Cape Coloureds

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Cape Coloureds
Kaapse Kleurlinge
An extended Coloured South African family with roots in Cape Town, Kimberley and Pretoria
Total population
(In South Africa only, 2020)
Regions with significant populations
South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho
Afrikaans, South African English
Christian (80%), Muslim (5%)[2]
Related ethnic groups
Afrikaners, Khoisan, Basters, Oorlam, Griqua people, Cape Malays, Bantu peoples of South Africa, Indian South Africans

Cape Coloureds (Afrikaans: Kaapse Kleurlinge) are a South African ethnic classification consisted primarily of persons of mixed race African, Asian and European descent. Although Coloureds form a minority group within South Africa, they are the predominant population group in the Western Cape.

A Coloured man from Cape Town speaking Afrikaans.

They are generally bilingual, speaking Afrikaans and English, though some speak only one of these. Some Cape Coloureds may code switch,[3] speaking a patois of Afrikaans and English called Afrikaaps also known as Cape Slang (Capy) or Kombuis Afrikaans, meaning Kitchen Afrikaans. Cape Coloureds were classified under apartheid as a subset of the larger Coloured race group.

At least one genetic study indicates that Cape Coloureds have an ancestry consisting of the following cultural frames:[4]

Origin and history[edit]

The Cape Coloureds are a heterogeneous South African ethnic group, with diverse ancestral links. Ancestry may include European settlers, indigenous Khoi and San and Xhosa people, and slaves imported from the Dutch East Indies (or a combination of all).[5] People from India and the islands within the Indian Ocean region were also taken to the Cape and sold into slavery by the Dutch settlers. The Indian slaves were almost invariably given Christian names but their places of origin were indicated in the records of sales and other documents so that it is possible to get an idea of the ratio of slaves from different regions. These slaves were, however, dispersed and lost their Indian cultural identity over the course of time. Slaves of Malay and other ancestry were brought from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Madagascar, and Mozambique. This diverse assortment of people was subsequently classified as a single group under the Apartheid regime.[6]

The census in South Africa during 1911 played a significant role in defining racial identities in the country. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this census was the instructions given to enumerators on how to classify individuals into different racial categories. The category of "coloured persons" was used to refer to all people of mixed race, and this category included various ethnic groups such as Hottentots, Bushmen, Cape Malays, Griquas, Korannas, Creoles, Negroes, and Cape Coloureds.

Of particular importance is the fact that the instruction to classify "coloured persons" as a distinct racial group included individuals of African descent, commonly referred to as Negroes. Therefore, it is important to note that Coloureds or Cape Coloureds, as a group of mixed-race individuals, also have African ancestry and can be considered as part of the broader African diaspora.[7]

Under Apartheid, under the Population Registration Act as amended, the term Cape Coloured referred to a subset of Coloured South Africans, with subjective criteria having been used by the bureaucracy to determine whether a person was a Cape Coloured, or belonged to one of a number of other related subgroups such as the "Cape Malays", or "Other Coloureds".[8][9]

Cape Coloureds in the media[edit]

Cape Coloured school children in Mitchells Plain
Cape Coloured children in Bonteheuwel township (Cape Town, South Africa)
The Christmas Bands are a popular Cape Coloured cultural tradition in Cape Town

A group of Cape Coloureds were interviewed in the documentary series Ross Kemp on Gangs. One of the gang members who participated in the interview mentioned that black South Africans have been the main beneficiaries of South African social promotion initiatives while the Cape Coloureds have been further marginalised.

The 2009 film I'm Not Black, I'm Coloured - Identity Crisis at the Cape of Good Hope (Monde World Films, US release) is one of the first historical documentary films to explore the legacy of Apartheid through the viewpoint of the Cape Coloured community, including interviews with elders, pastors, members of Parliament, students and everyday people struggling to find their identity in the new South Africa. The film's 2016 sequel Word of Honour: Reclaiming Mandela’s Promise (Monde World Films, US release) [10]

Various books have covered the subject matter of Coloured identity and heritage.

Patric Tariq Mellet, heritage activist and author of 'The Camissa Embrace' and co-creator of The Camissa Museum, has composed a vast online blog archive ('Camissa People') of heritage information concerning Coloured ancestry tracing to the Indigenous San and Khoe and Malagasy, East African, Indonesian, Indian, Bengal and Sri Lankan slaves.


The term "coloured" is currently treated as a neutral description in Southern Africa, classifying people of mixed race ancestry. "Coloured" may be seen as offensive in some other western countries, such as Britain and the United States of America.[11] Cape Coloureds identify as black in every other country besides Namibia. They are black, e.g. in the United States of America and Britain. The reason why Cape Coloureds identify as black in every other country besides Namibia is because the racial classification in other countries are different from South Africa and Namibia's racial classification and other countries do not have the racial classification "coloured".

The most used racial slurs against Cape Coloureds are Hottentot or hotnot and Kaffir. The term "hotnot" is a derogatory term used to refer to Khoisan people and coloureds in South Africa. The term originated from the Dutch language, where "Hottentot" was used to describe a language spoken by the Khoisan people. It later came to be used as a derogatory term for the people themselves, based on European perceptions of their physical appearance and culture. The term is often used to demean and dehumanize Khoisan and coloured people, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and discrimination against them.[12] The term "kaffir" is a racial slur used to refer to coloured people and black people in South Africa. It originated from Arabic and was used to refer to non-Muslims. Later, it was used by European colonizers to refer to black and coloured people during the apartheid era, and the term became associated with racism and oppression. While it is still used against Coloured people, it is not as prevalent as it is against black people.[13][14]



Artists and writers[edit]

Actors and actresses[edit]

Beauty queens[edit]





Field hockey[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mid-year population estimates, 2020 (PDF) (Report). Statistics South Africa. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  2. ^ "The Coloureds of Southern Africa". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
  3. ^ Stell, Gerald (2010). "Ethnicity in linguistic variation". Pragmatics. 20 (3): 425–447. doi:10.1075/prag.20.3.06ste. ISSN 1018-2101.
  4. ^ de Wit, E; Delport, W; Rugamika, CE; Meintjes, A; Möller, M; van Helden, PD; Seoighe, C; Hoal, EG (August 2012). "Genome-wide analysis of the structure of the South African Coloured Population in the Western Cape". Human Genetics. 128 (2): 145–53. doi:10.1007/s00439-010-0836-1. PMID 20490549. S2CID 24696284.
  5. ^ Khan, Razib (16 June 2011). "The Cape Coloureds are a mix of everything". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  6. ^ "History of Slavery and early colonisation in SA". South African History Online. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  7. ^ Moultrie, A. T., & Dorrington, R. Used for ill, used for good: A century of collecting data on race in South Africa. pp. 7, 8. Moultrie and Dorrington. Available at:
  8. ^ Valentine, Sue. "An appalling "science"". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  9. ^ Leach, Graham (1986). South Africa: No Easy Path to Peace. Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-0-7102-0848-4.
  10. ^ Szafraniec, Gina (3 April 2011). "Millions Will Watch". The Bloomington Crow. Archived from the original on 27 April 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Is the word 'coloured' offensive?". BBC News. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  12. ^ Adhikari, Mohamed (17 November 2005). Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community. Ohio University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-89680-442-5.
  13. ^ Adhikari, Mohamed, editor. Burdened by Race: Coloured Identities in Southern Africa. UCT Press, 2013, pp. 69, 124, 203 ISBN 978-1-92051-660-4
  14. ^ Mathabane, M. (1986). Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa. Simon & Schuster. (Chapter 2)