Colourful Ndebele culture
Did you know?
The Ndebele are buried in cow skins in an upright position in the cow kraal.
For the most part, Ndebele culture is renowned for its distinct beadwork and colourful, geometric mural art.
No one is completely sure of the origins of the South African Ndebele tribe, but it is generally accepted that about 400 years ago they migrated under Chief Muzi from present day KwaZulu-Natal and settled in the hills north-east of what is now Pretoria.
While living peacefully among the Sotho and Tswana people of the region, they preserved their Ndebele language and maintained the customs of their ancestors. It was in the late 19th century that Ndebele women began to incorporate the distinctive beadwork style in their dress-culture.
The beautiful dress and accessories of the Ndebele women reflect their age, social status and love of colour. It is an aesthetic cultural affirmation that is in everything from the aprons of little girls to the colourful gala blankets and spectacular costumes of married women.
Two things in particular catch the eye. These are the stacked rings worn round the neck, arms and legs - and, most striking of all, the lavish beadwork featuring geometric patterns decorating skirts, tiaras and the long strips that trail behind.
These in turn serve as the inspiration for the mural art of the Ndebele people of South Africa. This vibrant art that so enlivens the sometimes-drab eastern Highveld is a talent passed from mother to daughter.
Based on abstract triangular and rectangular shapes, the mural art includes contemporary motifs such as airplanes, car number plates and television aerials. What is remarkable is that all this is achieved freehand without preparatory sketches, rulers or geometric instruments.
The most celebrated of these artists is Esther Mahlangu, who has received international acclaim. She has been commissioned by BMW to paint one of their cars and her most public works are the murals of the Ndebele Open Air Museum at the Botshabelo Historical Village.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: + 27 (0)13 243 2253/4
How to get here
Around the area
Tours to do
What will it cost
The entry fee is R25 for adults and R10 for children.