Venda People, Culture and Language

Venda people can be found in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Venda people of South Africa are Bantu people who live near the border between South Africa and its neighboring country, Zimbabwe. They speak the Tshi-Venda, and although they were initially traditional African religion worshipers, Christianity has become one of the major religions in that region. Today Venda people have a population of about 2.5 million people scattered around South Africa and Zimbabwe, however. However, most Venda people live in South Africa.

A Venda person is called MuVenda and Venda people are called VhaVenda. Just like Pedi and other tribes in South Africa, the Venda people are known to have a rich cultural heritage, and that rich cultural heritage is what this article is about. As you read, you will learn about the Venda people, their culture, and their language. We will also discuss some other aspects of their culture, including the Venda marriage rites, birth rites, and practically all you need to know about Venda people.

A Brief History Of Venda People

Just like most South African tribes, the Venda people are believed to have originated from central and east Africa. The history of the Venda people can be traced back to the kingdom of Mapungubwe in the 9th century and King Shiriyadenga is believed to have been the first king of Mapungubwe. The Mapungubwe kingdom is also believed to be so large that it stretched from Soutpansberg in the South and across the Limpopo river to Matopos in the North.

However, the Mapungubwe kingdom saw a decrease in the power it wielded around 1240 as power moved from their hands to Great Zimbabwe. The first settlement in Venda belonged to the legendary chief Thoho-ya-Ndou (Head of the Elephant) and was located in Soutpansberg. The remains of his royal kraal, which was called D’zata is now a National monument. The Venda people also share ancestry with the Kalanga people and the Lobedu people while also being related to the Sotho-Tswana and the Shona groups. Mapungubwe Museum located in Pretoria serves as home to collections of artifacts found in archeological sites.

Venda People Are Of Heterogeneous Groupings and Clans

Today, the ethnic groups known as the Venda people include the Vhangonas, the Masingos, the Takalanis, and some others. The Masingos are originally from central and eastern Africa but migrated across the Limpopo river during the time of Bantu expansion. The Vhangonas were the original habitats of Venda, and are referred to as Vhongwani Wapo.

The present Venda people today are divided into heterogeneous groupings and clams which include:

  • Dzindou dza Hakhomunala Mutangwe/Dzatshamanyatsha
  • Dzindou dza Vharundwa/Dza Mitshetoni/Dza Manenzhe
  • Vhafamadi
  • Vhadau Vhatshiheni
  • Vhadau Madamani
  • Rambuda
  • Vha Ha-Ramavhulela (Vhubvo Dzimauli)
  • Vhakwevho
  • Vhambedzi
  • Vhania
  • Vhagoni
  • Vhalea
  • Gebebe
  • Vhaluvhu
  • Vhatavhatsindi
  • Vhalovhedzi
  • VhaMese
  • Vha Ha-Nemutudi
  • Vhatwanamba
  • Vhanzhelele/Vhalembethu
  • VhaDzanani
  • Vhanyai
  • Vhalaudzi
  • Masingo
  • Vhalemba
  • Runganani (Marungadzi Nndevhelaho)
  • Takalani (Ungani)

Vhangona and Vhambedzi are believed to be the first and original habitats of Venda, and Vhadau, Vhakwevho, Vhafamadi, Vhania, Vhalea, and Vhaluvhu are all known as Vhangona. Karanga-Rodzvi clans from Zimbabwe later settled in Vhangona, Vhatwanamba, Vhanyai, Vhatavhatsindi, and Vhalembethu. Masingo, Vhalaudzi, and Vhalemba are believed to have arrived and settled among the Venda people at a later time.

There Are Varying Versions Of Vhangona History

Venda People

We have already established that the Vhangonas were the original inhabitants of Venda. However, there are different accounts about the history of the Vhangonas. According to one of the stories, Mapungubwe was the capital of Vhangona and Raphulu Royal was the most senior house in Vhangona. This story holds that Venda had a king called Thovhele and had approximately 145 chiefdoms and the kingdom was divided into 7 districts:

  • Dzanani
  • Mbilwi
  • Tswime
  • Tshiendeulu
  • Tshakhuma
  • Tshamanyatsha
  • Lwamondo

Each district was ruled by a paramount chief, and the chief for each district include:

  • MuDzanani/Nesongozwi (Dzanani)
  • Nembilwi (Mbilwi)
  • Netswime (Tswime)
  • Netshiendeulu (Tshiendeulu)
  • Netshakhuma (Tshakhuma)
  • Netshamanyatsha (Tshamanyantsha)
  • Makhahani (Thulamela)
  • Nelwamondo (Lwamondo)

Each district had a chief who paid tribute to the paramount chief Mahosi Mahulu.

The other version of Vhangona history claims that the Vhangona was never united under one king and that they had different chiefdoms. Both accounts have been told for centuries – it only depends on who you ask.

The People Of Venda Were Known To Read Stars And For Mining

Venda People

The Mapungubwe kingdom which was known as the center of the Venda land was also known as the center of trade. The people were known to mine and melt gold, iron, and copper. They also made glass, ceramics, and spun cotton. They also planted sorghum and millet and were into animal husbandry (rearing animals like goats and cows). They carried out trade with neighboring countries like ancient Ethiopia through the port of Adulis on the Red sea.

People of Mapungubwe were also known to have known about the star and astronomy and they made use of this knowledge for their day-to-day lives and they also played a role in their tradition. There are beliefs that the people of Mapungubwe migrated to Zimbabwe because they believe Great Zimbabwe had more stable weather.

Venda Marriage And Wedding Rites

Today, it is rare to attend a core Venda marriage ceremony because civilization has replaced a lot of traditional activities with some contemporary practices – even brides and grooms no longer wear core traditional Venda attires. During Venda marriage ceremonies, there are usually a lot of traditional meals and music, as well as dance. After the ceremony, the makoti would live with her mother-in-law for some time and during this time, she learns how to take care of a home and how to take care of her husband.

Just like the Pedi people who don’t see anything wrong with marrying your cousin, Venda people also prefer cousin marriage, however, it is not a compulsory practice. Venda people also allow polygamy and like some parts of Africa, a girl can be betrothed to a man and not eventually get married to him (that is, she can break off the betrothal). The reasons for this could be anything, including not having a connection with the man in question as she grows older.

Although polygamy is allowed among the Venda tribe, it is more common among wealthy people who can afford to keep more than one wife. Older men also get married to younger women who will bear them children at their old age and also take care of them.

Venda Language

The Venda language is called Tshivenda or Luvenda and it is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa. The vocabulary is similar to that of the Sesotho and there are also similar elements between the Venda language and the Shona dialect. Up to 650,000 people around Limpopo speak Tshivenda.

Venda Gender Role

In Venda, different genders have different roles – men, women, boys, and girls have different roles in the family and within the community. The women are responsible for keeping the house clean and ensuring that the family gets a good meal. While the men are responsible for providing for the needs of the family, they also take care of the animals – goats, sheep, cattle, etc. On the children’s part, the boys help their father out in the field, while the girls assist their mother at home.

Venda People

It is noteworthy to add that in modern times, most men no longer rear cattle nor do the women stat at home to cater to the homefront. Today, both men and women now seek secular jobs (or engage in one form of business or the other) in order to contribute to the financial running of the home. However, women still ensure that the family eats good food and that the home is clean, and sometimes, men help them out.

Venda Traditional Attires

The core Venda traditional clothing has nothing to do with fabrics at all as it is made of animal skin; the skin is obtained from animals caught during hunting. However, such clothes are now believed to be sacred because they represent the ancestors. In modern times, there are Venda fabrics that are tied around the waist and chest as traditional attire. And both men and women make use of these fabrics to sew modern attires. Some modern designs for the traditional Venda attires include:

Venda African Traditional Religion

Before the advent of Christianity in Africa, the prevalent mode of worship in Africa was the African traditional religion. In Venda African traditional religion, water is a very important element. The Venda people believe there are water spirits (which are called Zwidutwane) that inhabit the bottom of waterfalls. In accordance with their beliefs, they give offerings to these spirits in worship. Also, the people of Venda do not hunt crocodiles because it is generally believed that crocodiles have poisonous brains.

Venda Cultural Dance Styles

The Venda people have a number of dancing styles but the most famous of them all is called the Python dance. The Python dance is held every year at Lake Fundudzi, a place that is believed to be sacred for drawing rain during the planting season. The attire for this dance is usually an apron that is worn around the waist.

Venda People

Different genders also perform different types of dance. Married women and single ladies perform Tshigombela and Tshifhasi dance respectively. These dance routines are done during the farming season when the first green maize cob appears on their farms. Men also have their own type of dance called Tshikona. This dance routine is displayed during religious ceremonies, like funerals or weddings. During the performance, each male dancer holds a bamboo pipe that is used to create the melody.

Venda Educational Transformation

Around the 1970s, Venda used to be one of the poorest tribes in South Africa, and in a bid to encourage them to accept independence as Bantustans (pseudo independent territories), the government built offices, parliament, and houses for parliament ministers. Education was also subsidized for the people in the form of free books, and zero tuition fees.

This encouraged the Venda people to open up to education and all the civilization that comes with that. Despite their best efforts, the government fell short of providing good schools for the Venda people. However, they embraced what was available as the people now had access to formal education.

What We Know About Musangwe: Venda Bare Knuckle Fist Fighting

Musangwe is a bare-knuckle fist fighting sport among the Venda people that serves as entertainment and also for gaining respect or establishing boundaries between peers. In ancient times, since fighting was not allowed in the community, if you felt offended or disrespected by anyone, you could challenge them to a bare-knuckle fistfight (Musangwe).

If you are challenged for a fight, and you refuse to accept the challenge or turn it down, there are consequences that accompany such an action. These consequences may include being flogged by able-bodied men in the community or a fine. However, the fight is also regulated by elders who ensure that dangerous attacks like biting, kicking, etc are not allowed. Also, no one is allowed to gamble on who the winner of the fight will be. The fight has no time frame; the two parties fight until one person gives up.

Venda Traditional Foods And Cuisines

Venda traditional meals are made of corn, vegetables, milk, beans, nuts, and meat. Their cuisines are nutritious and although civilization has improved a lot of things, their core traditional meals are still being enjoyed today. Some of them include:

Tshidzimba

Tshidzimba is one of the renowned foods Venda people eat. This meal is made from groundnut and provides a lot of protein.

Ingredients:

  • Samp (Thuvhule)
  • Salt
  • Peanuts (Nduhu) powdered and whole
  • Groundnuts (Phonda)

Preparation:

  • Boil the samp and groundnut for one hour 30 minutes.
  • Pour in the whole peanut and continue to boil for another hour
  • Add the powdered peanut and salt to taste.
  • Stir properly and allow to simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Immediately you finish cooking, serve while it’s hot.

Madzhulu

This major ingredient in this meal is termites and the food is very proteinous. You can get bitten while you are catching the termites, but after preparing them, you will realize that the stress is worth it.

Preparation:

  • Wash the termites.
  • Fry, boil, or steam it for about 5 minutes.
  • Eat the insect immediately after frying or store it in a fridge. You can also sun-dry.
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Romeo Ndlovu
Romeo's secret talent is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary content. At work, he is thinking about how best to provide the most unique, original content that provides utmost satisfaction to the user. Away from work, he is a football addict who loves to catch up on his favorite pastimes

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