The Rhodesia Herald, 18 August 1956
IN the South-Eastern corner of the colony — Gwanda, Beitbridge, Chibi and Belingwe districts — reside some 20 000 odd members of the BaVenda tribe whose main domicile is in the Northern Transvaal and Mozambique towards the mouth of the Limpopo.
The ancient ruins of “Dzata” in the Watersburg, similar in some respects to Zimbabwe, are attributed to them as a hideout built during the AmaNdebele depredations.
The BaVenda have a rigid behaviour code, particularly where their young men and women are concerned.
Prior to acceptance into the tribes as “wearers of the head-dress of manhood,” the young men are circumcised and banished to the bush for a period. This is a tribal ceremony.
The youths are daubed with orange and white ochre just before banishment to the open veld as “beasts”, not yet men.
They are compelled to live alone fending for themselves as the animals do. Very occasionally, they are encountered squatting by their grass huts, they will slide away like a snake. It is obligatory for them not to let themselves be seen.
On their return to the kraal the elders question them closely on veld lore and inculcate into them the traditions and behaviour patterns of the tribe.
The maidens are taken by the wise old cronies to any icy stream or pool in which they sit immersed to the waist.
For several days they have to face this ordeal watched by their instructors who sit nearby, chanting from time-to-time the laws of the tribe, the rules of marriage, and the behaviour code.
After the water initiation to womanhood, a period is spent on manual heavy labour.
They are tormented physically and verbally by their elders, during which not a word of complaint must pass their lips. In fact, they must not speak to their elders for “an animal cannot speak.”
The end comes when like their brothers they are given a grand reception into the tribe as full members, accepted by all and eligible to seek or accept a marriage partner.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
Each society has its own cultural traditions which differentiate it from other cultures.
The Venda ethnic group has a way of initiating their young men and women into adulthood which is very unique, which is a tribal ceremony for both boys and girls.
Circumcision is a rite of passage ceremony. According to one online dictionary, rites of passage are “ceremonies that mark the important transitional periods in a person’s life such as birth, puberty and marriage.”
Some ethnic groups still perform circumcision rites. However, due to deadly diseases such as HIV/Aids, health personnel have had to be involved in circumcision rites, in order to save lives.
The new coronavirus pandemic is also a major impediment to the performance of such rituals.
Since the article is from a colonial edition, readers must note the following changes: BaVenda are the Venda people; Chibi is Chivi district; Belingwe is Mberengwa while AmaNdebele is the Ndebele ethnic group.