(Lekker is Afrikaans for cool…see you’re already learning the lingo!)
South Africa has many diverse cultures and many of these have influenced each other while evolving with time. The AmaPondo Land Trip explores KwaZulu-Natal province’s southern coastline, the Southern and Central Drakensberg as well as the Eastern Cape Province, also known as the Wild Coast Transkei. The regions visited will introduce Road Trippers to the Zulu, Pondo and Xhosa tribes and their cultures. Time will be spent meeting the locals and learning about the region’s communities, traditions, cuisine, ways of life, environment and wildlife. The aim is to journey off main highways allowing a real off road adventure feeling when travelling through these amazing sceneries.
The Zulu tribe, the largest cultural group in South Africa, are known for being warriors with a background in military genius and brutality. The Zulu people’s language is called isiZulu which is part of the Nguni subgroup of the Bantu language. It is South Africa’s most widely spoken language.
The majority of Zulu people are Christian but also still practice their traditional ancestor worship involving the belief that ancestor spirits exist and are able to effect the lives of people, either positively or negatively. It is believed that the Diviner communicates with the ancestor spirits and the Herbalist prepares a mixture called muthi which can be eaten to help influence the ancestors. Muthi comes in two basic forms; white (accepted by society and used for positive purposes for example healing) and black (used by people considered to be ‘witches’ for negative purposes such as causing others to become sick).
The Pondo tribe are known for maintaining unity and, combined with other tribes, they form a subgroup of the Xhosa speaking amaXhosa tribe, second in size to the Zulu cultural group. Xhosa is also a Bantu language in the Nguni family of southeastern Bantu language. Each tribe has their own different dialect within the language with special “clicks” being a chief characteristic used to define each.
Xhosa groups traditionally practice male and female initiation. Male abakweta (initiates-in-training) isolate themselves from their home village or town living in special huts for several weeks. They shave their head, wear a loincloth and a blanket for warmth, and smear white clay on their bodies from head to toe. They are expected to observe numerous taboos and different stages in the initiation process were marked by the sacrifice of a goat. Female initiation is considerably shorter; intonjanes (girl to be initiated) are isolated for about a week in which there are dances and ritual sacrifices of animals while initiates must hide themselves from view and observe food restrictions.
These villages we pass through were all traditionally established by farmers needing land to grow crops and keep livestock as an indicator of their varying levels of wealth. Nowadays although farming is becoming less common as people move into other industries and travel into urban areas for work, the rural villages are still considered home. When travelling through different regions, you will notice variances between housing shapes, colours, designs and patterns, all of which are distinct traits of each culture within the different regions. Traditional Zulu huts are constructed from branches bent to form a dome shape and then covered with grass giving them a plain appearance. However, the Xhosa houses are covered with grass thatching but the distinction is the bright colours and amazing, decorative tribal patterns that vary from tribe to tribe.