Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ngano 'Fairytale'

Ngano is a Tshivenda word for fairytales. Ngano are usually related by senior members of the family, particularly mothers and grandmothers. Family members gather around tshivhaso (fireplace) in autumn and winter to enjoy the harvest after toiling in the fields in spring and summer. Storytellers take turns to relate Ngano. The storyteller starts by saying “ salungano salungano” , meaning ‘ like a fairytale like a fairytale' , and the listeners respond by saying “saalungano” . The storyteller tells the fairytale and listeners keep saying “saalungano” after every sentence made by the storyteller. This is to indicate that they are listening and are interested in the fairytale told. The storyteller can also stand up and dance to dramatise what s/he is relating.

The characters in the Ngano are usually humans and animals. Animals are given a voice and portrayed as interacting with humans and talking like humans. Animals can be portrayed as mischievous, intelligent, stupid, cunning, unreliable, evil, kind, etc. A rabbit/hare ( muvhuda) is portrayed as both intelligent and mischievous, and it goes by the name of Sankambe, while a baboon (pfene ) is portrayed as stupid and goes by the name of Mudzhou.

Hyenas, owls, and snakes (with the exception of pythons) are the most hated creatures in the Tshivenda culture since they are regarded as the agents of evil. It is believed that witches and wizards use them for witchcraft purposes. This belief is reflected in all fairytales where hyenas, owls, and poisonous snakes are featured. The Tshivenda word for hyena is phele , while an owl is called gwitha . A person whose behaviour and conduct are regarded as despicable is usually referred to as a phele or gwitha.

A jackal ( phungubwe ) is portrayed as a thief, unreliable, and selfish. Carnivores such as lion ( ndau ), leopard ( didinngwe ), and cheetah ( nngwe ) play interchangeable roles. They are sometimes portrayed as bloodthirsty creatures, while at other times they are portrayed as saviours. A lion, like in most African cultures, is usually portrayed as the King of all animals.

Elephant ( ndou ), the most beloved and respected animal in the Tshivenda culture is always portrayed as the wisest of all animals and as the Lion's chief advisor.

The python ( tharu ) is the only snake that is revered in the Tshivenda culture. It is seen as a symbol of fertility and long lasting life. That is why maidens who perform the domba dance join hands and arms and move like a python. It is also believed that Lake Fundudzi , the only natural lake in South Africa , is guarded by pythons that live beneath its waters. It is also believed that, in the ancient days, these pythons would drink most of the water from the lake when they were upset a dn that there would be drought in the whole of Vendaland. These pythons had to be appeased by the community through the sacrificing of a virgin who would disappear into the lake and would never be seen again. The ritual to appease the pythons would be led by the Netshiavha/Netshiheni royals who are still regarded as the custodians of the lake.

The Fairytale of the Virgin who Caused the Drought

There is a fairytale about a girl whose marriage was arranged by her family and her husband's family. The girl agreed to marry the man even though she had never met him. She went to live in her husband's homestead but months passed without her seeing her husband. When she wanted to know where he husband was, the first wife, Vho-Nengome, would tell her that she was not allowed to set her eyes on him, and that all she needed to do was to cook for him and feel him when he visited her at night.

The girl would prepare lunch for her husband everyday, and would leave the meals in the hut. She would then go to work the fields and return late in the afternoon. She would always find clean plates and would be told that her husband ate the meals. Curiosity got the better of her and one day she hid in the bushes to see the husband she had never met. At lunchtime she saw a huge python making its way to the hut where she left the lunch. She then proceeded to the hut and saw the python eating the food she prepared. She screamed and the python left the hut and disappeared from sight.

The girl went back home and told her parents she was not going to have a snake for a husband. But, unfortunately, the lake started drying and the rains stopped falling. There was drought in the land. Community leaders consulted diviners, chief priests, and rainmakers to no avail. Rituals were performed but still the heavens refused to open up. The drought continued for years.

Then one night Chief Netshiavha/Netshiheni was visited by Raluvhimba (the Venda High God) who told him that the rain gods had been insulted, and the virgin who insulted the gods should be sacrificed. Chief Netshiavha/Netshiheni did not know who the guilty virgin was. He called a community meeting and told the community what Raluvhimba had told him.

Diviners were summoned to point out the culprit. They threw their divination bones ( thangu ), and revealed that the guilty virgin was the one married to a python, and that she angered the rain gods by casting her eyes on the python.

After hearing that, the girl leapt forward and confessed that she was the one who cast her eyes on her python husband. She even declared that she was ready to be sacrificed for the sake of the community.

The day was set when the entire community would gather for a religious ritual. Mpambo , sorghum beer used in religious rituals, was brewed.

Oxen, sheep and goats were slaughtered on the day of the ritual. The chief priest, tshifhe , announced that the girl should take the meat and the beer to the lake and offer them to the gods. The girl obeyed the instruction and walked to the lake carrying mpambo and meat. She went into the lake while everybody was watching. Suddenly there was thunder. The girl started disappearing from sight, and the heavens opened up. It is said that it rained for seven days and nights.

The domba dance, performed by maidens, is a way of paying tribute to the pythons at Lake Fundudzi .

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Raluvhimba (Mudzimu)

The name is composed of the prefix Ra-, which is honorific and perhaps connected with the idea of 'Father'; luvhimba is the eagle, the bird that soars aloft. It symbolizes the great power which travels through the cosmos, using the heavenly phenomena as its instruments.

'Raluvhimba is connected with the beginning of the world and is supposed to live somewhere in the heavens and to be connected with all astronomical and physical phenomena. . . . A shooting star is Raluvhimba traveling; his voice is heard in the thunder; comets, lightning, meteors, earthquakes, prolonged drought, floods, pests, and epidemics- in fact, all the natural phenomena which affect the people as a whole- are revelations of the great god. In thunderstorms he appears as a great fire near the chief's kraal, whence he booms his desires to the chief in a voice of thunder; this fire always disappears before any person can reach it. At these visitations the chief enters the hut and, addressing Raluvhimba as Makhalu [Grandfather], converses with him, the voice of god replying either from the thatch of the hut or from a tree nearby; Raluvhimba then passes on in further clap of thunder. Occasionally he is angry with the chief and takes revenge on the people by sending them a drought or a flood, or possibly by opening an enormous cage in the heavens and letting loose a swarm of locusts on the land.'

Raluvhimba, it is said, was wont to manifest himself by appearing from time to time as a great flame on a platform of rock above a certain cave. With the flame there came a sound as of clanking irons on hearing which the people shouted with joy and their cries passed on throughout the country. The Chief mounted to the platform where he called upon Raluvhimba, thanked him for revealing himself and prayed on behalf of his people for rain, felicity and peace.

He is at times greeted spontaneously by the whole people in a way that is most unusual amongst the southern Bantu. The Rev. G. Westphal of the Berlin Mission relates that in 1917 a meteor burst in the middle of the day making a strange humming sound followed by a thunder-like crash. This portent was greeted by the people, not with terror but with cries of joy. Another Missionary, the Rev. McDonald, tells how after a slight tremor of the earth the was an extraordinary clamour among the people, the lululuing of women, clapping of hands and shouting 'The whole tribe was greeting Raluvhimba who was passing through the country.' People say that during an earthquake they hear a noise in the sky similar to thunder. Then they clap their hands to welcome the mysterious god and pray: 'Give us rain! Give us health.'

Dr H.A. Junod says that Raluvhimba is regarded as the maker and former of everything and as the rain-giver. If rain is scarce and starvation threatens, people complain: 'Raluvhimba wants to destroy us,' they say the same if floods spoil their fields. Prayers and sacrifices are offered in times of drought. There is some notion of Raluvhimba as Providence. He takes care no only of the tribe as a whole but of individual members. When a man has narrowly escaped drowning he will say: 'I have been save by Raluvhimba, Mudzimu.'
Raluvhimba is identified with Mwari (or Nwali) whose earthly abode (like Yahwe's on Mount Sinai) is in the Matopo Hills of Southern Rhodesia. Every year the Venda used to send a special messenger (whose office was hereditary) with a black ox and a piece of black cloth as an offering to Mwari. The black ox was set free in the forest to join the god's large herd which had accumulated there.

Edwin W. Smith, 'The Idea of God among South African Tribes' in Smith (ed.), African Ideas of God, a Symposium (2nd Ed. London, 1950) pp.124-126
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Vhusha ndi ngoma ya vhuvhili kha vhutshilo ha vhasidzana vha Vhavenda. Fhedzi ha i dzhiwa sa yone ngoma ya u thoma vhunga iya musanda.Vhakololo a vha tshini musevhetho vhunga musevhetho i ngoma ya vhasiwana nahone ngoma iyi a i imi musanda i imiswa nga muthu zwawe o wana thendelo kha Vhamusanda ,khosi kana Thovhele vhane vha mavu.
Afha kha iyi ngoma hu tshina vhasidzana vha dzi khomba husi musidzana munwe na munwe.Vhakololo vha tou tamba ngeno vhasiwana vha tshi tou tshina. Iyi ndi ngoma ine ya vha tshiga tshau tanganedza uri musidzana o aluwa hune a nga kha divha ono vha na muthannga wawe.

Yeneyi ngoma i tshinwa vhuriha na Tshilimo musi zwikolo zwo valwa.Tshifhingani tsha kale musi vhasidzana vha sa tendelwi uya zwikoloni yovha itshi tshinwa tshifhinga tshilapfu fhedzi vhuriha na tshilimo.Vhasidzana vha Vhavenda vha lavhelelwa u tshina ngoma iyi vhunga zwi tshi dzhiiwa uri nga nnda ha mitani hune vhanga kha di gudiswa milayo afha ngomani ndi hone tshikoloni tsha milay

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Musevhetho ndi ngoma ino tshinwa nga vhasidzana na vhatukana.
Kanzhi vhasidzana vha tshiya musevhethoni vha tuwa vho hwala thasana.Musi musevhetho wono swa vha sala vhana basa(vhadzi)sa tshiga tsha uri vho tshina musevhetho.Mutukana u a ya musevhethoni arali o ya mulani. Musevhetho ndi ngoma ye Vhavenda vha i wana kha Vhasotho(Vhadogwa) na vhanwe Vhasuthu vha devhula.

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Vhambedzi (Venda Clan)

Oral history has it that the Vhambedzi had a kingdom whose royal kraal was in Malungudzi(Marungudzi in Karanga) in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. The Vhambedzi Kingdom stretched from Masvingo to Vhumbedzi, North-Eastern Vendaland. The Vhembe River (Limpopo River) was never a barrier between the people living on either side of the river. The Vhambedzi were renowned rainmakers.North-Eastern Vendaland has a high concentration of Vhambedzi, Vhalembethu, and Vhanyai. These clans are also found in large numbers across the Vhembe River.

It is believed that the first Vhambedzi group to settle in North-Eastern Vendaland settle at Zwaluvhimbi, Ha-Makuya. From there he group settled at Ha-Luvhimbi. Later the group split into two: Tshisinavhute and Luvhimbi. The Tshisinavhute group moved to Mianzwi, while the Luvhimbi group remained at Ha-Luvhimbi. It is believed that the two groups split due to the fact that Tshisinavhute, wanted to be chief but Luvhimbi would not allow her to be one.

The two groups paid tribute to the King in Malungudzi. But later on great distances and the disintegration of Vhambedzi settlements led to the establishment of small autonomous groups at Ha-Luvhimbi and Mianzwi, and other lesser-known units at Ha-Mukununde,Tshikweta, and Masetoni. But whenever the South African Vhambedzi failed to cause rain to fall, they would send their messengers to Malungudzi where the Malungudzi Mbedzi would contact Nwali (Great God) on behalf of the South African Vhambedzi.

Luvhimbi was a great rainmaker who was also known as Tshirumbula-Mikovha (one whose
rain turns gorges into rivulets). He was revered in the whole of Vendaland. His rain-making abilities have been enshrined in the saying:
“Mvula-mvula ndi ya Luvhimbi Ya Tshikambe i dina madumbu”(Rain caused by Luvhimbi is excellent. Tshikambe’s one is accompanied by storm)

A lot of Vhambedzi left Ha-Luvhimbi after the assassination of their Khosi, Itani Luvhimbi, the son of Luvhimbi Tshirumbule. Itani Luvhimbi was assassinated by Phaswana and Madadzhe. The reason for the assassination was that the Mphaphulis we competing for land with the Tshivhases, and Makwarela Mphaphuli was afraid that Itani Luvhimbi, who was independent,would align himself with the Tshivhases. Makwarela Mphaphuli wanted Ha-Luvhimbi to be part of Ha-Mphaphuli.

Itani was succeeded by Neswiswi who was also a Mbedzi. But Neswiwi was killed by
Masikhwa, the chief of Tshivhilwi. Masikhwa, who was Itani Luvhimbi’s nephew, did not like the fact that Neswiswi was made Vhamusanda by the Mphaphulis who killed his uncle.Masikhwa proclaimed himself Khosi of Ha-Luvhimbi. He later aligned himself with the Tshivhases and paid tribute to them. Ha-Luvhimbi is today part of Ha-Tshivhasa.

Vhambedzi are today found mainly at Ha-Mutele, Ha-Makuya, Ha-Mabila, Tshilavulu,
Tswingoni (Mianzwi), Masetoni, Ha-Lambani, Makonde, Tshikweta, and Ha-Luvhimbi.
“Tshilavulu tshi bva vhatete, vhadenya vha tshi bva Tswingoni”


Ralushai N.M.N – “Further Traditions Concerning Luvhimbi and the Mbedzi.” University
College of Swaziland, (1978).

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Vhalembethu (Venda Clan)

Thulamela municipality is named after the Vhalembethu chiefdom of Makahane (Makhahani) known as Thulamela. Vhalembethu are amongst some of the first Venda clans to occupy the land south of the Vhembe (Limpopo) river. Makhahani was named Thulamela due to the large number of anthills that are found in the area. An anthill is known, in Tshivenda, as Tshiulu, while a heap of soil is known as Thulwi. The locals said the area was the place where anthills or soil heaps grew (mela). The word 'mela' means grow in Tshivenda. From the words 'Thulwi' and 'Mela' came Thulamela.

Research done at Thulamela reveals that the Thulamela site was occupied between 1200 and 1600 at a time when there was regular contact with traders of the East African Coast. Historians believe that Thulamela is linked to the Zimbabwe culture. 

A completely different way of life is represented by the ruins of Makahane, northeast of Punda Maria, next to the Levuvhu River, and the dwelling place of the Vhalembethu. The political structure here meant that the ruler has tremendous power.

The Vhalembethu settled here during the 17th century and the best known of their chiefs was Makahane. He was known to be particularly cruel. When cattle were killed and the hide removed, the men of his tribe had to hold the hide between their teeth until it was dry.

To test whether the hide was dry enough, Makahane would hit it with his knobkerrie. If any of those men let the hide slip from between his teeth, he was thrown to his death from a cliff. Eventually, not even his own father could stand his cruelty and sent his other son, Makahane’s brother Nelombe, to kill him. Nelombe then took over the rule of the tribe.

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Malombo ndi tshithu tshiswa Venda . Malombo ndi zwithu zwo bvaho thungo dza ha Mutele na Ha-Makahane.Ndi zwine na pfa vha tshi ri 'ka Mutele a ku endi nwana a kalu kalula lulembethu' Izwi zwi amba uri wa dalela ha -Mutele kana ha-Makahane u vhuya u na mudzimu wa malombo. Nga u pfufhifhadza malombo o dzhena Venda a tshi bva kha Vhalembethu vha Vhukalanga a taha kha Vhalembethu vha ha-Mutele na vha ha-Makahane fhano Venda.Vho hwelwaho nga malombo a vha ambi Tshivenda vha ambaT tshikalanga.

Vhatshini vha malombo vha ambara malabi a no pfi Matongo. Vha tshi tshina hu vha hu na ngoma dze vha dzi wana musanda. Dzi tshi fhalala, vhatshini(malombe) na mune wa ngoma vhaya musanda u livhuwa vhamusanda duvha lenelo ndi hone ngoma dzi tshi lidzwa musanda fhedzi.Malombo a tshinelwa hezwi: Musi muthu a tshi kho u lwala, nanga i ari vhakale vha khou nyaga tshauri na tshauri. Tshenetsho tsha phethiwa mulwadze hupfi u a fhola.

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Musina People: Vhalea (Venda Clan)

The people of Musina were Vhalea, and they mined copper. They called musina,
meaning spoiler. They, like Vhadau of Tshakhuma, Vhafamadi of Ha-Mashau,
Vhakwevho of Luonde, Vhania of Niani, Vhagoni of Magoni, and Vhaluvhu, are
the Vhangona. The Vhangona and the Vhambedzi are the original inhabitants of
Venda. According to oral accounts the Musina clan consisted of two groups: Musina and
Tshumbe. The Makushu clan is part of the Musina clan.

The Vhatwanamba of Tshivhula settled in Musina and
surrounding areas and subjugated the Musina people. It is said that the
Vhatwanamba came from Zimbabwe. The Vhatwanamba intermarried with the
Musina people.

Tshivhula was succeeded by his son Ramasunzi. After Ramasunzi’s death, the
chiefdom split into two: Lishivha and Mankadiko Sebola. The Sebola section is
today made of Venda-speaking (Tshivhula) and Pedi-speaking (Sebola)
communities, while the Lishivha section is largely Venda-speaking.
Lishivha settled at Ha-Matshisevhe (where the Lishivha Wilderness
Resort is situated) next to Mavhambo.The other clan which is an offshoot of Tshivhula is the Matshete. They descended from RaĜidaba, the son of Ramasunzi. RaĜidaba was
nicknamed Matshete after he was given his own area as a way of silencing him.
The word “tshete” means silence in Tshivenda. It is said that RaĜidaba used to
nag his father demanding his own land. After the father relented and gave him
his own piece of land he told him “to stay there and be quiet” (fhumulani ni

Matshete’s land was at Luongwe Hill, Mapungubwe.
Matshete was succeeded by Rantsana whose descendants were Mudimeli and
Tseisi. The ěishivha, Tshivhula, Matshete, and Mulambwane communities have lodged
their claims with the Land Claims Commission, and their claim has been verified.
It, however, looks like that the claim will take longer to settle since the four
communities’ claims overlap and they cannot agree on the boundaries. They
have all staked a claim on land where the Venetia diamond mine and
Mapungubwe National Park are situated.

In November 2007 the human remains excavated at Mapungubwe in 1932 were
symbolically handed over to Tshivhula, Lishivha, and Matshete clans. These are
the clans whose ancestors lived in Musina and Mapungubwe.


Mamadi, M.F – “The Copper Miners of Musina”. Government Printers, Pretoria

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