From disrupting the global art scene to challenging the name of a nation, 2017 has been a momentous year for South Africa. Culture Trip celebrates the country’s innovations and triumphs as we reflect on the most notable moments this year.
Heads turn as Cape Town puts African art on a global stage
Various art forms often tell African stories without the people themselves actually having much of a say in it; a lack of representation persists. Enter Cape Town’s new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, an initiative aiming to create a more accessible and representative space to hear these unheard voices. The largest collection of African art is now on African soil and it’s long overdue. Signs of the museum sticking to its mission statement can already be seen from the free entry allowed for citizens of African countries on Wednesdays.
A parade of dogs broke a Guinness World Record
One way to raise awareness of animal cruelty is to break a world record. Gauteng residents dressed up their canine beauties in adorable bandanas and assembled at The Big Red Barn, beating Australia’s 2015 record of gathering 764 dogs by one.
A fight against poaching
Conservationists in South Africa continue to fight for the livelihood of its wildlife. This year has seen strenuous efforts as the country airlifted black rhinos to Chad, where a rhino hasn’t been spotted since the ’80s. One move the conservation groups didn’t support was auctioning rhino horns online, which some have proposed, as a means of eventually diminishing poaching.
Clashes between art and freedom of speech
A work of art can say a thousand words, and controversial ones sometimes bark them. This year has seen artists confront the government and gritty political realities head on. Exemplars include Jonathan Shapiro’s notorious cartoons, and Ayanda Mabulu’s sexually explicit painting of Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela. But it didn’t stop at visuals this year; an exposé on Jacob Zuma was published in October and has sold out faster than any other book in the country.
International applause for a new South African western
Filmmakers birthed a raw South African story that captivated critics at the Toronto International Film Festival. This riveting western confronts tricky social issues, and is visually astounding, with articulate cinematography that showcases South Africa’s striking landscape. Claimed to be one of the best films to have ever come out of the country, Five Fingers for Marseilles shows the world what South African filmmakers are capable of.
The internet’s beloved boxing grandmas
South Africa’s boxing grandmas did the rounds on the internet this year when they went viral. Many global news publications flocked to Claude Maphosa’s boxing sessions in Johannesburg, where he teaches elderly women twice a week. Their determination and strength is something to aspire to.
What’s in a name?
Waves of change have rippled through the continent, and South Africa is no exception. Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa proposed the idea of changing the country’s name to something less… colonial. Seeing as colonisers constructed African borders by drawing lines on maps, a few country names simply described their location and some were changed after independence.
Woman is power
2017 has been a year of resilience for many countries across the globe, with women at the forefront of the struggle. South African women have been fearlessly protesting and standing up to femicide, which is rife in the country. Their strength and fight in this year has been exemplary.
Drought of the century
The country’s worst drought this century has sparked dialogue around responsibility and the environment. Being in a popular bucket-list city, Cape Town’s hotels have had to take action with adjustments, such as removing bath plugs. All travellers should be aware of the water restrictions and state of the city’s dam as the drought continues into the new year.
Drum rolls for a highly anticipated hotel
The most anticipated hotel in Africa opened its doors in Cape Town this year. Decadent interior designs and stunning views of Cape Town’s harbour give guests the royal treatment. Situated along the luxurious V&A Waterfront, this breathtaking hotel has already been deemed a landmark.
An emerging sound that’s captivated the whole country
House music is one of South Africa’s biggest cultural exports and this year saw the rise and domination of the country’s cultural scene by a house subgenre that originated from townships, gqom. Babes Wodumo and Distruction Boyz are pioneering the direction of this young genre, spiralling the whole nation into a frenzy of dance.