The Tsonga

© Dr Peter Magubane
A Tsonga initiation ceremony.
The Tsonga are not a homogeneous ethnic group. Their forefathers came from present-day Mozambique to settle in South Africa in the 19th century, generally in small groups without chiefs. Today the Tsonga are centred mainly in the Lowveld between the escarpment and the western borders of the Kruger National Park.

Marriage in Tsonga Society

In traditional Tsonga society, choosing a partner was not straightforward, as the process followed a set of rules....more

Religion and Beliefs of Tsonga People

Today over half the Tsonga belong to Christian churches, particularly the Independent Churches or the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (former Swiss Mission)....more

Social Organisation of the Tsonga

In the 1890s Lowveld farms were suitable for little more than hunting and subsistence agriculture, and the owners soon sold them to speculators looking for mineral deposits....more

The Music of the Tsonga

The Tsonga are well known for their rich musical heritage which is based on the playing of a wide variety of musical instruments. These can be divided into three categories: stringed, wind and percussion....more

The Traditional Economy of the Tsonga

The Tsonga who left the coast in the 19th century brought new sources of food into the Transvaal, including cassava (manioc), certain kinds of groundnuts, potatoes and sorghum....more

Traditional Tsonga Political Structures

As white colonists imposed their rule on Tsonga villages, the powers of chiefs declined. By the 1920s many whites saw in the disintegration of the chiefdom the spectre of political lawlessness....more

Tsonga Early Life

The birth of a baby is a moment of great joy in Tsonga society. Usually older female relatives, or other wives, help pregnant mothers through the last stages of their pregnancy and the birth of the infant....more

Tsonga Origins

The first Tsonga-speakers to enter the former Transvaal probably did so during the 18th century. They were essentially traders who followed rivers inland, where they bartered cloth and beads for ivory...more