Cape Coloureds - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

The generally heterogeneous nature of Coloured culture is also reflected in patterns of family life, kinship, and marriage. Thus, on the Namaqualand reserves, a number of families follow practices regarding descent, generation, age, and sex that are recognizably Nama Khoi, whereas most middle-class families in the major urban areas hardly differ from Western middle-class families generally. Meaningful analysis of kinship and marriage can therefore be carried out only within a particular community or a specific regional context. It is quite erroneous to suggest that where matricentric families are found, evidence of pre-Emancipation slave culture is still evident.

An important aspect of Coloured kinship and marriage lies in people's preoccupation with class, status, and color, reflecting the extent to which Coloured people are enmeshed in the structure of South African society and their preoccupation with White values in particular. In the reserve communities of the district of Namaqualand, people distinguish four lineage categories. Marriages within and between these categories are guided by various preferential rules of status endogamy based on such criteria as skin color, hair form, ethnic origin, and so forth. Similar patterns are found in urban areas, where the emphasis on biological characteristics and ethnicity is complicated by indexes of association, educational achievement, political and religious affiliation, occupation, and the like. Some light-skinned Coloured individuals were able to change their official race classification to White. The process was a complex one and could only be undertaken successfully by higher-status people with established social networks among people in the White estate.

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