Africa is vastly diverse, with 54 countries and over 3,000 ethnic groups, most native to the continent. In South Africa, over ten cultural groups contribute to the country’s cultural richness. However, there is one ethnic group that has set itself apart from the majority of people in Africa.
Along the banks of the Orange River is a town called Orania — known for stunning sunsets and a wide variety of vegetation. Currently living in this town is a group of people who don’t fit the typical image of a native African. The reason is that everyone, from the store workers to government officials, is white.
Orania is an all-white town in Africa.
How did an all-white town in Africa come to be?
Orania is located in South Africa, a country that abolished apartheid 30 years ago. When legal segregation ended, many cities adjusted to this new regulation. Yet, Orania citizens decided not to adapt to this change.
Carel Willem Hendrik Boshoff, the founder of Orania, seemingly continued to follow the ideology of apartheid when he bought 8,000 hectares of land in 1990 to establish a new town with the idea of exclusivity.
Bosoff, the son-in-law of Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, saw Orania as an opportunity to build a new history for his people, descendants of the Dutch, who lived in South Africa.
Yet, before the town was established, it was inhabited by poor Black and mixed-race squatters who had set their homes there after a failed 1960s construction project. Different sources share that this group of settlers was forced out when the construction of Orania began.
Now the town is exclusively occupied by people of the same ethnic background. Everyone is white, from government officials to people working in grocery stores and schools. Yet the habitants of Orania don’t see themselves differently since they have unique traditions, languages, and a separate flag. They consider themselves Afrikaners, who just happen to have a white skin tone.
When asked who can live in Orania, Bushoff says anyone can live there. However, new residents must undergo a screening process and an interview. In addition, they would have to adapt to the Afrikaner language and culture.
Is Orania a step forward or a step backward?
Asking almost any Afrikaner why they live the way they do, they will insist that it’s not about race. Some would even say it’s more about safety.
In South Africa, the rate of violence is high. In the past year, murder rates have increased by around 10 percent. Many reports share that the country is partially at war with itself with its increase in murder and rape. Thus the Afrikaners feel their town is one of the few safe havens in the country.
Orania is a town that offers a safer and slower pace of life. There are no traffic lights, two schools, and one radio station. It’s almost like it exists in an alternative reality inside South Africa.
Many residents see Orania as an opportunity for a bright future. It’s a place to raise their children — a picture-perfect town for those viewing it from the inside. However, the city tells a different story for those on the outside looking in.
Because of the lack of cultural diversity and South Africa’s history of inequality, many non-Afrikaners see Orania as an apartheid town. While many residents of Orania may view their history as simple transactions of buying and populating land, others may view it as exclusion.
The Afrikaners are set on creating and solidifying their ways and cultural traditions. The town currently has around 2,500 people and is continuing to grow. In addition to the growth of the population, there’s also a growth in the economy. Agriculture is the glue that helps keep the town financially afloat, as the city focuses on pig and dairy farming and is one of South Africa’s largest producers of pecan nuts.
This expansion is happening without any connection to the country of South Africa, creating a blatant separation that began with the town’s establishment. Before apartheid ended, the Orania movement started in 1988. With this movement, people took the concept of apartheid, extended it, and called it something new.
Yet any other immigrant who moves to another country, particularly in Europe and the United States, is expected to assimilate, to learn the language, adapt to the culture, and become a law-abiding citizen.
In this same light, although Afrikaners have given themselves this new name, they are still immigrants to South Africa. This perspective begs the question of why haven’t they assimilated into South African culture? Or better yet, why not create a town on the soil of their native land? Although every ethnic group can hold on to and preserve their culture, what if maintaining one culture will eventually overpower another?
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Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.