The Ndebele people are descendants of the Nguni tribe, which is one of South Africa’s four major ethnic groups (the others are the Sotho, Shangaan-Tsonga and Venda).
The Ndebele people are divided into three groups: Southern, Northern, and Zimbabwean Ndebele. The Ndebele people of Zimbabwe speak a different language than the Southern and Northern groups of South Africa. The Ndebele are still primarily found in South Africa’s Gauteng, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga provinces.
The Ndebele women are often the keepers of tradition and the primary creators of their home’s world-famous wall art.
The Ndebele wedding ceremony is divided into three stages and can take years to complete. The first stage is Labola for the bride, which is paid in installments with money and livestock; the second stage is a two-week separation for the bride during which other women teach her how to be a good wife, and the third stage is completed when the bride has her first child.
In a letter to the bride’s family, the groom-to-be requests a date for the Labola (bride price) negotiation. He must then purchase a sheep, blankets, a broom, and a few items of clothing for the girl’s family. After visiting the bride’s parents and paying the Labola, the groom’s parents take the girl to the man’s family for familiarization.
Writing a guest list and sending out invitations are part of the wedding day preparations, which take place two weeks prior to the wedding. Food must include ‘mielie pap’ (traditional maize meal), meat and salads, fruit, sweets, and cakes cooked in the traditional manner.
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The groom’s mother usually makes a Jocolo right before a Ndebele wedding (a special apron made from goatskin decorated with beautiful colourful beads). During the wedding ceremony, all married women wear this special garment, which represents a mother surrounded by children.
The official ceremony will take place at a predetermined location, with family members in attendance to witness the couple exchange wedding vows and place rings on each other’s fingers. After the religious ceremony, the couple will change into traditional attires and go with the guests to the new bride’s home to eat after which gifts will be given to the newlyweds.
Wedding vows, which include the placing of rings on each other’s fingers, have become part of the marriage rites due to Christian elements. Following the religious ceremony, the couple changes into traditional attire and travels to the bride’s home for a meal, after which gifts are given to the newlyweds. A Ndebele name is also given to the new wife.
As soon as the new wife goes to bed, the wedding is considered a success.