South Africa is a culturally diverse country. The country has a collection of people of various ethnicity, religion and race. This is greatly influenced by the history of the country as being close to the sea as well as its history of Solid minerals.
Among the ethnic groups in the country are the Europeans, Indians (Marathi speakers and otherwise), Zulus and Xhosa.
Xhosa is among the most popular ethnic groups in Southern Africa. Xhosa is used to refer to the people as well as the language they speak. However, they sometimes refer to their language as Isixhosa, while they refer to themselves as AmaXhosa.
The group is a part of the Bantu and Nungi ethnic groups and is more dominantly found in South Africa, where they are mostly found in the Eastern Cape Province of the Country.
While they are more prominent in South Africa, the Xhosas are as well found in other southern African countries. These include Zimbabwe with a population of close to 30 thousand; Lesotho, with a population of over 22 thousand; and Botswana, with a population of over 9 thousand.
History of the Xhosa people
It is recorded that the group has migrated from the southern part of Zaire, which is today known as Democratic Republic of Congo. They arrived Eastern Cape shortly before the 1600s, which was before the Dutch. Here, the tribe was able to live in peace with the Khoi and the San.
The arrival of the Dutch and other Europeans from the 1650s, however brought about some major changes in the lives of the Xhosas. This was first as a result of the urge of the Europeans to expand. This forced the AmaXhosas to move to the highlands.
Between 1779 and 1878 however, they were forced into different battles which are referred to as the frontier wars. The wars which were fought for a hundred years against the British were fought for the preservation of the independence and territorial integrity of the Xhosa tribe.
After the long years that have seen nine wars between the South African ethnic group and the European settlers and British Colonial Administration, the British annexed the territories of the Xhosa, and moved some of the Xhosa people to white farms.
The AmaXhosas played a significant role in the anti apartheid struggle of South Africa. During the period, many of Xhosa people were not regarded as South African citizens, and many others were forced to relocate to remote places in Transkei and Ciskei. This was after the establishment of the homelands of Bantustans by the government.
Like other ethnic groups in the country, the AmaXhosas came out as a tribe, as groups and as individuals to fight for the end of apartheid. In fact, one of the heroes of the anti apartheid movement and the first black president of the country, Nelson Mandela, was from this group.
Language and Culture
The Xhosa Language is among the official languages of South Africa. Spoken by around 8 to 11 million people, the language is one of the most spoken languages in Africa among others such as Hausa, Swahili, Zulu, Fulfulde, Arabic and Somali.
The language is spoken in four countries; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Botswana. It is in South Africa however, that the language is most spoken, with close 8 million speakers.
Xhosa culture is the second most popular among black South Africa, after the Zulu culture. Traditionally herdsmen, the people of the cultural group have a rich heritage.
Their culture governs their ways of life including politics, religion, identity, custom and language. They laid emphasis on folklore and singing, as well as oral poetry.
Like most African cultures, contact with the Europeans has affected the original Xhosa culture. This is as their form of ancestral worship has given way to Christianity, while their political system of monarchy has given way to the democratic governance introduced by the constitution of south Africa after contacts with the British.
While during the 1996 census in South Africa it was indicated that there were over 7 million people who indicated it as their native language, today it is estimated that there are close to or over 8 million speakers in the country. They are mostly found in the Eastern Cape Province where they account for over 83 percent of the entire population.
The chief driver for their economy is subsistence agriculture. However, they are also involved in local crafts and arts such as hand making of pots, basket, mats, walking sticks and wooden yokes among other things, which they easily sell to tourists.