Cape Town Culture

Get to know the Mother City

Cape Town is known as the ‘Mother City’ because it was the first city to emerge in South Africa. It is a complex, multicultural city with a fascinating history that owes its diversity to everyone from slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Mozambique to Dutch, English and French explorers; from indigenous Khoi and San  people to local African tribes. The mixing of peoples and cultures over the centuries, along with a painful history of racial segregation during apartheid and efforts to reintegrate and reunite post-apartheid, has led to a diverse metropolis with a wealth of cultural attractions and heritage sites.

Rhino Africa offers a Cape Town Township Tour that showcases this diversity, from the residential Bo-Kaap, to the remains of District Six, and the Townships. There’s still plenty more to see, such as the highly regarded universities, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), Stellenbosch University, University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT); the number of immaculately preserved historic buildings and the numerous newspapers, magazines and printing facilities with offices in the city.

Bo Kaap & District Six

Many coloured people in Cape Town have roots in Malaysia and are referred to as Cape Malays. They reside in Cape Town’s Bo Kaap quarter, which hugs the lower slopes of Signal Hill, and has retained its unique character despite the area’s upmarket transformation due to its proximity to the City Bowl.

Tourists can take a guided tour of the Bo Kaap. Walk down cobbled streets, visit colourful houses, and take in the aroma of spices and the sound of the call to prayer. You might even like to visit the Bo-Kaap Museum or go on a Cape Malay Cooking Safari.

From the Cape Malay influence comes the unique Cape Jazz style, epitomised by musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim and Basil 'Manenberg' Coetzee, as well as the street parade known as the ‘Kaapse Klopse’ or Minstrel Carnival, held around New Year when hundreds of musicians and dancers in colourful, shiny suits, faces painted white, march from the Grand Parade to Green Point stadium, singing and dancing. The carnival, originating from the 19th century, was introduced by Muslim slaves, the first citizens of District Six, who celebrated their only day off work in the whole year on 1 January.

The majority of the District Six inhabitants were forcibly removed from their homes during apartheid. To honour the victims and their heritage, the District Six Museum was established at 25a Buitenkant St.  

The Townships

To ignore the throng of shacks seen as you drive into Cape Town from the airport would be to ignore a large part of what makes Cape Town what it is, and South Africa as a whole. The effect of Apartheid is still heavily felt in the city, with the majority of locals, predominantly black, living in the townships on the outskirts. Township tourism is big and tours are now available, taking tourists into the womb of the shantytowns, such as Langa, South Africa’s oldest township, or Khayelitsha, the second largest, to experience a cultural shock of note. This is a moving experience and one that visually showcases Cape Town’s past and present. We don’t recommend visiting the townships on your own, especially at night. You should rather go with an experienced guide.


Whether attributed to the inspiring presence of Table Mountain at the heart of Cape Town or the fact that Cape Town has the most cultural diversity in the country, there is no denying the creative energy that flourishes in this vibrant city. Creative people, places and exhibitions are plentiful. There is no shortage of live music from jazz to rock, in and around the city. Suffice to say Cape Town is a city with a creative pulse!


Cape Town has a bustling art culture with world-class galleries and exhibitions happening all the time. Talented painters, sculptors, photographers and printmakers are continuously experimenting and offering new work. There are hundreds of galleries in and around Cape Town. Here are five to get you started:

The South African National Gallery, Government Avenue, Tel: +27 (0)21 467 4660

João Ferreira Gallery, 70 Loop Street, Cape Town

Iziko, Government Avenue, Company’s Garden, Cape Town

Michael Stevenson Gallery, Ground floor, Buchanan Building, 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock.

What if the World, First Floor, 208 Albert Road, Woodstock.


Theatre is big in Cape Town, with shows on at various arenas throughout the year. Here are our top five:

Artscape - hosts major drama productions, regular classical concerts, ballet, opera and more and is home to the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. 1-10 DF Malan St, Foreshore, Tel: +27 (0)21 421 7695

The Baxter - offers a wide range of performing arts, from kids' shows to Zulu dance spectaculars. Main Road, Rondebosch, Tel: +27 (0)21 685 7880

Kalk Bay Theatre - is an intimate theatre and restaurant near the ocean. 52 Main Road, Kalk Bay, Tel: +27 (0)73 220 5430

On Broadway - offers unique and contemporary local theatre in a restaurant-style setting. 88 Shortmarket Street, Tel: +27 (0)21 424 1194

Theatre on the Bay - hosts conventional plays and one-person shows. 1 Link St, Camps Bay, Tel: +27 (0)21 438 3301

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