In 11th century, a massive migration of people took place across the continent. As a result, many people from southern Zaire moved to different directions and settled in most parts south of Sahara. Among the tribes that took part in this major migration was Xhosa. They settled and became a part of the larger South Africa. The four major ethnic divisions among Black South Africans are the Nguni, Sotho, Shangaan-Tsonga and Venda. The Nguni represent nearly two-thirds of South Africa’s Black population and can be divided into four distinct groups; the Northern and Central Nguni (the Zulu-speaking people), the Southern Nguni (the Xhosa-speaking people), the Swazi people from Swaziland and adjacent areas and the Ndebele people of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. Today, the Xhosa are the second largest cultural group in South Africa, after the Zulu-speaking nation.
It is a descendant of the Nguni clan. The Xhosa speaking group has various tribes with similar or related but divergent heritages. The major tribes include Bomvana, Mpondomise, Thembu, Xesibe, and Mpondo. Besides, Mfengu and Bhaca have adopted the language of Xhosa. The word Xhosa is from a legendary leader known as uXhosa. Another theory claims that the word Xhosa is derived from san or khoi-khoi language. The word Xhosa means ‘angry’ or ‘fierce’, the Xhosa being the fierce group. The Xhosa refers to their language as isiXhosa and themselves as amaXhosa.
It is the Bantu family agglutinative tonal language. In English, we refer to Xhosa language as Xhosa while the Xhosa refer to their language as isiXhosa. Written Xhosa employs Latin alphabet style. Approximately 18% of the South African population speaks Xhosa. In addition, it has a number of mutual intelligibility with Zulu, particularly the Zulu spoken in towns. Most of the Xhosa urban dwellers, also speak Afrikaans and/or Zulu and/or English.
The language of Xhosa has 15 click sounds, borrowed from the current extinct Khoi-Khoi and the san languages of South Africa. Xhosa language has three primary click consonants: a palatal click, dental click, and a lateral click, printed with letter q, c and x respectively. A simple five vowels list also exists that is, (a, e, i, o, u). However, some of the vowels may be silent particularly at the word end. These vowels can be there in written Xhosa but barely perceptible in verbal language. In most cases, the Xhosa words tone is always lowest at the end.
The Xhosa tribes have an affluent cultural heritage. They have also majorly contributed to the development and growth of South Africa. For instance, Rolihlahia later known as Nelson Mandela was the leading Icon in the freedom struggle in South Africa. Nelson Mandela became the first African president of the republic of South Africa in 1994. He is from Xhosa.
Other Major Facts About Xhosa Culture Include:
The Xhosa group has remained famous for the bravura and a wide range of their bead works. Traditionally, the woman’s life stages were reflected on ornamentations and garments. Newly married women wore a unique headdress, a dissimilar style by the women who had given birth etc. The Xhosa men are polygamous. However, currently only wealthier men have at least two wives. The men traditionally fulfilled the warrior’s role, stock man as well as a hunter while the women tilled the land and grew crops.
A clan consists of many groups. A chief, also referred to as Inkosi, heads each clan. The land was very important, and a serious emphasis is placed on awarding as per individual needs. The clan shared everything at all time. The families help one another to complete a certain task such as building of the hut. The Xhosa has diviners in their tribes. Most of the diviners are women.