History of the Mapoch Ndebele Village & its people

The original community of Mapoch lived in an area called Wonderboom in Pretoria. They were living on a farm of a certain white farmer. This community was evicted from Pretoria during the early 1950’s. Apparently the farmer petitioned to the government of the time, to have the community removed from “his” land as tourists were travelling through “his” land to visit the community. Blacks were forcibly removed from traditional settlements to make way for white communities under Apartheid policies.

This community was first moved to “Vlakfontein”, where it was found that there was not enough land for their cattle to graze, no rivers nearby and no space suitable to hold the traditional initiation schools, amongst other factors. The community petitioned and more suitable land was found for them.  The Mapoch Ndebele Community then moved to a farm at Klipgat under the authority of Mr Speelman Buhlakani Msiza (Chief) in 1953. The current village was built and life goes on as usual. 

Mapoch Ndebele Village is a unique place as the community still live and practice their traditional way of life, i.e traditional ceremonies, Ndebele paintings, beadwork and Ndebele culture in general.
The three main families in the village are the: Msiza’s (direct family of the Chief), Buda’s (son in laws) and Skosana’s. Locally the village is known as “Mabhoko”, which is the name of one of the late Ndebele Kings, but the white people had difficulty in pronouncing Mabhoko and called it “Mapoch”. The Ndebele people are descendants of the Nguni tribes (greater Zulu tribes) who split from the Zulus and moved up and settled around the greater Pretoria areas.  Mzilizazi and King Cha Ndebele feature greatly in their history.

The Ndebele way of life

In the old days parents were responsible for choosing a wife for their sons. A specific son must have returned from an initiation school before the marriage Labola (dowry) could be paid.  The value of the bride’s labola is calculated by the number of cows (usually 8 cows) given to the bride’s parents by the groom (current value in 2006 R3000 per cow!). Before a woman is married a “bukhazi” is performed; the bride to be goes into a smaller room/hut for a week before the wedding and the elder women in the community coach her about her role as a wife and her duties as a married woman within the village.

Traditional Initiation Schools and Ceremonies:
This tradition is practiced in winter, every four years. The boys are taken to the bush for a period of two months whereby they learn the history, rituals, norm, values and traditional poems of the Ndebele culture. A circumcision process takes place at the end of this period and the boy is initiated into manhood. The men then return to home and are ceremoniously welcomed back into the community as men. The mothers of the initiates prepare, fix and paint the homestead in preparation for the welcome home ceremonies.

Girls practice their initiation schooling around the village for a period of one month. Celebrations differ from the men’s initiation school but the young girl’s teachings are completed once they too have been initiated.

When the youth have completed their initiation, and return to the village, a bull is slaughtered for the male initiates and a cow for the female initiates, to welcome them back into the community..

Before a cow is slaughtered, the blood of a goat must “be thrown on the ground”.

Mural Painting and Symbolism:
The culture of the Ndebele people is unique, especially with regard to their colourful and rich mural paintings. Mural painting has been passed on from generation to generation from mother to daughter. Each and every woman has her own style, meaning and knowledge base about the different things which they use in their lives, which are depicted on the walls e.g a razor blade, a house, a cellphone. Everything has a meaning and an importance in the eyes of the artist. The “Ndebele Flower” symbolises a Ndebele Women’s fertility. The razor blade pattern is used extensively as it is used in traditional hair shavings, beadwork, household tasks and traditional ceremonies.

Traditionally the houses were painted in muted, natural colours extracted from nature – black from fire ash, white from stones, browns/yellows from cow dung. Pigments were often mixed with cow dung and water and then applied to the walls. The bright colours only came later, with the introduction of western and Indian paint pigments.

The Ndebele Culture is also closely linked with nature. The Morula Tree, Weeping Wattle (mosetlha) and the Buffalo Thorn (mokgalo) abound in the Mapoch village. The Morula tree produces a fruit, which is used to make traditional morula beer. The fruits drop from the trees in January/ February and the village and livestock are well fed.

Meeting Places:
The men used to gather at a special known as the “E bandla” (a meeting/Indaba place) to discuss important issues, which affect the whole village. Women are not allowed at these meetings or in these places. There is however, a place in the village, normally under a centre tree, where the whole village meets to discuss certain issues. Women usually discuss issues whilst doing their daily tasks. Important decisions are left for the men to decide.

Historically each family used a single rondawel (round dwelling) for daily activities e.g cooking and sleeping. There are specific rules and customs on entering the rondawel. There are specific areas for men and women. Presently the rondawel is used for traditional ceremonies and square houses have been built in the back for cooking and sleeping as the family grew. Modern houses are normally built at the back of the traditional rondawels.

Each family has its own kraal for livestock. During traditional ceremonies the men eat and cook separately from the women. The sitting ledge or step inside the rondawels is known as “mosamo” and no women may sit upon it. Traditionally women inhabited the left side of the rondawel and men the right. The verandah or porch / courtyard at the front of the rondawel is the area reserved for non-family members, friends, extended family. Women may sit on the steps in the courtyard area. Only direct family members may go further into the homestead, unless specifically requested by the family.

The “matouri” is the store-room of the rondawel, where mats, pots etc are stored. The walls of the traditional rondawels are made from a lattice of poles and sticks which have been covered in mud and cow dung. The floors are also “cemented” with cow dung.

It is said that “A big house must not be broken” – meaning that once the elders have passed away the house must remain and be maintained by the family. Should the rondawel/ home need to be demolished to make way for newer structures the family must visit the graves with gifts of beer and snuff in order to request the ancestor’s blessings for the changes.

Traditionally maize (corn) meal (known as “pap” or “mealiepap”) forms the staple diet, meats (chicken, beef, lamb, etc) and vegetables are added to the pap. A sauce or gravy is sometimes served with the pap. “Mala magodus” (mainly sheep’s tripe), chicken feet, and “ighlogo” (heads) from goats/ sheep/ cows are regular delicacies. 

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