Peoples of Southern Africa (Part 2)

Read Part 1

Ndebele housesNdebele and Matabele

It is thought that these people arrived in Southern Africa around 200 years after the death of Christ. They are descended from the Nguni, a Bantu-speaking people. Ndebele women have become famous for their mural art, which is traditionally applied to the walls of their houses in geometric patterns. Initially the paint was made from clay, ahs, and dung plus natural pigments, but today, brightly-colored commercially-produced paints are used.


The Ovambo are a matriarchal society. Interestingly, they have a proverb that states: “the family does not come from the penis.” Hmmm!

Ovambo people used to make strings of Omakipa, or ivory buttons. A groom would give them to his bride on their wedding day, and add to her collection after that. Nowadays, hunting elephants for ivory is illegal.


the Great Zimbabwe ruins
the Great Zimbabwe ruins

The Shona people built the Great Zimbabwe, which European anthropologists refused to believe, due to a racist conviction that such primitive people could not possibly have constructed such a thing. The Great Zimbabwe is the largest collection of ruins in Southern Africa, and was built between the 11th and 15th centuries.

The Shona language is spoken by many other people in Southern Africa as a second language.


These Bantu-speaking ancestors of the Sotho originated in present-day eastern Nigeria. By about 10000 they had settled in Southern Africa and set about absorbing the indigenous population, the Khoisan. The Sotho are horse people. The Basotho pony is one of the world’s toughest breeds. It originated in the Cape horses brought to Lesotho by Chief Moshoeshoe in 1828.

book coverThe Sotho have professional alternative medical practitioners who employ a wide range of herbal medicines and rituals to cure disease, bring good luck and fertility and protect people from misfortune. In South Africa, since the fall of apartheid, the government has tried to incorporate these people into the official health system at the community level.

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