Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, April 02, 2015

11b. Xhosa Village, near Richards Bay, South Africa

Xhosa Village, near Richards Bay, South Africa

Having just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s fascinating book, “Long Walk to Freedom”, I was curious to meet the Xhosa people (Mandela’s tribe) and learn more about their customs. Xhosa is pronounced with a clicking sound for the “Xh” (made by pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then quickly removing it) and then saying “osa”. So I booked a tour to the village of Khaya La Bantu. The meaning of the village name is “Home of the People”. It is a re-creation of a real village before colonial times but it was interesting to see how the huts were constructed and used for different purposes.
Xhosa Dancers Welcoming Us

We were welcomed into the Village by a group of dancing Xhosa People. We followed the custom afforded to dignitaries by walking over a red blanket and then entered a large, thatched roof building where the men sat on one side and the women on the other. Xhosas, in their colorful regalia, performed more songs and dances of welcome.

More Welcome Dances by the Xhosa

Then the men were taken by a male tribal leader to another hut to learn about the rites of circumcision. Since I was not allowed to attend, I cannot provide the details except that it is a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood when a boy reaches the age of 14 years. At least now the tribe has been convinced to use sterile equipment although it is still performed by the Medicine Man of the tribe.

Articulate, Passionate, 96 Year Old Tribal Leader

Meanwhile, the women were taken to another hut by a 96 year old tribal woman to learn what young women are taught about love. Young women are bare breasted until dating age when they are taught the questions to ask if a young man shows interest in them: 1. “What is your name”?.  2. “Where do you live”? Who is your family? 3. “What is your job”?

Female circumcision is no longer practiced but young women are “inspected” just before they are married to ensure that they are still virgins.

Our teacher then got off topic and talked passionately about current issues for their young people, which seem to be similar to those in many other parts of the world. The young men leave the villages to look for work in the cities but because they cannot find jobs in the city (50% of young people are unemployed), they are forced to live in squalor in the townships. Here they succumb to drugs and then turn to violence to procure money for more drugs. It becomes a vicious circle. I was very impressed with the insight, passion and physical agility of this 96 year old woman.

Next, we were treated to a traditional meal of chicken stew with mealie (like rice?) but I have no clue about all the rest of it. Dessert was deep fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon. It was all delicious.

It was an interesting, informative day even though the Xhosa People don't actually live in this village but in regular, but simple, homes across the valley.


He is Much Revered by His Xhosa Tribe

Postscript: Nelson Mandela was born close to here and is buried just down the road. However our tour did not allow time to visit his grave.


Recently Married Xhosa Woman

Beautiful Children

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