Understanding the Eastern Cape and the Xhosa people.


Driving down Eastern Cape to see what is the whole buzz about when it comes to Xhosa translates. The way things are done here, it is just so unreal and just so factual to behave, dress and even approach elders in a certain way.

People always thought that being Venda was just beautiful, don’t get me wrong. It is. But with Xhosa woman, they have this effect on you that just makes you want to keep figuring things out. The journey ahead to the Xhosa village, where I ditched the fancy hotels, lodges for more traditional accommodation, (the Xhosa Hut) I could just say, was comfortable.

Being in the second largest culture in the Southern-Africa. I just had to see it with my own eyes. Missionaries had introduced the Xhosa hymn as one of their dialects and written by a school teacher Sontoga Enoch, the Nkosi Sikele iAfrika was introduced in the National Anthem. According to history, the first man on the earth was called Xhosa. Very interesting I must say.

One thing I need to say is that I love everything about them and how they pronounce some of their words, whilst throwing around that ‘clicking sound’ in the back. Being surrounded by such beautiful people, that know how to actually use and give you love, is something worth never wanting to leave this province again.

Derived from the Khoisan word, Xhosa means “angry men” and is a pure representative of the Nguni family. IsiXhosa culture may not very much with other traditional practices but with little changes here and there. Most common in all cultures will be the afterbirth of a child. In most cultures, it is believed that the woman cannot be seen outside her home but after ten days or more. Or the father of the baby or male elders within the family is not allowed to see the baby after three months or less.

Boys from the Xhosa tribe who have undergone a circumcision ceremony sit near Qunu on June 30, 2013. Qunu is where former South African President Nelson Mandela grew up. Mandela, who turns 95 next month, was rushed to hospital over three weeks ago with a recurrent lung disease. AFP PHOTO/ CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Male and Female initiation is practiced amongst most of the Xhosa groups. The Male initiates-in-training (Abakweta) was one of the exciting things I was just intrigued with. Although we were not allowed to be inside whilst the initiation was taking place, but we were able to listen to one of the men leading the initiates. “These men will live in special huts that isolate them from the village or town with blankets for several weeks. Whilst we teach them how to be men and how to handle situations within the household and outside the household.” We were also told that they would shave off their hairs and cover their whole bodies in blankets, and marking their faces in some white powder. The different stages of the initiations are marked with a sacrifice of a goat.

Now this ritual really had me more intrigued especially since I am a female and wanted to learn more from the people who valued such practice. The Female circumcision is usually the shortest and they are called ‘the girl to be initiated’ (Intonjane) which goes for not more than a week. During the practice, they will be dancing and with some slaughtering of animals. I was told that they were supposed to hide from being seen as well, and were to have certain food restrictions. Interesting enough, apart from other cultures, Xhosa initiates do not have any surgical operations done to them.

The famous legend of South Africa, the late President Nelson Mandela was a Xhosa and grew up in one of the rural called Qunu. However, Qunu is known to be the land of the Mandelas. This rural area had me raving around not knowing whether to lie on the ground or simply just stand here and watch this beautiful sunset and mountains. The place also has few people staying there. But the atmosphere here is beyond breathless and I would be lying if I had said that, Eastern Cape, the Xhosa people didn’t show me Ubuntu (the quality that shows compassion and humanity).

Xhosa’s believe in discipline and knowledge, and therefore guiding the youngsters through it.

Although there is a lot surrounding the Xhosa culture, I must add to the beautiful sights to see and things to do while you are visiting the area. The Addo elephant National park is something to take into consideration with just a short left into Jeffrey’s bay surf break. With so many of things to do and see, I am glad to have learnt and seen a lot coming from the province.

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About Author

Lorraine is a South African based junior journalist with Nomad Africa magazine published by 2414 Publishing (Pty) Limited. She is very passionate about travelling and a lover of the African culture. Lorraine had a Diploma in Journalism from Rosebank College in Johannesburg, South Africa and worked as an intern with The Star Newspaper. Fluent in English and other South African languages she is very eager to learn about new cultures and traditions. Though she is still very new in the industry, Lorraine is vibrant and energetic for new travelling experiences.

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