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South Africa

South Africa – the most developed country on the African continent – has a remarkable history, and today is a colourful mix of cultures and wildlife. It is commonly regarded as the Cradle of Humanity, due to being where two fifths of the world’s early humanoid fossils have been discovered, including the oldest fossil aged between 50,000 and 100,000 years old.


The San bushmen were the orgingal indigenous peoples of South Africa. These bushmen transformed themselves into herding communities about 2000 years ago, creating a large shift in socialism and opening up the concept of ownership. This subsequently led to social divisions and the creation of various tribes. White settlers then arrived and started claiming land – firstly the De Boers (from Holland), followed by the British. This land became particularly important and of value when raw materials such as gold and diamonds were discovered.

Conflict inevitably became more prominent the more the various parties competed for resources and land, until 1948, when the white rulers (who had been ruling for nearly 2 centuries) developed a strategy to avoid conflict – the racially discriminate era of apartheid – which was the direct result of the National Party coming in to power.

It’s this modern history which South Africa is most known for: Nelson Mandela’s fight for equality by spending 27 years in jail, the horrific regime that terrified and almost destroyed the country until as late as 1990 when Mandela was officially freed, coming into power with the ANC in 1994.

South Africa at present is home to 48 million people and has 11 commonly spoken languages. 80% of South Africa is made up of indigenous African people. The constitution that followed apartheid means that South Africa is now technically one of the freest countries in Africa, and even the world. Not surprisingly, its history means that this country is a fascinating place to be from an anthropological perspective.

Over the next 4 weeks The Great Primate Handshake will be traveling the breadth of the country from Johannesburg (via Nelspruit, Kruger, Tzaneen) to Cape Town. The GPH volunteers will be taking in a wealth of culture and scenery – thoughts and feelings of which will be posted here shortly.