Venda

The Venda people are one of the smallest black ethnic groups in South Africa, but their language, Tshivenda, is one of the country's 11 official languages. The Venda culture has roots in eastern and central African cultures, and they are known for their unique mix of other cultures, including East African, Central African, Nguni, and Sotho characteristics. The Venda are generally regarded as one of the last black groups to have entered the area south of the Limpopo River1.

History and Geography

The Venda people first settled in the Soutpansberg Mountains, where they built their first capital, D'zata, the ruins of which can still be seen today1. The Venda have historically consisted of a multiplicity of culturally different groups, but they have become more culturally uniform since settling in their present location after migrating through Zimbabwe from an area farther to the northwest3. The Venda live mainly in the Soutpansberg mountains, in the Limpopo province near the border with Zimbabwe4. The area is now part of Limpopo province and is situated in the extreme northeastern corner of South Africa, bordering on southern Zimbabwe3. Much of the Venda's countryside in the south features mountains and wide valleys that receive abundant rainfall and are both densely populated and agriculturally productive3. The northern area has a hot, dry climate and flat grasslands suitable for stock raising3.

Culture and Traditions

The Venda people see themselves as traditionalists, but they are very dynamic and adaptable1. Dance and music are performed at almost every gathering from initiation to weddings and funerals1. The Venda are also known for their handicrafts, such as woodwork and pottery4. Like the Ndebele people, they decorate their buildings with painted designs4. Traditional Venda houses are round and have conical roofs4. A building of this design is known in South Africa as a rondavel4. The Venda forbid the consumption of pork, a prohibition that is common along the East African coast1. They also practice male circumcision, which is common among many Sotho, but not among most Nguni peoples1. Weddings are traditionally contracted with a gift of cattle from the family of the groom to the family of the bride, a southern African custom called lobola4.

Economy

Agriculture dominates the Venda economy, and the principal crops are corn (maize), peanuts (groundnuts), beans, peas, sorghum, and vegetables34. The planting season starts around October3. The Venda may have been primarily herders in the past3.

Homeland

Under the apartheid system, the land of the Venda people was designated a homeland, so they were fairly unaffected by the political and social changes that had such a massive effect on the rest of the country1. The 1,000,000 strong Venda population was left alone to live the way they had for hundreds of years in their lush, mountainous, and remote region, which is why their culture, language, arts, and crafts have survived so strongly1. In 1979, Venda became an independent homeland, but it was reincorporated into South Africa in 19944.

In conclusion, the Venda people have a rich culture and heritage that has been influenced by various cultures from eastern and central Africa. Their unique mix of cultures has resulted in a fascinating blend of traditions and customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. The Venda people have managed to preserve their culture and language despite the challenges they have faced over the years.