Colourful history of the Ndebele
PICTURES of Mpumalanga’s Ndebele people often adorn posters and guidebooks to South Africa because of their dazzlingly painted traditional homesteads and colourful crafts. The Ndebele’s vivid geometric designs and striking traditional clothing are amongst Africa’s most eye-catching, as you’ll discover when you visit one of Mpumalanga’s Ndebele villages.
The little town of Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga’s cultural heartland is home to the Kghodwana Cultural Village where you can follow the history over the last 1000 years of Ndebele history through to modern times. The people in this region are linguistically related to KwaZuluNatal’s Zulu tribe and the Ndebele of Zimbabwe.
Take a tour of the village; shop for stunning crafts such as bracelets, necklaces, mats woven from dry grass and beadworkadorned gala blankets; visit one of the Royal Kraals and admire the heavy brass rings worn by married women around ankles and necks to display their wealth.
It’s the Ndebele women who traditionally paint the vivid geometric designs of the homesteads, based on triangular and rectangular shapes.
Skills are passed from mother to daughter, and the shapes used are often inspired by their intricately fashioned beadwork.
Another Ndebele village well worth a visit is situated at the beautifully restored Botshabelo Mission Station, where early South African Christians sought refuge and found education training from the mid-1800s. This Ndebele village is an open-air living museum of vibrant colour.
Admire the artwork of the huts, the glowing murals on internationally-acclaimed Ndebele artist, Esther Mahlangu’s family homestead, the beaded aprons of the little girls, the glowing colours of blankets and beadwork, and chat to the married women about their spectacular clothing.
Thirsty after all this sightseeing? Then pop over to the Loopspruit Wine Estate – South Africa’s northernmost vineyard – just across the road from the village - www. southafrica.net
Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu