WHAT MAKES SOUTH AFRICA GREAT: TSHIVENDA CULTURE!
Hi Wanderers! We hope you have been enjoying the cultural series and learning about the different cultures South Africa has! Today we will be exploring the TshiVenda culture. This culture is actually a mixture of different cultures found in South Africa, incorporating a variety of East African, Central African, Nguni, and Sotho characteristics.
The Venda people are found in the Soutpansberg Mountains, Limpopo Province and South Africa. They originally came from the East African and Congo rift and migrated across the Limpopo River. During the 9th century, the Mapungubwe Kingdom was led by King Shiriyedenga. It was a huge kingdom which stretched from Soutpansberg to Matopos, across the Limpopo River. But in 1940, the empire shrunk, and the community set up its first settlement in Soutpansberg. During the Apartheid period, land was set aside for the Venda people. It covered 6 500 square kilometres and the capital city was called Thohoyandou, honouring the great Venda chief of the same name. It became independent in 1979. Today, the area is once again part of South Africa and is located in the Limpopo Province.
The Venda are protective people, many of whom still practice polygamy and worship their families' ancestors. When it comes to weddings and marriages, they prefer cross cousin unions, although it is not compulsory. Unfortunately, today it is rare to see true traditional Venda weddings because the traditional practices are slowly becoming less and less and more people have moved to cities and towns. Traditionally, the culture allowed polygymy. The number of wives that a man had was dependent on his wealth. The chiefs and headmen who were wealthier were allowed to marry more wives.
The Domba is a pre-marital initiation, the last one in the life of a Venda girl or boy. The chief will 'call' a domba and preparations are then made by the families for their girls to be ready and to prepare what is necessary to attend the ceremony. Historically the girls used to stay with the chief for the whole duration, which is about 3 months to 3 years, of the initiation, but nowadays because of schooling, girls only spend weekends at the ruler's kraal. This rite of passage was attended by both girls and boys after each individual had previously attended other separated initiations dedicated to one's gender; Vusha and Tshikanda for girls and Murundu for boys, which is the circumcision done during this rite and was introduced by North Sotho. However, the missionaries decided that the mixing of boys and girls in the same ceremony was immoral and now only girls attend the Domba, which has two main functions; teaching girls how to prepare themselves to become wives and bringing fertility to the tribe. After the wedding ceremony, the new bride lives with her new mother-in-law where she learns how to take care of her husband and his family and his likes and dislikes. She stays with the mother-in-law until the birth of her first child, which afterwards the couple will then live on their own.
There are also gender roles within the culture, with defined roles for men, women and children. Traditionally, the mothers would work in the fields, as well as ensure the family has water and also maintain the cleanliness of the home. The men were responsible for the cattle and building shelters for their families. Once the children become of age, they get separated and the boys go out herding while the girls would join their mothers and grandmothers in the fields.
Traditionally, the Venda culture mainly depends on grains and vegetables, however maize is their staple food and favourite. Maize porridge is common on a Venda menu and it can be eaten plain, prepared like pancakes, or even mixed with spinach and meat to make a sort of stew. The Baobab and Marula trees both grow in the Limpopo region and contribute to the cuisine of the resident Venda tribes. Milk dishes are infused with the tart Baobab flesh to give them a flavour distinctly to Venda, the acidic quality ferments and thickens the milk. The bark of the Marula tree is ground and eaten by pregnant Venda women, based on the belief that the ‘gender’ of the tree (female trees produce fruit) will determine the gender of the unborn baby. The Marula fruit is delicious and healthy too, and can be fermented for an intoxicating beverage. Mopane worms are a favourite amongst the Venda people; Mopane worms can be eaten dried out or cooked and are extremely nutritious. They are high in protein and iodine. To preserve them, they are either dried in the sun or smoked. Fruits that are common in this culture include avocados, oranges, mangoes and apricots. Just a side note, the Venda people do not eat pork. This is due to the fact that the Lemba, which is an ancient tribe with Jewish roots, joined the Venda when they entered Africa during the first century of our Common Era. The Venda culture maintains some of their beliefs and customs from this time. This culture makes extensive use of food as part of their ancestor worship. For example; water spirits are given food as sacrificial offerings as it is believed that these spirits are unable to cultivate fruit or vegetables due to their being confined to a watery world.
Here are some everyday TshiVenda terms that you can use when speaking to someone from the culture:
Hello: female: Aa Male: Ndaa
Goodbye: Vha tshimbila zwavudi
Thank you: Rolivhuwa (plural) / Ndolivhuwa (singular)
Yes: Ee(pronounced ayy)
My name is: Dzina langa ndi
Excuse me: Tshiimo tsha shishi
How are you?: Vho vuwa hani?
The Venda culture is extremely interesting, as are the rest of the cultures that make up South Africa. There is so much more to learn about them, as well as, from them as they still try to stay true to their traditions in an ever changing, modern world. You can learn more about this culture and others by booking a free Concierge session with us, or you can contact us to have a customized virtual experience arranged for you.
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