Colour­ful his­tory of the Nde­bele

African Times - - African Destinations -

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

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