All roads lead to the Venda land annually. The trip to this magnificent place is gratifying. It took me about close to six hours from Johannesburg which is 437 kilometres to actually set foot on the fine dusty roads of the Vhavenda tribe well known as the Vhagona.
Having stayed at the Mashovela bush lodge which is located on the Louis Trichadt, Southpansberg Mountain, Makhado just near the magnificent view of the satisfactory mountains and the nature on its own was breath-taking. This lodge is divided into different rondavels that have they own fencing. The lodge is a few kilometres away from certain facilities like the shopping malls, banks, ATMs (Automated teller machine), Bars, Post offices and the airport.
I thought that this will be one of my best trips, yet scary too, regarding the fact that most people believe that you have a 50/50 chance of making it back alive from this destination. I am on a journey to witness the annual Domba (python dance) traditional dance ceremony of the Venda tribe.
The Venda (Vhavenda or Vhangona) are a Southern African people living mostly near the South African-Zimbabwean border. The bantustan of Venda was created to become a homeland for the Venda people. The Venda people, like their Tsonga neighbours, are one of South Africa’s minority groups, they currently number 700 000 speakers in Limpopo Province, while the Tsonga at their doorsteps number 900 000 people, also in Limpopo province.
Women of this tribe are taught to behave in a certain way especially when addressing, greeting or giving food to the opposite gender. When giving the men food the woman needs to place the bowl on the floor or table and bow down. It is until when the gentleman is happy then only can the woman stand up and leave. The cultural practice also forbids women to look at men in their eyes especially when talking to a man. This, in turn, shows respect to the men and the elders. Men, however, are taken as the heads of the family units. They don’t at any stage become a boy but instead they become a man at an early age. They are taught things like herding cattle and hunting for food at a very young age.
Women of this tribe are taught to behave in a certain way especially when addressing, greeting or giving food to the opposite gender. When giving the men food the woman needs to place the bowl on the floor or table and bow down. It is until when the gentleman is happy then only can the woman stand up and leave. The cultural practise also forbids women to look at men in their eyes especially when talking to a man.
Married women are required by tradition to feed their husbands at all times even when he comes back home late. She is expected to get a bowl of water and cloth for him to wash his hands and bow down after giving him his plate. She must wait for him to finish eating then she takes away the dishes to wash then and can only go to sleep when her husband notifies that it is okay for her to go to bed.
Young women are taught this practice from a tender age and they are required to learn from their mothers on how to behave in front of their husbands and elders. The Domba (python dance) traditional dance holds once yearly at the Fundudzi lake which is between Thohoyando and Louise Trichadt. This is where the Venda women go for initiation.
At the initiation ceremonies, these women will be in a long sequence, singing and dancing around in a circle holding each other’s elbows, wearing small aprons that cover the back and front with tasselled ornaments called the Thahu. Only a young woman who have started their menstruation cycles and have been perceived as mature, strong woman is allowed to take part in the rituals. The significance of this is so that they can bring good luck for the next seasonal rain and the ritual is above all, a preparation of for womanhood.
The Venda culture is built on a vibrant mythical belief system that water is an important theme. The tribe believes that rivers and lakes are sacred and that rains are controlled by the python God. One of the most sacred sites of the Venda is the Lake Fundudzi. Here annually, the Domber python dance is held. An offering of beer is poured into the lake and young maidens at the final stage of their initiation into womanhood line up in a single line and dance in long winding lines.
Trips to the lake are rarely granted to visitors, which is probably just as well as it is said to be infested with crocodiles. So sacred that the newcomers have to turn their backs on the lake and view the water from between their legs. The experience was very scary especially when you are told the story behind what would happen and the past outcomes of the people who visited the same place.
Drums are often given personal names and are always played by women and girls, except in possession dances when a man may play them. The drums form and important part of the Venda culture and symbols linked to them.
Women are seen as the pure people for their manner of respect towards people in and around the Limpopo province. The women here are far different from any other cultures; they will lie on the ground and greet you.
The Tshikanda ladies go to the Lake once every year to perform rituals to thank the ancestors. They come out in large numbers and most of the time the chief will be there to celebrate this awesome event with his/her people. In this specific culture a chief can also be a woman. They believe woman can lead the throne because of their strong personality and respect, they are capable of leading the people. There are other rituals in the land such as the Vhusha where a girl needs to go for virginity test as soon as she is considered mature and has started her cycle.
The beautiful Venda culture may go hand-in-hand with other South African cultures mostly Zulu/Swati where they also perform virginity rituals for young females called the Umhlanga/Reed dance. The dance celebrates her womanhood and at the ceremony, men grace the occasion particularly to pick a wife.
Being part of this wonderful ceremony where you get to witness this forefront is a fantastic experience especially for a woman like myself. Being celebrated by the majority is something phenomenal and it is important to say that there is no other feeling like seeing a man respect and honour his woman.
Domba is a very sanctuary moment for the Venda people. They celebrate and embrace their culture and traditions thus passing it down to generations to come.
If you want to see and experience this phenomenal culture do remember to visit the North Eastern region of South Africa. You will learn to appreciate not only the culture but the fine land and colour it brings.
I do have to say that there is nothing as fulfilling like being invited and experiencing this beautiful moment. This culture here has been and will forever be one of the popular culture across the continent of Africa that I truly love and respect.