Who are the Ndebele?

The Ndebele people are one of the ethnic groups of South Africa among the Nguni speakers who represent the blacks of South Africa. The Nguni are about 67% of the total black population of South Africa and are divided into southern Nguni, central Nguni, Swazi in Swaziland and Mpumalanga Gauteng Ndebele.

Ndebele’s groups are distinguished geographically, as well as by their culture and language. The tribes of the northern province Ndebele, Bagaseleka and Bagalanga speak the Sotho language and imitate their culture. North Ndebele in South Africa lives in the area between Warmbaths and the Limpopo River and between the border of Botswana to the west of South Africa and the border with Mozambique to the east.

Ndebele Socio-Cultural Life

The Ndebele has authority structures similar to those of the Zulu. The head of the tribe is responsible for authority with the help of the family council.

Women usually wear traditional ornaments that symbolize their marital status in society. Married women wore more elaborate dresses with brass and copper life rings in the neck, arms and legs to denote their sincerity and bond with their spouses in times gone by. They also wore neck rings that were made of grass, rolled up and closed in beds for traditional occasions. Married women also wore a total of five fingers after giving birth to their first child to celebrate the peak of marriage. The blanket was adorned with beads to record the essential occasions during the woman’s life. The boys of Ndebele are dressed in the small front facing forward of goatskin or remain naked, but the girls wear decorated skirts.

The rite of passage of initiation indicates the transition from infancy to maturity in the Ndebele community. Both boys and girls suffer circumcision after every four years. Initiates are kept isolated in a place where they are trained to become adults.

Married couples must belong to different clans in the community. The women were generally married after their confinement when they were initiated and received a decorated cover.

The land of Ndebele was municipal property, and parts of the land were given to families other than the head of the area and the chiefs with a tax. The grazing fields were free for all Ndebele cattle breeders as his property was common.

The main economic activity of Ndebele is agriculture. The Ndebele maintained livestock and goats as a profitable and sustaining activity. They grow crops like sorghum, corn, pumpkins and green vegetables.

Ndebele has also taken part in industrial arts and crafts such as knitting of night mats, mats and sieves as economic activities. They also exchanged clothes, glass beads and tobacco.

Ndebele Beliefs

The Ndebele community traditionally thought that external powers like a spell or a curse were the reasons for the disease. People of traditional medicine were able to cure these diseases. Many of the Ndebele today have converted to Christianity while some still obey the ancient cult.Due to internal conflicts, the Ndebele separated into the current northern Ndebele and southern Ndebele.

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