Coloureds (Afrikaans: Kleurlinge or Bruinmense, lit.'Brown people') are a multiracial ethnic group native to Southern Africa who have ancestry from more than one of the various populations inhabiting the region, including Khoisan, Bantu, European, Malay, or Indian. Because of the combination of ethnicities, different families and individuals within a family may have a variety of different physical features.[6][7] Coloured was a legally defined racial classification during apartheid.[7][8]


Extended Coloured family with roots in Cape Town, Kimberley and Pretoria
Total population
5,400,000~ in Africa
Regions with significant populations
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe
 South Africa5,247,740 (2020 Estimate)[1]
Afrikaans, English
Predominantly Christianity, minority Islam
Related ethnic groups
Africans, Cape Dutch, Cape Coloureds, Cape Malays, San people, Khoikhoi, Zulu, Xhosa, Saint Helenians, Rehoboth Basters, Tswana
Coloured people as a proportion of the total population in South Africa.
  •   0–20%
  •   20–40%
  •   40–60%
  •   60–80%
  •   80–100%
Density of the Coloured population in South Africa.
  •   <1 /km²
  •   1–3 /km²
  •   3–10 /km²
  •   10–30 /km²
  •   30–100 /km²
  •   100–300 /km²
  •   300–1000 /km²
  •   1000–3000 /km²
  •   >3000 /km²
A genetic clustering of South African Coloured and five source populations.[5] Each vertical bar represents individual.

In the Western Cape, a distinctive Cape Coloured and affiliated Cape Malay culture developed. In other parts of Southern Africa, people classified as Coloured were usually the descendants of individuals from two distinct ethnicities. Genetic studies suggest the group has the highest levels of mixed ancestry in the world.[9][10] Mitochondrial DNA studies have demonstrated that the maternal lines of the Coloured population are descended mostly from African Khoisan women. This ethnicity shows a gender-biased admixture.[11][12] Male lines originate from Nguni, Southern African, West African, and East African populations at 45.2%; Western European lineages at 37.3%; and South Asian/Southeast Asian lineages at 17.5%.[11][12]

Coloureds are mostly found in the western part of South Africa. In Cape Town, they form 45.4% of the total population, according to the South African National Census of 2011.[13]:56–59

The apartheid-era Population Registration Act, 1950 and subsequent amendments, codified the Coloured identity and defined its subgroups. Indian South Africans were initially classified under the act as a subgroup of Coloured.[14] As a consequence of Apartheid policies and despite the abolition of the Population Registration Act in 1991, Coloureds are regarded as one of four race groups in South Africa. These groups (blacks, whites, Coloureds and Indians) still tend to have strong racial identities and to classify themselves and others as members of these race groups.[8][7] The classification continues to persist in government policy, to an extent, as a result of attempts at redress such as Black Economic Empowerment and Employment Equity.[7][15][16]

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