Western Cape

The Western Cape’s coat of armsThe Western Cape’s coat of arms

In 1993, the Cape Province was divided into three smaller provinces. One of them is the Western Cape. The Western Cape was the first place in the country where people from Europe settled. The Europeans brought slaves from Malay to serve them, and the Malay culture became part of South Africa own heritage. Some of the buildings in Cape Town are more than 300 years old. In the Cape, as many languages like Dutch, French, German and Malay were spoken, these were mixed to form a new language called Afrikaans that is unique to South Africa. The word 'Afrikaans' means 'African' in Dutch. Today, Afrikaans is the third most widely spoken home language in South Africa, after isiZulu and isiXhosa.

Capital: Cape Town (also the legislative capital of South Africa)

Main languages: Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa

Premier: Helen Zille

First premier (1994): Hernus Kriel

The Western Cape's claim to fame:

Table Mountain

Table mountain, seen from Bloubergstrand

Table Mountain is a national monument. It is a natrual wonder of the world that is often used as a symbol for Cape Town and South Africa. On days where there are no clouds, the mountain can be seen from 200 kilometres out at sea. It is called Table Mountain because it is so flat on top that it looks like a table. On the either side of Table Mountain there three named hills. They are Devil's Peak, Signal Hill and Lion's Head.

Robben Island

Robben Island is just off the coast of Cape Town. There was a jail on the island where political prisoners were kept. Political prisoners are people who are sent to jail because they challenged the government. Many leaders of the Freedom Struggle were sent to Robben Island, including former President Nelson Mandela. Today, the jail is a museum and a World Heritage Site because of its importance to our historical heritage.

Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa that is still standing. It was built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a big trading company from the Netherlands. The castle has five corners, like a star. Each corner has a name: Buren, Nassau, Katzenellenbogen, Leerdam and Oranje. The names come from the title of the Dutch ruler of that time, the Prince of Orange. The stone that was used for the castle walls came from Robben Island.

Wine

The farm house at Groot Constantia. It was built in the Cape Dutch Style, which is only found in South Africa. Today, the house is a museum.

The wines of the Western Cape are known all over the world. Groot Constantia is the oldest wine producer in the country. It was part of the farm of one of the old Dutch governors of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. There are wine farms, or estates, all over the province, like in the Boland, Swartland, Olifants River Valley and the Klein Karoo.

Cape Minstrels

Every New Year, there is a carnival in Cape Town called the Coon Carnival. Troops parade in the streets in colourful costumes, and on the last day they all gather at the Greenpoint Stadium for a choir festival. There is a competition for the troop with the best costumes and choir performance. The carnival originated in the festivals that the old slaves held to celebrate the New Year, and was also influenced by carnivals from America. It is an important part of the culture of South Africa. Many people from all cultures come to watch the carnival every year.

Find out more about the Cape minstrels and the Coon Carnival.