The Ndebele or Matabele, are a population of Bantu ethnicity, they are part of the ethnic group Ngoni and are very similar to the most popular Zulu; currently they live in the Western part of Zimbabwe and in Northern South Africa.
In the past, they shook an agreement with Cecil Rhodes after which Zimbabwe experienced the colonialism by the European, they were also chosen as allies by Ian Smith’s government due to their more moderate disposition; these events condemned them to be persecuted by the government of Robert Mugabe, belonging to the Shona ethnicity who always opposed the presence of whites on their lands.
The Ndebele are now a tribe of farmers and herdsmen and are organized in clans; living in villages with round plant houses, constructed using branches and trunks of wood and grass.
The diet of the Ndebele is generally made of corn and meat coming both from farms and game, they also supplement their diet with many fruits and edible plants found in nature.
The Ndebele are skilled craftsmen, in fact, they work the leather, the hide and the metals and are famous for the construction of many objects and accessories.
The art that characterizes this people, and particularly the Ndebele who live in South Africa, is certainly the mural; their specialty is to create geometric paintings with bright colors made on the facades of their houses.
The Ndebele wall painting has a strong symbolic value, it is the women who usually carry out these works, using bright colors; in particularly important moments in people's lives, such as initiation rites, or weddings, the frescoes are modified and repainted to emphasize the importance of the event.
The village houses are protected, especially from wild animals, by a rugged enclosure, built with branches and thorny bushes; the villages are often built on hills or near large trees.
Over the years there has, however, been a change of materials used to build the huts, in fact the use of bricks has been introduced, this event gave a further boost to the pictorial art of the houses; the houses were once painted only on the outside, but now, increasingly, they are also painted the interior.
The Ndebele traditional costumes vaguely remind those of the Zulus; being a population based on hierarchical rules, even traditional costumes reflect the status of membership of the wearer.
The traditional attire of the warriors is full of feathers, skins of wild animals, necklaces and bracelets of glass beads or metal; while bright colors and many accessories are the basis of the traditional female costume.
The women, when very young, just wear a small leather apron, while if they are married they wear a proper ox leather skirt internally treated with animal fat, and a heavy cloak enriched with a series of symbols that emphasize the key moments in their lives.
To discover more about Ndebele people book your hotel in Zimbabwe here
As the Zulus believe there is only one creator god "unkulunkulu" and that all men are descended from him; the Ndebele worship the ancestors and the ancestral spirits.
Ancestors’ worship is still practiced and the ancestors are much dreaded, and although colonialism has led the region to Christianity, that entered the Ndebele life and practices, rituals and traditional beliefs are today still widespread and practiced.
The most important ritual connected with the cult of the ancestors is the Ukuhlanziswa that means purification; the death of an individual is a source of disgrace for his immediate family and it is for this reason that they need a purification ritual before the deceased is buried.
The Ndebele also believe that the angry spirits of the dead can come back and haunt their family; so, to appease the spirits, a rite must be officiated during which an ox is sacrificed in honor of the spirits, the ox meat is left overnight “available” for the restless spirits; the next morning, once the ancestors are calmed down, a party is held where the meat of the sacrificed ox is consumed.