intermediaries between the living world and the Ethereal plane, living in the spirit world of unkulunkulu (the greatest of the great). In the tradition of ancestor worship, offerings and sacrifices are made to the amadlozi in order to secure a good life, sangomas serve as a designated diviner through which ancestral spirits can speak to believers. Ancestor worship, however, transcends the Zulu culture. At least 80% of South Africans journey to cultural villages in Zululand three times a year to visit a sangoma.

Ancestor worship


In South Africa, there are two distinct types of traditional healers โ€“ inyangas (or nyangas) and isangomas (or sangomas). Inyangas are the doctor of the tribe and specialize in herbal medicines and remedies that treat a number of physical diseases and problems; conversely, isangomas focus on using divination, mediumship, and โ€˜psychic healingโ€™ to call on ancestral spirits to help guide and perform holistic and symbolic healing on their clients. They are also responsible for ascertaining the cause of bad events and protecting their tribes against evil spirits.

By: Aislinn Corbet

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