The Ndebele

© Dr Peter Magubane
Esther Mahlangu is an Ndebele woman and an internationally renowned painter and decorator.

The Ndebele are well known for their outstanding craftsmanship, their decorative homes, and their distinctive and highly colourful mode of dress and ornamentation. They were once part of the Nguni-speaking peoples who settled along southern Africa's eastern coastal plain, but broke away some three centuries ago and migrated to the central inland plateau. The Ndzundza Ndebele today mainly live in the former homeland of KwaNdebele in Mpumalanga, and around Nebo, Northern Province.

Translated by Busisiwe Skhosana

Disruptions in Ndebele Life

During the 20th century, large-scale changes in white agriculture caused the Ndebele farm tenants to be put under ever-increasing pressure....more

Gender Division Amongst the Ndebele

Making and selling beadwork, mats, dolls and other crafts have also provided some Ndebele women with an independent livelihood - both those who have become internationally famous like Esther Mahlangu, and those with humbler aspirations....more

History of the Ndebele

The Ndebele history includes the middle of the 19th century, the Kekana faction of the Ndebele tribe had further divided into smaller splinter groups, which spread out across the hills, valleys and plains surrounding present-day Potgietersrus, Zebediela a...more

Ndebele Initiation and Rites of Passage

Initiation is still practised among both males and females in Ndebele society, marking the passage from childhood to adult status....more

Ndebele Ndzundza Beadwork and Art

The Ndzundza Ndebele are best known for their art, similar motifs, designs and colours are used in mural decoration (done by the women) and beadwork....more

Religion and Beliefs of the Ndebele

As with most traditional groups in Africa, Ndebele life is characterized by an active spiritual world, which exercises great influence over even the smallest issues in daily existence....more

The Ndebele Tribe of South Africa

Under the leadership of Musi, the Ndebele Tribe migrated inland, establishing themselves north of present-day Pretoria....more