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Johannesburg, South Africa | © Nataly Reinch/Shutterstock
Johannesburg, South Africa | © Nataly Reinch/Shutterstock
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This Is What Happened in South Africa in 2017

Picture of Tahiera Overmeyer
Commissioning Editor
Updated: 21 December 2017
For more on the year’s cultural happenings, check out some more of our 2017 In Review round-ups.

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.

© Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou / Courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

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.

Guiness World Record South Africa_dogs
Pack of huskies | Courtesy of

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.

A rhino being airlifted | ©Gallo Images/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Five Fingers for Marseilles
Five Fingers for Marseilles | © Graham Bartholomew

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.

© Adwo/Shutterstock

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.

De Villiers Dam on Table Mountain at 40% full
De Villiers Dam on Table Mountain at 40% full | © Andrew Thompson

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.

RudeBoyz SA
RudeBoyz SA | Courtesy of the artists