Recommended Books and Movies to Read and Watch Before Visiting Africa

Recommended Books and Movies to Read and Watch Before Visiting Africa

South Africa is undoubtedly one of Africa’s greatest culturally diverse and historical cities. While the political backdrop to South Africa’s history is most certainly a defining characteristic of the nation, others often forget to reflect upon the fact that South Africa is a beautiful country with so much to offer.  

If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, it’s worth your while to familiarise yourself with the traditions and history through the eyes of writers and directors that have called this Rainbow Nation home, through the good times and the bad. As you anticipate your trip, it’s important to understand the varying perspectives that have contributed to the rich and colorful history.

To learn more about South Africa’s past and present, check out a few of these books and movies:

Movies to Watch


Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom

The 1994 life story by Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid radical and politician. It is a story of Nelson Mandela’s existence from his younger years in a rural community as he grows up, his education and the 27 years he spent in prison before becoming President and working to restore the country’s once split culture.

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This story is based on the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted here following the dismantling of apartheid. It illustrates how rugby helped Mandela create peace amongst South Africans.

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Searching for Sugar Man

An incredibly interesting true story about a singer who was popular in South Africa. He moved the United States where no one knew who he was. This film illustrates how little SA was aware of the rest of the world.

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Out of Africa

Even though this movie is set in Kenya, this film with young Meryl Streep and Robert Redford provides a striking image of Africa’s colonial past. Much of the story is read like a diary of the main character, Karen Blixen’s, new life as a pioneer as she learns more about the local African tribes and how to coexist with them.

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The Gods Must Be Crazy

This classic 80’s movie shows a comical portrait of travelling Bushman from Botswana who encounters modern civilization and its stranger aspects. The most amusing part about this film is the anthropological, David Attenborough style assessment of modern life seen through the eyes of an African Bushman.

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The Bang Bang Club

This biographical drama released in 2010 is about four photojournalists who worked together in South Africa to document the violence that preceded the end of Apartheid in 1994.

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Blood Diamond

This film reveals details of a conference held in Kimberley, South Africa in 2000, concerning blood diamonds. It led to the development of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which wanted to approve the origin of rough diamonds to kerb the trade in conflict diamonds.

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Books to Read


When She Was White: The True Story of a Family Divided by Race – Judith Stone

In the course of the most detrimental years of racism in South Africa, the tale of one young girl shocked the nation and came to symbolise the injustice, corruption, and harsh nature of apartheid.

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Born a crime – Trevor Noah

The powerful, uplifting, and comically classy account of one man’s coming-of-age, set towards the end of apartheid and the tumultuous era of freedom that followed.

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Cry, the beloved country – Alan Paton

This famous impassioned novel is about a black man’s country under white man’s law during apartheid in South Africa. It is truly a work of searing beauty.

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The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay

A book and a movie about a young English boy growing up in the apartheid era in South Africa who through his boxing talent, becomes a symbol of hope, in a time of war.

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