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Black tribes in South Africa

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Tribes in South Africa

This text tells a bit about some of the most common black tribes in South Africa. Since the number of people changes as time pass by I´ve chosen not to give any numbers. Instead you can help yourself if you want to find exact numbers of the tribes. In the meantime I can tell you that the biggest group is The Zulus, they were about 9 millions in South Africa when I wrote this text. I made this work in my english lessons when I was in the ninth grade, year 2002. Hope you will enjoy it.

My questions
What are the biggest tribes in South Africa?
What are the differences between them?
How do the different tribes live?
What kind of rituals and traditions do they have?
Have they got any chiefs, what sex?

One of the first things I learned when I started to work with this subject is that it is hard to divide the black population in South Africa into different tribes.
I had to change the subject a little bit. Mostly you talk about people speaking different languages. For example the Pedipeople speak Sepedi and their land is called Bapedi.

There are two groups of languages in South Africa, Bantulanguage and then the ones spoken by Khoisanpeople (more about the Khoisans later). The Bantugroup is the biggest one, about 50 millions people in Africa speak Bantu and there are about 200 different languages, the biggest are Swahili and Zulu. Most of the bantuspeaking people came wandering from the north and settled down in South Africa during the last 500 years. The original black population in South Africa where the bushmen, who belong to the Khoisanpeople. Those speak a very special language with a lot of clicks. Some of them are made with the tongue and can sound as a wet kiss.


Pedi
The Pedipeople live in the northern province of South Africa, in Sekhukhune land. There are many kinds of spoken Sepedi but only one written. The Pedis are known for storytelling. The stories can teach about life and Bapedi culture. Songs are also a part of the culture. The stories are usually told in the evenings but nowadays radio and TV have replaced them. When the Pedis are working in groups they often sing together to finish quick.

One song is about killing a lion to become a man. This is very unusual and no longer practised. Actually it was so unusual that if a boy managed, he would get high status and the ultimate price – to marry the kings daughter.


Sotho
The Sothos came wandering from the north and spread over central South Africa. The Basotho nation was formed under king Moshoeshoe during the 18th century. The Sesotho language is related to Sepedi and Setswana

The Sothos have the same oral tradition with singing and storytelling as for example the Pedis.


Tswana
There are about four millions of Tswanas. Tswana is a bantupeople and also called Bechuans. Their language is called Sechuana. The Tswanas came to South Africa in the 14th century. They became cattlers and farmers. In 1820 Matabele people drove them to the north. During the 19th century Britains and Boers ruled Tswana.

Since this time, Tswanas have been living in great villages, kraals. The villages have hierarchy as ruling systems. Local chiefs are gathered under a co-ordinating king (kgosi) who rules the villages. The king’s village is called Ngwaketse and it had already in the year 1825 more than 20 000 inhabitants.

A large number of the Tswanas live in a “bantustan” called Bophuthatswana. This one was set up in the year 1977 by the Apartheid government. A bantustan is a special area, set up for a special ethnic group. The bantustans were used by the apartheid government for segregation between races.

The Tswanas is a peaceloving people. Rain is also very important to them. Tswanas think that rain brings life and joy.

Venda people
As most of the other black people in South Africa the Venda people came from the north. They first settled down in the Soutpansberg Mountains. There they built there first capital, called D´zata, which still can be seen, as ruins. Today about 875 000 in South Africa people speak Tshivenda, the language. The Venda people lived in an area, which is rich of mountains and vegetation, this have protected the Vendas. Actually Venda was the last people in the north Transvaal to get in contact with the whites.

There are rituals, performed by the Vendas, still kept secret for other people. There are also some different, mystic legends from the traditional Venda area, for example the one about the lake Fundudzi. This lake is situated deep in the Vendaland and it can only be reached by foot. The legend says that at this sacred lake you can hear music even if there isn’t anyone playing. If you want to visit the lake you will have to get permission from the chief and you can only look at it from a distance.

The Venda people have a very special relationship with crocodiles. The area where they live is quite rich of crocodiles and the can be very dangerous. The Vendas don’t want to kill crocodiles, even if the crocos meat is very welltasting. Vendas are afraid of crocodiles and think that their brains consider poison.

Nowadays many Vendas live in an independent bantustan; the capital is called Thohoyandou. This one is the third biggest in South Africa and has about 360 000 inhabitants. It is situated at the border of Zimbabwe.


Xhosa
Often live in “homelands” in Transkei and Ciskei. Xhosa came wandering from the north some hundred years ago. They settled down. The Xhosa are cattlers and need a lot of area for their animals. For more than hundred years they have been fighting against European expansion.

In the year 1856 something horrible happened to the Xhosas. A young girl, called Nongquases had a “sight”, a profy, which said that if the Xhosas made a sacrifice of all their cattle and corn the dead chiefs would return. They would force the whites into the sea and give their faithful ones their sacrifices back. Help against the whites would also come from the north, a strange people from a country called Russia would come and fight against the whites. The sacrifice was made but no chiefs or Russians came and the people starved, many people died.

The Xhosas have a strong tradition of telling stories. The tradition is used for passing on customs, beliefs and moral instruction. They give strength to the family. Elder people often tell the stories at bedtime. The legend says that if a storyteller would tell a story at daytime he or she would get horns but that is probably just because the children aren’t supposed to become lazy.


Khoisans
Khoisanpeople is the name of both the Hottentotts and the Bushmen. Hottentotts call themselves khoi and Bushmen call themselves san. Khoisanlanguages has got a lot of clicks.

Hottentotts
The word Hottentott is Dutch and means the one who is stamming. The Hottentotts are much like the Bushmen. They have nearly the same look, culture and language. The Hottentotts also have a lot in common with tribes in east Africa, for example being cattlers and wander around. This people talk with clicks and smacking sounds, just as the Bushmen.

There is still a group of Hottentotts called Nama, living in Namibia. The Hottentotts in South Africa have been more or less exterminated or mixed up with other people.

Zulu
The Zulus came from the north in the 16th century. Their king, Shaka, founded a great empire in the early 19th century. Shaka organised his Zulu nation in a hard and military way. The Zulus were very good soldiers; Shaka had a big army, mostly armed with assegajs and shields. (Assegaj is a kind of spear.) King Shaka has been called the “Black Napoleon”. For many years the great army prevented the British and Dutch conquers. The Zulus were a perfect warmaschine. Dingane, Mzilikaze and Cetewayo took over when Shaka died. The war against the Britains started 1823 and ended in July 1879 when 4300 Englishmen beated 20 000 Zulus. The Zulus soon became forced to work in the white people’s mines and at the farms.

The Zulus live in traditional round kraals but nowadays many of them live in modern cities. (A kraal is a number of small houses standing in a circle around a field for the cattle.)A large number of Zulus live in the province KwaZulu-Natal. The Zulus have a hierarchy with clan’s and locals chiefs.

The Zulus have a strong tradition of storytelling and sing...

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Anniken Gustafsson [2002-11-14]   Black tribes in South Africa
Mimers Brunn [Online]. http://www.mimersbrunn.se/Black_tribes_in_South_Africa_15... [2014-07-30]

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