Why South Africa Is Called the Rainbow Nation

By Abi King | South Africa

Sep 22

Cape Town Rainbow

Why South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation

I’m in South Africa right now and it’s cold and a little wet. The skies brood a deep grey before bursting into a laughter of sunshine that comes from right inside the belly. It’s unpredictable, apparently it’s unusual, and it makes for a great sky-swept canvas on which rainbows can appear.

Of course, South Africa’s the “rainbow nation,” a term first used by Desmond Tutu and later by Nelson Mandela as full democracy arrived.

South Africa – It’s Not Black and White

Apartheid’s white vs black is well documented around the world but what’s less commonly discussed are the other communities of people who also live here. Beyond English and Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, you’ll find Indian, Malay, and Chinese communities and I’m only just getting started. There are those who call themselves “coloured” – a word that doesn’t carry the worry and weight it would back in the UK.

Rainbows in Mandela’s Cape Town

Cape Town’s landscape, too, seems borne from rainbow threads. Turquoise beaches one minute, glittering skyscrapers the next. Flat rock and barren green land then rust and red coloured townships beneath silver-grey corrugated roofs. It’s quite unlike home, where concentrated clumps of city fade evenly into the suburbs where character slinks away.

As ever, after a long journey, I’m a little tired, a little dazed and possibly even confused. A little lost in thought in fact. But as I think more, explore more and find out more about this fascinating town and the country in which it lives, I thought I’d share this photo with you.

And in the words of Nelson Mandela:

Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world”

Disclosure – I’m here in Cape Town as a guest of the Cape Town Tourism Board as part of the iAmbassador project. As always, as ever, I write whatever I like here.

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About the Author

Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!

  • Meruschka says:

    I remember reading your blog for the first time and being seriously impressed by the way you get to the core of a destination. So lovely to travel with you and share a little bit of my rainbow.

  • Hogga says:

    love it!

  • Renuka says:

    South Africa is interestingly beautiful!

  • My home country :-) While I live in Thailand, South Africa will ALWAYS be special to me and I go back to visit on average every 14 months or so. It is a troubled country but with a passion for survival, it’s a beautiful country with a dangerous ruggedness. I miss it often.

  • sfadley415 says:

    This is awesome! It would be interesting to go to other countries and experience things like this that is not in our usual comfort zone!

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