In the 18th Century the Ndebele tribe lived in grass huts, but later in the 18th Century they began living in mud-walled houses and they started doing a house painting.
The patterns on the walls are one of the most important aspects in their communication through painting. The patterns are repeated throughout their design with only a tiny difference in colour choice.
The Ndebele are part of the larger ethnic group called Nguni. They are thought to have travelled from Natal to the Transvaal region.
In 1882, following friction with Voortrekker settlers over land and other resources, the farmer leader Piet Joubert led a campaign against the Ndebele leader Nyabela. Nyabela was imprisoned, and then released again in the late 1890s.
Ndebele Costume or clothing
Ndebele clothing is recognised by its colourful dress sense, and multiple different textures. The dress code of the Ndebele married woman is important in that all the colours of the clothing have a special importance.
Rings are also placed on the woman’s neck so that the movement of her head is restricted.
Ndebele Music and Dance
The Muchongoyo dance represents the Ndebele culture and is traditionally done in war and after war, especially when the Ndebele win the war. The Muchongoyo is also used as a training exercise for the Ndebele soldiers. This dance is usually done with a stick and a shield. The signature movement are stamping, and dramatic gestures. Miming bits are also done. The dance clothing reflects the changing times, but still resembling the traditional costume. Males generally perform this dance; but females join in by creating the music.
The traditional music of the Ndebele people is characterised mainly by the use of choral song with leg rattles, clappers and clapping of the hands. Compared with choral song, solo singing and songs using only instruments are not important. Like the Shona, the Ndebele also use mouth bows and gourd-bows, which are played mostly for self-amusement.
© copyright Isaiah Schultz 2011
Further Reading and Resources