A fascinating South African newsletter

I get this regular newsletter from PeterJasie in South Africa. (Make sure you click on the English link!) He is retired and spends a lot of his time holidaying all around Southern Africa and his newsletter is a mixture of useful information, travel information, recipes, often a “letter from Zimbabwe” Mirna van Wyk articles (she is an educational psychologist from Stellenbosch) and lost of other snippets of information.

Here is an extract from his latest newsletter – but first, one of his photographs.

Photo of an African night sky

African skies by Peter Jasie

Venda Myths and Traditions

The Venda people were one of the last black tribes to migrate south of the Limpopo River. When they moved in to South Africa they found a beautiful, bountiful area, which they promptly named Venda (pleasant place) and settled there.

Lanky, yet graceful, the Venda people are warm and friendly. Their history began in the valleys and mountains of Limpopo Province, where their forebears established a great civilisation centred round Mapungubwe.

Though ruled by kings, the position of women in Venda culture is unusual in Africa in that they are encouraged to occupy senior positions in society. It is common for a woman to inherit her father’s estate where there is no apparent male heir.

Children and the elderly have their own role to play. This is linked to the recognition and worship of the ancestors. Having just joined the earthly plane, the children are still close to the ancestors. The elderly are also close to the ancestors because they will soon join the spiritual realm in death.

In Venda tradition there are many sacred sites, especially Lake Fundudzi high in the Soutspansberg Mountains. Even today, it is believed this is where the White Python – the god of fertility – lives.

Lake Fundudzi
A must see is definitely the sacred “Lake Fundudzi” situated in the Thathe Vondo forest, the home of the mythical python and white crocodile. The python is the god of fertility in the Venda tradition and the legend tells us that a Venda man had a broken heart because of the loss of a great love. In his sorrow he walked into Lake Fundudzi at which time he turned into a python. Young virgin Venda maidens still perform the famous Domba-python dance in this area to honour this god of fertility. It is also believed that the white crocodile lives in this Lake. This crocodile might have really existed because this Lake is still today populated by large crocodiles, and an albino crocodile might have once lived in the lake where young, virgin Venda maidens were once offered to them. Lake Fundudzi is surrounded by mountains and special permission has to be obtained to visit this sacred Lake. No-one washes or swims in this lake.

Sacred Forest
Also in the Thathe Vondo forest is the so-called “Sacred Forest”. The Thathe Vondo forest has giant hardwoods (jakkelsbessie, yellowwood), a wide variety of ferns, creepers and a wealth of plants and trees which makes the forest nearly impenetrable on foot. The Sacred Forest is a mystical place, where no ordinary Venda person may walk and as a visitor one may not walk off the dirt track going through the forest – hikers are not allowed. In the Sacred Forest, two mythical creatures keep guard namely the white lion (the spirit of Nethathe an important chief) and the thunder and lighting bird called Ndadzi which according to myths flies on the wings of thunder. One can speculate further about this bird and its origin, and the origin of the Venda people.

The Domba is not a tourist 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. To see such a dance one gets goose bumps running up and down your spine looking at the bodies movies together to their own rhythm.

This is traditionally a male dance in which each player has a pipe made out of a special indigenous type of bamboo growing only in a few places around Sibasa and Thohoyandou but unfortunately these have almost disappeared. It is quite something to listen to the pipe which has only one note 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

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 is similar to Tshigombela but performed by young unmarried girls (Khomba) – womenfolk.

  1. #1 by Ampers on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 11:47 am

    Mirna van Wyk also has a regular section on Peter Jasie’s newsletter, and her articles are always interesting to read.

    Mirna is an educational psychologist from Stellenbosch. She taught at several schools, amongst others Stellenbosch High School, Bloemhof Girls’ High and Jan Kriel School for learners with barriers to learning. She is a mother, loves art, the ocean and children.

    10 Reasons
    I received many responses to the previous letter called Growing towards Love, where I shared thoughts on positively growing a relationship over time. Today I would like to make a controversial statement: Most couples divorce too soon. In fact I believe that there should be a mandatory two year separation period after the divorce application and before a marriage is dissolved.

    Please note that the following are generalized statements based on my professional experience with children affected by divorce.
    Every partner in a relationship must have boundaries in order to keep one’s self respect and protect what is dear to one. And unfortunately authenticity and self-preservation sometimes force one to walk away from a relationship. For example, no partner should tolerate continuous violent or disrespectful behaviour to oneself or one’s loved ones.

    However, before you say yes to a divorce consider the following:

    Both partners are usually financially worse off after divorce. Because of the financial strain, caretakers are sometimes forced into choosing incompatible partners for support. Life conditions of partners, as well as possible children from the marriage, are more often worse, after a divorce.

    Although fighting between parents is usually present before the divorce – it usually continues during and after the divorce. In some cases the burden on the children even worsens because children are then used as pawns and collateral in the war of “what is mine” and “what I deserve”. Last week one 11-year-old boy described it as “my parents are throwing stones at each other but I am the one who gets hit in the middle all the time”.

    Statistics show that more second marriages fail than first marriages. You can of course decide rather to be in a live-in relationship second time around, but you will have to agree there is even less security in such a relationship.
    The logistics of organizing children for visits and shared responsibility is a nightmare at best. It is a mine field of promises not kept, misunderstandings, lost items and possible resentment from ex and children.

    A divorce inevitably leaves scars on partners and children’s self-esteem. It will possibly influence them all their lives. And more often in a negative way.

    Nobody is left untouched by divorce. Parents, grandparents, children, acquaintances, friends and even pets are all somehow touched by the strong emotions that are caused by a divorced. And again most often it would be negative.
    With divorce becoming more and more common, people often shy away from the hard work and commitment that can sometimes be required to fix a marriage, and sometimes don’t even consider it as an option. And therefore they capitulate at a time when their emotional reserves are low.

    I am not saying one should never consider a divorce all I am pleading for is to first work hard at trying to fix the relationship and to consider a lengthy separation such as two years – because sometimes what you lose during a divorce cannot ever be found again.
    A divorce means a shift to the entire status quo of life with far-reaching consequences and you are bound to lose more than you initially bargained for.

    Respectfully from my heart to yours.

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