Your questions answered about
Africa’s indigenous cultural heritage
The Kara Heritage Institute receives many questions from its supporters. Here you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Africa’s ancient heritage and its relevance today in the lives of the African people.
Q: Are there Funeral and burial practices?
The traditional customs are applicable which in turn might change with time. However, we cannot indicate there is a correct or incorrect procol but it’s based on different cultural groups. In some traditions, a weekly sermon is observed and later follows a burial. Afterward comes a mourning state in which the widower needs to dress in black to respect the practice.
In some extend some might not be familiar with the ritual cleansing after the death of a beloved one. Kara Heritage Institutes hopes the following assists to answer questions with regard to burial, ritual cleansing and morning.
In the religions of Africa, life does not end with death, but continues in another realm. The concepts of "life" and "death" are not mutually exclusive concepts, and there are no clear dividing lines between them. Human existence is a dynamic process involving the increase or decrease of "power" or "life force," of "living" and "dying," and there are different levels of life and death. There are different way in which the dead are burial, in ancient African way a child or a distinctive adult would be buried inside the house or at the backyard. As time changes, burial site or cemeteries are applicate to bury the love ones
Q: I would like to know more of Bapedi culture and their practices?
Estimated at 7 million people, these Sotho speakers are the second largest African language group in South Africa. Three million Sotho and other closely related groups live outside of South Africa, the majority of whom are in Lesotho.The Sotho can be subdivided into three groups. The first group is the Northern Sotho also called Pedi and Bapedi.
The Pedi society arose out of a confederation of small chiefdoms that had been established sometime before the 17th century in what later became the Northern Transvaal (Northern Province). Defeated early in the 19th century by the armies of Mzilikazi, they revived under the leadership of Sekwati. Thereafter, they repeatedly clashed with the Voortrekkers during the later half of the 19th century.
It appears that the Sotho people migrated southward from the Great Lakes in Central Africa about 5 centuries ago in successive waves and the last group, namely, the Hurutse, settled in the Western Transvaal towards the beginning of the 16th century. It is from this group that the Pedi eventually originated through the Bakgatla offshoot that takes its name from the chief Mokgatla. Very little is known of the history of the Bakgatla people for the first few generations after their founder Mokgatla had withdrawn from the originating group, but it is known that, arising from a further split at a later date, a chief by the name of Tabane left with his followers and settled at what is now known as Schilpadfontein in the vicinity of Pretoria.
It is not known how long they lived there, but Tabane appears to have been succeeded by his son Motsha, whose son and heir Diale (or Liale) had a number of wives, the youngest of whom was his favourite, Mathobele. The other wives were jealous of her favoured position and when she was expecting her first child they would tease and mock her; saying that her child cried whilst still in her womb.
Mathobele gave birth to a healthy boy, and named him 'Lellelateng' meaning 'it cries inside', but the unusual event was attributed to witchcraft and the Kgatla council wanted to kill the mother and child. Diale interceded for them and they were both saved.
However, as the baby grew older it became apparent that he would not be accepted by the tribe, and it seems that he and his family, together with a large following, broke away or were driven away and trekked to the east with their flocks and herds to start the Pedi nation. They crossed the Olifants River below its junction with the Elands River and passed through the country north of Middelburg. They crossed the Lulu Mountains and eventually settled near Steelpoort in approximately 1650. From there, they gained control of trade routes running from the interior to the Mozambique coast, and started their reign over other Sotho speakers in the area.
By 1800 Thulare was the leader of the Pedi Empire in the northeastern Transvaal. His capital Manganeng lay on the Tubatse/Steelpoort River. The Pedi consisted of several tribes, who enjoyed great wealth under Thulare’s rule and he is still honoured as a great chief and leader to this day. His death in 1824 – during a solar eclipse – was followed by 2 years of disputes over his successor. There is some uncertainty as to Thulare's successor as around 1826, about 2 years after his death, the whole Pedi Empire was crushed and disrupted by Mzilikazi’s reign of terror throughout the Transvaal. In the chaos that followed, Sekwati, the senior living son of Thulare, gathered what he could of the Pedi and fled to the north where he took refuge with Ramapulana to whom the Pedi were related some 5 generations before.
He left behind him a country devastated by the Matabele who had completely stripped the land of all stock and grain. The remaining people of the old Pedi Empire had fled into the mountains and caves from where they would venture into the night to find whatever food they could.
Many of the people became cannibals and eventually, after an absence of about 4 years, Sekwati returned and reconstructed the dominance of the Pedi and rid their land of the cannibals. He established himself at Phiring near Pokwani on a rocky hill, which is known today as Magali's Location. Although the Pedi originated from the Bakgatla and were of Sotho origin, their inter-marriage with other tribes by defeating them resulted in the absorption of many other words in the Pedi language and customs which are not of Sotho origin, but which are akin to the Venda and Lovedu and the Karanga from Zimbabwe. Sekwati's successor, Sekhukhune, initially consolidated the power of the Pedi, but years of drought and a series of attacks from the South African Republic and the Swazi chiefdom weakened the Pedi during the 1870s.
Historically the Pedi lived in huts, which were round in shape and known as rondawels. Rondawels were made out of clay mixed with “boloko” (cow dung) in order to strengthen it. The roofing of the rondawels was made from a particular grass called “loala” which was strong and long, and they would pack the grass in bundles and roof the houses. Traditional Pedi food consisted of; thophi (a meal which is made from maize mixed with a fruit called lerotse), morogo wa dikgopana (spinach cooked and given a round shape and left to dry up in the sun). Bogobe ba mabele, samp and maswi (milk), masonja (mopane worms) is also eaten as well as vegetables and fruits like milo and machilo. In Pedi culture the chief would wear clothes made out of wild animal skin such as Leopard and Lion to show leadership and that he was from the ruling house (moshate). Ordinary people wore clothes made out of domestic animal skin such as goats, sheep and cows. However, the Pedi have changed their mode of dressing because of the present trends in fashion.
There are many spoken dialects of Sepedi but only one written language. The Pedi are known for storytelling.
Q: What are the origin of god and Nguni people ?
The ancient history of the Nguni people is wrapped up in their oral history. According to legend they were a people who migrated from the north to the Great Lakes region of subequatorial Central/Southeast Africa. They migrated southwards over many centuries, with large herds of Nguni cattle probably entering what is now South Africa around 2,000 years ago in sporadic settlement, followed by larger waves of migration around 1400 CE. Nguni peoples are pastoralist groups, part of the greater Bantu group occupying much of the East and Southern parts of Africa.
Q: What does it mean to refer to Africa as Azania ?
Azania means land of the Black people, mainly used by Rastafarians to refer to black or African people. It is for this reason that Black Consciousness refers to our beloved country as Azania. It is calling upon the Black people’s conscience, hearts and minds to rise up, to recreate and relive the life that was created by the Azanian civilization. It calls on Black people to realize their importance in this continent, see their value and to recognize the contribution they have made to the world in general.
In the 19th century, when imperialism gained momentum, everything great, and everything fine, everything really successful in human culture was white. Black people in Africa who showed any trace of progress were labelled as white. A system first conscious and then unconscious of lying about Blacks became so widespread that the authentic history of Africa ceased to be taught. With the winking of an eye, printing, gunpowder, smelting of iron, the beginnings of social organisation, not to mention political life and democracy, were attributed exclusively to whites.
Q: What are the orgins of the Bataung tribe?
The Bataung are a separate entity on their own who migrated from Lefurutshe which was an area around the borders of Botswana and the present day North West Province the mid 1700's to the Free State Province as is known today. They finally settled in the North of the Free State and had fix abode around the areas from Hejlbron to Bothaville, Kroonstad, ventersburg, Koppies, Edenville, ViUoenskroon,Steynsrus, which area was traditionally regarded and known by the Bataung and the Basotho as allies as, Matloangtloang.They further moved on to areas around Senekal, Marquard, Excelsior, Olocolan and as far as Winburg, which areas came to known as endorsed by Moshoeshoe 1, as Mekwatleng.
Q: What are the origin of the Mapulane tribe ?
Mapulana are a tribe found on the north eastern part of Mpumalanga and south eastern Limpopo provinces. They occupy the area now commonly known as Mapulaneng, the present day Bushbuckridge and environs. Their ancestral lands historically, however stretched from Shakwaneng in the Kruger Park, Nelspruit area to Moholoholo, Hoedspruit, including present day Graskop, Sabie and Ohrigstad. History has it that before settling in Shakwaneng on the banks of Lepunama (White River), they had stayed in Phageng near the Mokwena (Crockodile) river. Other accounts are that they have also stayed at Motshiteng in the Barberton area. Mapulana have been displaced by white settlers during the 1800’s and early 1900’s from their tribal lands to make way for cultivation of Forestry plantations and winter fruits. Mapulaneng is near the Kruger Park with some gates of the park being within 40 km of the area.
Mapulana speak SePulane, a language that forms part of the Northern Sotho. SePulane, though very rich and robust it is not written nor is it taught at schools. The name of the tribe apparently comes from their rain making capabilities. Others say that they got the name from the Lepunama (White) River. Like all South African languages there is a smattering of words from other languages in SePulane, mainly Tsonga and Swazi, given their proximity to these tribes, this is quite natural. SePulane has its unique words thus differentiating it from other languages. Linguists classify SePulane as a belonging to the group Southeastern and the subgroup Sotho in the family of Bantu languages which all the indigenous languages of Southern Africa falls. The language is so divergent that others called it Eastern Sotho. Others classify it as a dialect of the Northern Sotho.
I am not going to argue for or against its classification as dialect or as a language. The core words of the language identify it as belonging to subgroup of Sotho languages. Recently other languages are contaminating SePulane. The five languages that are making unwelcome inroads into the language are English, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Setswana and Sesotho. The reasons for this are that children pick up English, Afrikaans and Sepedi at school, whereas the migrant workers come home with Setswana, Sesotho and Afrikaans. The contamination is evidenced in words like poto for English pot, pasopa for Afrikaans pasop (take care), kreya for Afrikaans kry(find). The totem of Mapulana is a lion. Thus they are also referred to as Batau stemming from their totem ba bina Tau. A totem is an emblem of a tribe. The totem is held in high esteem and it is revered by all within the tribe.
The tribe commonly refers to itself as Basotho, not to be confused with Basotho in Lesotho, the term Basotho means “those who speak Sotho languages”. There is no recorded historical account of Mapulana ever staying in Lesotho. It is interesting to note that their neighbouring tribes also refer to them as Basotho. Though the tribe is commonly said to be BaPedi, it is in fact incorrect as BaPedi are also a tribe making up what is known Northern Sothos. This perception arises because Sepedi heavily influenced the Northern Sotho that is learned at schools. There are however unverified accounts that they have stayed in Botswana before their trek to the east of South Africa.
Within the core of Mapulana, there are subgroups of Mapulana namely: Bakutswe and Mambayi/Mampaye. It is said that the subgroups are descendant from the same family tree. The distinction between the core Mapulana and the subgroups is not so common any more. The language or dialect of HiPaye (spoken by Mambayi) is becoming extinct in South Africa. I have not heard anybody that can still speak Hipaye since one my great grannies, Kokwane NaMokwena passed away. Bakutse speak what I consider to be a dialect of SePulane influenced by Sekone. The emergence of Bakutswe and Mambayi is recent phenomenon in historical terms. The Bakutse where formed when Mokwena, the Chief of the group, fought with his kinsmen, Marule and Mashego and he had to flee from Mapulaneng and he started calling himself a “Mokutswe” disassociating himself from Mapulana. When reconciliation between them was reached his group was already known as Bakutswe. Of the the other group, Mambayi I was not able to get clear historical accounts of their lineage. There are those who say that they are the offspring of Mapulana and AmaSwazi. This does not make sense as the offspring of either group will choose the language of their dominant parent or the tribe they grow within, they could not have a dialect of their own. In western parts of Mapulaneng, where Mapulana stay with Bakone, some Mapulana call themselves Bakone and vice versa.
Besides the AmaSwazi to the south, Mahlanganu/Tsongas to the east, Mapulana have other neighbours to the west, known as Bapedi baSekhukhune and Bakone, to the North their neighbours are Banareng and Batokwa.
The oral history of Mapulana speaks of gallant wars against other tribes, mostly Swazis and Shangaans. The history has stories of expeditions to capture other tribes (Baronga, Machopi, Darakope) in ancient Mozambique. Their war heroes include Maripe and Sekakole. Another legendary figure is Marangrang, who was a Mopulana by birth but stayed amongst Bakone and later became their leader. Mapulana think of themselves as batho ba botho (kind and humane people) not as warriors.
The area of Mapulaneng has got villages and townships with English names suggesting missionary work in the 1800’s by the English missionaries. Whereas most rural towns in Limpopo and Mpumalanga have Afrikaans names, in place of their traditional names, villages in Mapulaneng have names like Oakley, Arthur’ Seat, Cunningmore, London, Violet-bank, Brooklyn, Greenview, Dingledale etc. There are also places with traditional names like Matibidi, Shatale, Thabokgolo, Marite, Khokhobela, Kapama source: Joe Matshiya
Q: What are the origins of Shaangane/Tsonga people?
The Tsonga are a diverse people, generally including the Shangaan, Thonga, Tonga, and several smaller ethnic groups. Together they numbered about 1.5 million people in South Africa in the mid-1990s, with some 4.5 million individuals in southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe.The first Tsonga-speakers to enter the former Transvaal probably did so during the 18th Century. They were essentially traders who followed rivers inland, where they bartered cloth and beads for ivory, copper and salt. The Shangaan tribe came into being when King Shaka of the Zulu, sent Soshangane (Manukosi) to conquer the Tsonga people in the area of present-day southern Mozambique, during the Mfecane upheaval of the 19th Century.
Q: What are the origins of Bahurutse baga Gopane?
The Tswana are a Bantu speaking Southern African people with different clans within Batswana. The Bahurutse who split before 1800 into two nameless ruling lines, the second of which split again into Bahurutshe ba Boomokgatlha and Bahurutshe Bagamoilwa, Bahurutse ba ga Gopane. In most cases, the villages or towns are named after the former King or Leader who could be awarded a munity especially from their tribe.
Q: What are the origins of the Balobedu tribe ?
Balobedu tribe came into existence in the early seventeenth century. This group has its origins and attachments to the former Great Zimbabwe and Mapugumbwe Kingdoms. Balobedu are the descendants of the Shona from Zimbabwe. It is rumoured that this kingdom was established by Monomotapa (MwanaMotapa) after quarrelling with his father in the early seventeenth century. The chief of the tribe for instance, was appointed by the spirit of his predecessor. The Balobedu people were originally divided into two groups, namely the Southern Transvaal BaRozwi and the North Eastern BaRozwi.
Q: What are the origins of Vhavhenda ?
The people who today call themselves VhaVenda are descended from a number of ancient groupings who migrated from the Great Lakes area in east-central Africa in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Their identity gelled when a group under Chief Dimbanyika arrived at Dzata in the northern Soutpansberg, where a walled fort was later built. From here, they consolidated their power in the region, fending off attack from a number of different African groupings (including the Voortrekkers, whom they drove from their settlement at Schoemansdal in 1867). Although the VhaVenda suffered a reverse at the hands of the Boers in 1898, the onset of the Anglo-Boer War prevented that victory being consolidated. The culture of the VhaVenda is a fascinating one, steeped in mysticism and vivid legend. One pervading theme is water – always an important concern in hot, seasonal climates, but a resource in which Venda is unusually abundant. Lakes, rivers, waterfalls and lush forests all form sacred sites, while legends abound of zwidutwane, or water sprites, and snakes who live at the bottom of dark pools or lakes. Many VhaVenda ceremonies and rituals still hold great importance, with the most famous being the python, or domba, dance performed by young female initiates. Naked but for jewellery and a small piece of cloth around their waists, the teenage girls form a long chain, swaying and shuffling as the “snake” winds around a fire to the sound of a beating drum – another sacred object in Venda – often for hours on end. Your chances of seeing it performed are limited. The genuine thing is most common during spring; Heritage Day around the end of August or the beginning of September is a good time for celebrations.
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