Ndebele traditions are notable for the colour their women bring to both mural art and their dress, which is accessorised by brass rings around the neck, arms and legs. Ndebele beliefs are based on ancestral worship, which involves a continual dialogue between the living and their ancestors.
Ndebele traditions are amongst the most colourful in the world.
South Africa has 2 Ndebele groups who are thought to have migrated from Kwazulu-Natal in the early 17th century. The one is situated northeast of Johannesburg in Bronkhorstspruit, the other in Limpopo Province.
A Ndebele village is often defined by its artwork, which is done by the women. White, pinks, reds and blues adorn the walls both inside and outside. In this way, a woman designates her territory while using art as a form of inspiration for everyday life.
Women also express their status in Ndebele culture in the way they adorn and ornament themselves. Ornate beadwork, blankets and other trinkets are used, becoming more elaborate after marriage. Favoured jewels are the brass rings that are placed on her neck, arms and legs, which can often weigh up to 20 kilograms.
The authority over a group is vested in the tribal chief (ikozi), assisted by an inner or family council (amaphakathi). Next are ward heads (izilindi), followed by the family patriarch.
As in many African communities, Ndebele beliefs are based on ancestral spirits. The worship of those long gone is a decidedly intricate ritual, with the living and dead sharing a bond through which the ancestors provide valuable service to those who are alive. Ceremonies and rituals are performed to allow the people to call upon the spirits and seek guidance and counsel.
Traditional healers (sangoma) are the link between the earthly world and spirit realm, and are specially chosen from the tribe by the ancestors. As such they command great respect, and immense rewards are accorded them.
Part of their function in Ndebele tradition includes the health of the people. When one falls ill, they will prescribe a path to wellbeing. And when spirits bring bad luck, they will be called upon to reverse it.