Comments The people of the Xhosa Tribe of South Africa have a very rich cultural heritage and have played an important part in the development of South Africa, especially when the most famous member of the Xhosa, Nelson Mandela, became South Africa's first president elected in a democratic election in During the seventeenth century, a gradual migration movement took place which led thousands of people from southern Zaire in various directions to cover most of Africa south of the Sahara.
One of the tribes who took part in this migration was the Xhosa, descendant from a clan of the Nguni. Today the Xhosa is the most southern group of the migrations from Central Africa into the southern Africa areas. The Xhosa finally settled in the area that is now known as the Eastern Cape formerly the Transkei and Ciskei and comprises of a number of clans, the main groups being the Gcaleka, Ngika, Ndlambe, Dushane, Qayi, Ntinde and, of Khoisan origin, the Gqunkhwebe.
Today, many of the Xhosa-speaking people are an integrated part of South African society and have mostly adopted the western culture. However, many Xhosa living in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape are still bound by the traditions and lifestyle of their ancestors and many customs and rituals have stayed intact.
The Xhosa were, and still are, known for the magnificence and variety of their beadwork. Traditionally, their garments and ornamentation reflected the stages of a woman's life: Marriages - the Xhosa are polygamous though today only the wealthier men have more than one wife - involved protracted negotiations between the families of the bride and groom over the payment of the bride price lobola.
The Xhosa man traditionally fulfilled the roles of warrior, hunter and stockman; the woman looked after the land and the growing of the crops. A clan comprised of a number of groups, each led by a chief, or Inkosi, who owed his position to his mother's status the society, however, was a patriarchal one in which women weren't formally accorded political authority.
The land was communally held; and great emphasis placed on giving according to need: The body of Xhosa lore has much in common with that of the other Nguni peoples such as the Zulu and Swazi.
Animism, and recognition of the presence and power of ancestral spirits and of a supreme authority, are basic elements of belief.
Misfortune and illness are attributed to unnatural of supernatural influences such as the tokoloshe, a hairy and potentially malevolent goblin who attacks at night. Other figures are the huge lightning bird Impundulu , and the gentle aBantu bomlambo, human-like beings believed to live in rivers and the sea, and who accept into their family those who drown.
The Xhosa also have so-called diviners in their tribes. The diviner is the Xhosa's healer. Diviners help the people in the tribe with phsycological, physical, mental, and medical illnesses. The diviners are mostly women.
They wear a shawl and headdress of fur most of the time. It takes about five years of being an assistant to a diviner until you become one yourself. Initiation rites differ markedly between the various African peoples; with increasing urbanization many groups have abandoned circumcision altogether. Among the Xhosa, the youths whiten their bodies and wear a white blanket or sheepskin to ward off evil. During the ceremonies, enlivened by energetic dances, they wear costumes made from reeds, and at the end of the lengthy initiation period - spent in isolation from the rest of the community - the specially-built huts in which the young men have been living are ceremoniously burned.
The Xhosa language is sometimes also called a 'click' language because of the use of so many click sounds as consonants. These sounds were borrowed from the Khoisan languages of the Khoikhoi and San families, who originally lived in the area. The x in Xhosa represents a click like the sound used in English to spur a horse on, followed by aspiration a release of breath represented by the h.
In English the name is commonly pronounced with an English k sound for the x.