Similar to most tribes in South Africa, the Venda people moved there from Central Africa. They are among the last black community to cross the Limpopo River and settle in the Soutpansberg Mountains of the Limpopo Province. They are not very populous but they have a rich cultural heritage. The Venda culture is closely associated with the spirit world. They express their beliefs and customs through art decorations on their structures, pottery and woodcarving.
Venda People and Culture
The origin of the Venda People and culture is believed to have been the Mapungubwe Kingdom founded in the 9th Century. They were first ruled by King Shiriyadenga whose empire stretched from the Soutpansberg in the southern Africa, all the way across the Limpopo River and the Matopos towards the north. The realm disintegrated in the year 1240 and power quickly shifted to the Great Zimbabwe Empire. The Vendas who first settled in Soutpansberg were ruled by the famous chief Thoho-ya-Ndou whose remains remain a National Monument and inspires their connection to the spirit world. His name translates Head of the Elephant and his majestic kraal – the D’zata – is a splendid testimonial. Water is so sacred to this group that they associate every water source with a divine Python god. They are mythical people and believe water is sacred, therefore regarding Lake Fundudzi as holy and sanctified. They hold ceremonies at this lake and dance while they pour alcohol into the lake. Young maidens also have to line up along this river and dance like a snake to appease the Python god. This is usually done as initiation into womanhood. They believe such dances and merry-making ensure good rains and good harvests. Venda Legends are associated to drums and all manner of drumming occasions. It is why chiefs and headmen are the custodians of these drums as they symbolize unity and tradition. These drums are usually five: three murumbas, one thungwa and one ngoma.
The Sangoma is a famous traditional healer said to have close association with ancestors and spirits that guide and protect the Venda community. These people their ancestors and have much trust to the spirit world. They seek to appease them often so that no curse befalls the clan. The Sangoma are usually the ones to diagnose any illness and prescribe medication for the same. Usually they have to consult the spirit world before giving our the healing herbs.
The Venda language is a member of the Bantu/Nguni class of languages. Interestingly, it is also related to Niger and Congo languages. It is also referred to as Tshivená¸“a or Luvená¸“a and it is one of the 11 official language in South Africa. Well over 650 000 of Tshivenda speakers live in the northern parts of South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Those that speak Tshivenda have a royal family line, and adhere to strict traditions that relate to this connection.
For example, if the son of a Venda family wants to become a chief or king, his mother must be eligible. If she is not, he stands no chance of reaching his goal. Mothers are required to be part of the royal family, and this ensures that children have royal blood. The Tshivenda culture allows a sister and a brother from different mothers to marry. This is another promise that only royal blood will take the throne.
The lifestyle of the Venda revolves around farming. They keep cattle and associate having a lot of livestock to wealth, power and prominence. Clear cut roles exist between the different sexes and these defined roles are how they share our duties and responsibilities on a daily basis. Women do house chores and harvest while men roles are mostly outdoors, where they plough, look after cattle and build the huts they live in. Polygamy is another way of life as men have vast lands and animals making them rich and able to marry many women. The Venda culture like dress code and does not change much since they are rich and able to sustain their current lifestyles