Friday, February 6, 2009

Vhavenda

The Domba
The Domba is a pre marital initiation, the last one in the life of VhaVenda. This rite of passage was attended by both girls and boys after each individual had previously attended other separated initiations dedicated to one’s gender : Vusha and Tshikanda for girls Murundu for boys (the circumcision done during this rite has been introduced by North Sotho).
Both girls and boys go through another initiation at the end of a one month seclusion period after their birth. Since the missionaries decided that mixing males and females in the same ceremony was immoral, only girls attend the Domba which has two main functions : teaching girls how to prepare themselves to become wives (birth planning, birth giving and child care, how to treat a husband, and nowadays teaching of AIDS risks...) ; and bringing fertility to the new generation of the tribe (anyone doubting the African beliefs can visit Venda and realize how well the fertility rites are working).The chief or sovereign will “call” a domba and preparations are made by the families for their girls to be ready and to prepare what’s necessary to attend the ceremony (entering fees for the ruler, clothes, bangles...).

In olden days girls used to stay at the chief’s place for the whole duration (three months to three years) of the initiation ; nowadays because of schooling girls only spend week ends at the ruler’s kraal. The Domba is not a tourists’ attraction but a ceremony with deep meanings, and it is not possible to witness many parts of it (teaching, ritual bath...). The public is only able to see the dancing which is the occasion for men to choose future wives for their nephews or sons...

Tshikona
The tshikona is traditionally a male dance in which each player has a pipe made out of a special indigenous type of bamboo growing only in few places around Sibasa and Thohoyandou (and which has almost disappeared now). Each pipe/player has one note only, and they have to play in turn in such a way that they build a melody.
The Tshikona is a royal dance, each sovereign or chief has his own Tshikona band. Tshikona is played at various occasions for funerals, wedding or religious ceremonies, this can be considered as the Venda “national music/dance” ; it is a music particular to VhaVenda in South Africa.

Tshigombela
The Tshigombela is a female dance usually performed by married women, this is a festive dance sometimes played at the same time as Tshikona.
Tshifhasi
Tshifhasi is similar to Tshigombela but performed by young unmarried girls (Khomba).


The Mbila
The Mbila is played in the north of South Africa and more particularly by the VhaVenda. It can be described as a keyboard made out of a piece of wood which is the resonator, and with metal blades (made out of huge nails hammered flat) which are the keys.
While the Mbila is still widely played in Zimbabwe, in Venda it is only played by a few old people, who sadly notice that most youngsters are disinterested in their own culture and let it die. The playing of the Mbila is one of the most endangered Venda traditions.
The Venda style of playing Mbila is quite different from that of Zimbabwe or Mozambique. Even if some young people can still play the Mbila in South Africa, the traditional Venda repertoire is about to disappear for ever...

The drums
Drums are central in Venda culture (like in many other African tribes) and there are legends and symbols linked to them.
Most sets of drums are kept in the homes of chiefs and headmen, and comprise one ngoma, one thungwa, and two or three murumba. Sets without the Ngoma may be found in the homes of certain commoners, such as the doctors who run girls’ ’circumcision’ schools. Drums are often given personal names. Drums are always played by women and girls, except in possession dances, when men may play them, and in performances in urban areas, where men live together in compounds without their womenfolk.




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