The Xhosa people of the Eastern Cape have for centuries defended their traditions against incursion. Even today Xhosa culture remains as strong and revered as ever. It is because of this resolve that they were often at the forefront of the freedom struggle.

Did you know?

Many mariners shipwrecked along the Wild Coast were assimilated into Xhosa culture.

The Xhosa people are an extremely proud group and their hold on their many traditions remains fierce. The Xhosa number approximately seven million, the majority of whom live in the Eastern Cape.

The Xhosa people are descendants of the Nguni, who migrated from central and northern Africa to settle in southern Africa. They comprise a number of clans such as Gcaleka, Ngika, Ndlambe, Dushane, Qayi and the Gqunkhwebe, of Khoisan origin.

Enchantment winds through the Xhosa language, dress and rituals. Their language is often called the 'click' language because of the three dominant clicks, which originated when they mixed with the Khoisan.

In Xhosa tradition a woman is easily recognised by her heavy dress, matching turban and coloured dots decorating her face. If she has children, whom she has raised to be adults, then it is usual to find her seated among her peers smoking a long-handled pipe.

Beadwork similar to the Ndebele is an integral aspect of Xhosa culture. It forms part of the ornamentation that reflects the different stages of a woman's life.

The head of the household is the man and it is the responsibility of a woman to be respectful to him and to the elders at all times. As is tradition in many African tribes, the man is accorded a higher status and can have more than one wife.

In Xhosa culture, each family has a head, and each clan a chief. Chieftainship is conferred by the mother's lineage, even if she's not accorded political authority. In each clan the land is communally held and everything is shared, with great emphasis on helping one another, whether through hut building or harvesting.

The Xhosa people recognise the presence of ancestral spirits and a supreme authority. The ceremonial slaughtering of animals is one of the many ways by which ancestors are called upon for help.