Did you know that the Ndebele tribe also regarded as the amaNdebele or the Matabele are part of the larger Bantu tribe? Although the origin of the southern African Ndebele people is shrouded in mystery, they are however considered as one of the Nguni ethnic group, and to some extent the Ndebele tribe is regarded as a branch of the Zulu’s who split from King Shaka under the leadership of Mzilikazi. However, over time and due to some serious internal conflicts, the tribe has further been divided into two groups – the Northern Ndebele and the southern Ndebele and each group stays in their respective locations of north and south in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

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Moreover, majority of the Ndebele tribe relocated to Zimbabwe while others stayed in South Africa in an area that came to be renowned as the Kwandebele to which currently, the Ndebele population in South Africa are mainly in the rural areas and constitutes a very small population of south Africa. Nevertheless, even after extensive transition and assimilation of the Ndebele tribe, we can still identify the Ndebele culture, tribe and language in a distinct manner which we shall characterize and describe in this article.

Ndebele Tribe

There exists three main group of the Ndebele tribe. This constitutes the south Transvaal Ndebele in the areas of Mpumalanga and Guateng, the North Transvaal Ndebele which is are now based at Limpopo province and around Mokopane and Polokwane as well as the people of Ndebele Zimbabwe whom the British referred to as the Matabele. The southern African Ndebele tribal groups are not only separated by the geographical location but also differ in their language and cultural practices. To which the Northern province Ndebele constituted mainly BagaLanga and BagaLaseka tribes, who apparently got influenced by their neighbors to adopt numerous of their cultural beliefs and languages.The southern Ndebele are Ndzundza ndebele of Guateng and Mpumalanga.


The Ndebele Language

The isiNdebele language has lots of variations and is one of the Nguni languages groups which constitutes the language that cuts across all of the Ndebele tribes.This language is a language of tone governed by someone who dominates the sentence. A number of people in southern Africa can speak Ndebele. However, there exists the Ndebele tribes of Zimbabwe and Botswana who speaks the same language with a different name. Although the Ndebele language is generally only spoken among the people of Ndebele culture, a number of the southern Ndebele speaks Northern Sotho since this language is more adaptable and seems useful than the other language group of the people of Ndebele.

Ndebele Culture

The Ndebele culture has a strong patriarchal attitudes as the Ndebele communities practices polygamy with women according lots of respect for their men and particularly their parents in law. The Ndebele communities practices the rite of passage and initiation ceremonies such as the male initiation to mark the childhood right of passage. Plus, the Ndebele has a girl initiation procedure in which isikhethu is enunciated through decorative beads and clothing. This takes place during puberty. During the wedding ceremony,  the female participant also dresses in an elaborate ceremonial clothing to grace the occasion. Actually, the Ndebele culture is exhibited from relationships to their beliefs and practices. More so, over the years the Ndebele have been known to decorate outside their homes with great designs and finger paintings.

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Sotho People, Language and Culture

Xhosa Culture, Tradition and Dance