Tsonga Traditional Wedding Dresses Biography
The Tsonga are a diverse people, generally including the Shangaan, Thonga, Tonga, and several smaller ethnic groups. Together they numbered about 1.5 million people in South Africa in the mid-1990s, with some 4.5 million individuals in southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
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, copper and salt.
The Shangaan tribe came into being when King Shaka of the Zulu, sent Soshangane (Manukosi) to conquer the Tsonga people in the area of present-day southern Mozambique, during the Mfecane upheaval of the 19th Century. Soshangane found a fertile place inhabited by scattered communities of peace-loving people, and he decided to make it his home rather than return to Shaka.
The Shangaan were a mixture of Nguni (a language group which includes Swazi, Zulu and Xhosa), and Tsonga speakers (Ronga, Ndzawu, Shona, Chopi tribes), which Soshangane conquered and subjugated.
Soshangane insisted that Nguni customs be adopted, and that the Tsonga learn the Zulu language. Young Tsonga men were assigned to the army as 'mabulandlela' (those who open the road). Soshangane also imposed Shaka's military system of dominion and taught the people the Zulu ways of fighting.
Soshangane’s army overran the Portuguese settlements in Mozambique, at Delagoa Bay, Inhambane and Sena, and during the next few years, he established the Nguni kingdom of Kwa Gaza, which he named after his grandfather, Gaza.
The Gaza Kingdom comprised parts of what are now southeastern Zimbabwe, as well as extending from the Save River down to the southern part of Mozambique, covering parts of the current provinces of Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo, and neighbouring parts of South Africa.
Music and dance:
In the Shangaan–Tsonga tradition, the storyteller is the grandmother or elder woman of the family who is the respected transmitter of the old stories. The old woman, called Garingani, or narrator, begins her storytelling by saying “Garingani, n’wana wa Garingani!” - “I am Narrator, daughter of Narrator!” after which the crowd cheers “Garingani”. The crowd chants her name after each line of the story.
With a love for music, the Shangaan–Tsonga people have developed a number of musical instruments. The 'fayi' - a small, stubby wooden flute that produces a breathless, raspy, but haunting sound, and is often played by young herd boys. The 'xitende', is a long thin bow tied on each end by a taut leather thong or wire - which runs across a gourd. This was often used to alleviate boredom on long journeys.
The Shangaan-Tsonga is well known for their mine dances, carried out to the beat of drums and horns and wide variety of musical instruments such as the mbila. Shangaan–Tsonga male dancers performed the muchongolo dance, which celebrated the role of women in society, war victories and ritual ceremonies.
Life of the Shangaan Today
A living monument to the Shangaan culture was officially opened on 23 February 1999 near Hazyview, Mpumalanga. The Cultural Village aims to enhance tourism and contribute to job
creation, foreign currency earnings and economic development.
Today, the Shangaan live in areas mainly between the Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, in South Africa's Mpumalanga and Northern Provinces. Their sister tribe, the Tsongas, inhabit most of southern Mozambique.
ithin the Tsonga community, different social units exist. Aside from the family units mentioned above, lineages or nyimba exist, consisting of persons who can prove they descend from the same ancestors. The various lineages can be grouped into clans or xivongo, consisting of all persons, who descend from the same ancestor.
In present times, the Tsonga community structure is based on tribal relationships. A tribe is a group of people, which recognises the authority from one tribal chief or hosi, and is living in a specific tribal area, or tiko ra hosi.
Whilst generally in BaNtu culture, and specifically in Shangaan-Tsonga culture, a Supreme Being is acknowledged, far more relevant are the powers of ancestors who are believed to have considerable effects on the lives of their descendants. The ancestors appear mainly in dreams, but sometimes manifest themselves as spirits.
Some spirits or ancestors are believed to live in certain sacred places where ancient chiefs have been buried. Each clan has several of these burial grounds. The ancestors are propitiated by prayers and offerings, which range from beer to animal sacrifices.
The Tsonga believed that man had a physical (mmiri) and a spiritual body with two added attributes, the moya and the ndzuti. The moya is associated with the spirit, enters the body at birth, and leaves at death to join the ancestors.