The Ndebele people
Colour is the way of the Ndebele people. For centuries these hospitable folk, whose origins are shrouded in mystery, have used all the hues of the rainbow to tell the story of their lives.
South Africa has 2 Ndebele groups, thought to have migrated from KwaZulu-Natal in the early 17th century. One group is found north-east of Johannesburg in the Bronkhorstspruit region; the other resides in the Limpopo province.
A Ndebele cultural village, made up of residential units (umuzi), is quite often defined by its striking artwork, which is done by the women. In this way she designates her territory while using art as a form of inspiration for everyday life.
The women use this to express themselves, as outside the home in Ndebele culture she has little say in a community where men hold all the authority. The family head (mnumzana) oversees his entire family and, in some cases, his married children and his brothers are permitted to settle in his community; thus expanding the residence into a village.
Women also express their status in the way they adorn and ornament themselves. Ornate beadwork, blankets and other trinkets are used, becoming more elaborate after marriage, detailing her faithful devotion to her husband. Favoured jewels are the brass rings that are placed on her neck, arms and legs, which can often weigh up to 20 kilograms.
In Ndebele tradition the authority over a group is vested in the tribal chief (ikozi), assisted by an inner or family council (amaphakathi). Next in this hierarchy are ward heads (izilindi), followed by the family patriarch.
As in many African tribal communities, the Ndebele people strongly believe in ancestral spirits. The worship of those long gone is a decidedly intricate ritual, with the living and dead sharing a bond through which the ancestors provide valuable services to those who are alive.