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June 24, 2013



The person on the left represents a married woman as the shoulders are covered and the head is covered

Umemulo is a special ritual for any Zulu girl, its marks an important stage in one’s life. It shows that one has grown and matured.
I was recently invited to umemulo at Inanda Glebe and there was going to be a 21st Birthday celebration later on the same day.
I arrived on Friday afternoon, but Sphumelele and two other girls had been in doors for the whole week. They stayed in Sphumelele’s room and they were covered with white orche, not just on the faces but also on  the rest of the body. We started rehearsing for the next day as were to do Zulu dancing.
The cow had arrived early that day, it was slaughtered at night. Before it was slaughtered, we were told that we are to be quiet as the noise will make it very angry. A spear was used and the cow was stabbed at the back of the neck, as it fell down, the older women ululated in joy. Sphumele’s father gave her a drop of bile and umhlwehlwe (piece of fat) was taken from the cow and hung on her parents’ room which was to used to cover her shoulders the next day. The inside parts of the cow were cooked the same day but the rest of it was to be cooked the next day.
We then continued with rehearsing, then went to her bedroom and slept very late at night. The next day (day of the ceremony), we woke up very early in the morning, around 3-4 o’ clock. We went to the nearest river and washed our bodies. After that we changed into our traditional clothes as we were told not to re-enter the house, we sat outside the gate. After hours, sitting outside, we were allowed to enter, that’s when umhlwehlwe was taken and covered her shoulders. As we came out the older women were ululating and we were singing the hymns for Zulu dancing, heading to esigcawini (where we do the Zulu dancing). We were led by Sphumelele her father and her uncle. Sphumelele was wearing isdwaba (traditional skirt for married women made out of cow skin), she also had a spear on her hand which was given to her by her uncle (mother’s bother)and her father and uncle had sticks on their hands. She was also given a blanket by her family.

esigcawiniWhen were arrived ‘esigcawini’ we started singing and doing the Zulu dance. Family and friends were watchiembhathisiweng us and cheered . In between each song Sphumelele and two other girls would go to anyone on the crowds n put the spear in front of them and she would come back to us and do the Zulu dance. And the person who was given the spear would come to return it and pin money on her head. As they were going around with the spear, we would carry on with Zulu dancing. This went on for hours.
We then went back to her house with the people who were watching us while doing the dance. But before we could enter, Sphumelele’s father had to give us permission, we stood outside the gate and waited for him. He faced us and said ‘As the Ngcobo family, we give u permission to enter our home, you are welcome, you may enter!’ We then entered the gate, in numbers and  went in the tent, where tables were beautifully decorated and had a feast.
Later on the day, people went out of the traditional clothes and prepared for the 21st Birthday Party.

Written by: Ayanda Siphesihle Ngcobo
June 2013

May 10, 2013

Umhlonyana – Nokwanda Nene


Nokwanda Nene (left)

Nokwanda Nene is one of the first people to give feedback on the website, she says, she was fascinated about the umhlonyana story written by me. She is from Chestervillle, she attends Clairwood Secondary School and will be turning 16 this year.

After Nokwanda knew that she was to have her own Umhlonyana, she started doing research on Umhlonyana as she didn’t know much about it. As she was researching about it, she came across this website and came across the umhlonyane story. She says that she found it very interesting and she learned alot about the significance of it and what needs to be done. She also contacted me on facebook and kept on asking more questions on what she was not sure about .

Nokwanda explains that it was a challenge getting the girls together, as you need other girls of one’s age to help you with the ceremony, some of them, who had agreed, cancelled at last minute. It took her weeks to get them, especially because she wanted more than 10  girls, she had to call their parents and ask them for permission and she finally got 14 girls, which was very good. The girls came on a Saturday and the ceremony was going to be on a Sunday. Her family belongs to the Nazareth Baptist Church, Saturday is their Sabbath day and they do not perform rituals on a Saturday which is why they had to have it on a Sunday.IMG-20130408-WA002

After the girls arrived, her aunts and grandmothers came in (where they were staying at the time), they told them about the importance of staying pure till marriage. They also explained to them about the importance of umhlonyana. She explained to me that, before it was dark (on Saturday afternoon), her father came in with a goat that was to be slaughtered and knelt down ’emthini’ (where they ask for certain things or give thanks to ancestors). After the goat was slaughtered, her father took out the bile from the goat, he put some on her wrists and told her to put it in her mouth, he put some on her chest. He then explained to her that, in the morning, when she goes to the river, she has to wash it off and she must wash her body last and she must throw in silver money as it signifies good luck. They were told not to look back at the river on their way home as something misfortunate might happen. And so they did as they were told, they went home and prepared for the Zulu da17991_322805564512373_1843994558_nnce. Nokwanda wore her beaded skirt, beades around her neck and on her legs, she was dressed traditionally.

Nokwanda explains that it was nice to see all those people at the ceremony; her relatives, friends and neighbours. She says, she learnt alot, she learnt that one cannot control every situation, some things do not go exactly as planned, family is very important, they are always helpful in many situations. Nokwanda enjoyed every moment of her mhlonyana, she feels is was a wonderful experience.

Written by: Ayanda Siphesihle Ngcobo 10/5/13



April 18, 2013

uMlahlankosi (Sacred tree for taking the spirit of the dead home)

Interview with Thokozile Vilakazi (iNanda- Africa) about the cultural importance of the tree called uMlahlankosi

Interviewer Thomas Mkhabela on 16 March 2013 at Inanda Afrika.


Thomas introduces the topic and Gogo Thokozile

Thomas: Greetings granny

Thokozile: Hello

Question: Can you please introduce yourself?

Answer: My name is Thokozile Vilakazi

Q: Nice to meet you, can you please share your knowledge about the tree called umlahlankosi

A: According to my knowledge about the tree is that when there is a person who has passed away in the household, a branch is taken from the tree and used to bring the persons spirit home(ukubuyisa). Also when you doing the cleansing ritual

Q: Are those the only uses for the tree?

A: According to my knowledge that’s the only use

Q: When it grows how big does it get?

A: It does not grow much it grows to the size of that flower (points)

Q: For someone who does not know it, if they see it along the road to be able to notice it, can you tell us about the shape of the leaves, does it have flowers etc…

A: It is just a small tree that does not grow to a big height and does not bloom flowers and it has green leaves

Q: Do you have any knowledge why they chose that specific tree to be used for that kind of work?

A: I don’t have any knowledge but I think the people before me saw it as befitting the work that is why it is called umlahlankosi.

Q: When it is being used, can you tell us about that process?

A: When someones spirit is being brought home there must be an animal (goat) waiting for us when coming back with the branch and meet us at the gate and talking to the spirit explaining that you have reached home and together taken emsamo.

Q: What are the dos and donts when it comes to using the tree? Like can you use it as fire wood?

A: No I do not remember it being used as firewood

Prince: Can you have it as a plant at home?

A: Yes; you can

Q: So does this mean you cannot useit without the animal and the impepho?

A: It happens if you do not have the other stuff, you can use it. I have seen people using it alone

Q: When you move from one house to another what happens?

A:Let us take Iam the one that has passed away the person who is taking my spirit will tell me that we are moving now to our new home and then he will not talk to anyone along the road until we reach our destination. When we reach robots he must tell me that we are stopping and when we are moving again.

Q: When you reach your destination what happens to the branch?

A: You must place it on the entrance of the house on top of the door

Q: And if it happens you move again what happens do you have to use the same branch or a new one?

A: If the branch has dried up to the maximum then a new branch has to be used. But then that person knows that this is home now

Q: When it comes to the impepho it is said that a woman cannot burn it and address the ancestors; does it also apply to umlahlankosi?

A: According; to me if Iam dead my granddaughter must ask a relative who is an uncle to address me when my spirit is being brought home. But she must accompany the uncle and bring my spirit home

Q: This means it is not used by woman?

A: According to my knowledge, yes since even emsamo a woman is not allowed to talk

Q: Is the tree used to a specific age group? Like maybe grown up man and not a 2year old baby?

A: Im not sure but I think it can be used on any one

Q: So do you have to use it with any one even on a person who died on a car accident, do you have to go to the same spot?

A: Yes exacly that is where you have to really go and bring the persons spirit, let us take he gets an accident here in Africa and gets taken to Mahatma Gandhi hospital and dies there as his spirit remembers being at Africa so you have to go get him in the accident spot first then go to the hospital then you come home.

Q: If a person dies in the war and we do not know the exact spot he died what do we do then?

A: If a person has died in the war and we know that the war was taking place in this location you take the branch and go there and talk to him, if he has heard you, your hair will stand and you will bring the spirit home

Q: Since we use ambulances this days, if a person fell sick and was taken to hospital in an ambulance but passes away on the way what do you do then? Do you take the branch to the hospital or the place where the person died?

A: If you saw the spot where he passed away you can go there first or start at the hospital and then go to the place.

For more information on this topic click on one of the links below:

The Umphafa or Umlahlankosi tree

Traditional Zulu practices for deceased persons  










April 4, 2013

Memories of Inanda, Mshayazafe in the 1980s – Michael Msomi

Interview with  Michael Msomi (iNanda- Mshayazafe) about his memories of life in eNanda in the 1980s

Interviewed by Thomas Mkhabela and Prince Mgabi on 16 March 2013 at Inanda Mshayazafe.


Thomas and Michael introduce themselves and the reason for the interview

Question: Can you please tell us when did you get to iNanda or were you born here?

Answer:  I came to iNanda in 1981 from Nkandla

Q: Can you please tell us about life in iNanda during those years

A: Life was safer; it was 100% because there were people put in place (omantshingilane) to look after the wellbeing of the community. Life was more respected unlike now ,this I owing to the government, people had the law in their own hands in 1981, if you had done something wrong you were captured and beaten up for the wrongs you have done and so you my never do wrong again. But these days the government has given people rights so people cannot be beaten up anymore. But back then in iNanda we were living happily because the wrong doers knew that if they get caught they would be beaten up.

Q: so are you saying that people were living in harmony?

A: Yes, 100%

Q: Can I ask how the living arrangements were when you got here at Mshayazafe? Was it only blacks or mixed races?

A: It was blacks only here and Indians were on the other side (points at the place) as you can see now other people staying there. They stayed there until the times of the riots if you know about them you can write about them since that’s when they left iNanda. But all in all life was peaceful in iNanda there was no government interference.

Q: Do you somehow know what the real causes of those riots were?

A: I wouldn’t know the real reason as you are also not sure, but what I know is that the( United Democratic Front)UDF was fighting for freedom but at the end the UDF ended up fighting with the IFP. That’s how the riots in Mshayazafe began until the (African National Congress) ANC fight with (Inkatha Freedom Party) IFP.

Q: Was UDF it the most supported party?

A: That is the ANC it was followed mostly by the youth

Q: Since life has changed in iNanda do you still enjoy living here?

A: as I’m still in Mshayazafe I enjoy being here, 100% (talks to the crowd making noise) I really love this place just the things that are happening here for example we experience floods and we lose our bridges, as you can see there are things that we should be getting as a community but we don’t we don’t get any development we don’t know who should bring development to us even our ward councillor does not bring anything to us. We are IFP but we are led by an ANC councillor which means we are governing ourselves in Mshayazafe but we do talk to our councillor as I speak for the whole community. We told him we need bridges because they are for the benefit of the whole community not for Michael Msomi as an individual. The councillor tries to meet with the chairman of this community but the chairman keeps ignoring the councillor

Q: As the community of Mshayazafe , since there are places like Ohlange, The Ghandi settlement and others does the community see themselves as belonging to those sites?

A: I don’t understand you now can you please talk about Mshayazafe and not other places. Is not that you are in Mshayazafe? So please talk about what the people in Mshayazafe said. If you involve other places that will cause us problems.


N.B: This interview had to be cut off, because the interviewee and his friends pointed out that the questions relate to ANC related sites. The interviewee is an IFP supporter and did not want to answer further questions.






February 19, 2013


A World of Their Own: A History of South African Women’s Education by Meghan Healy-Clancy

World of their Own bookThis book is an elegantly written social history of Inanda Seminary, embedded in the wider social and political context throughout, and skilfully brings together a vast array of information relating to 140 years of African women’s schooling.

Through the prism of Inanda Seminary, this study examines how rising numbers of African women came to attend school and the meanings of their schooling in the making and unmaking of the racialised state. The mission schools that provided nearly all African schooling before apartheid prepared girls to run homes, schools and clinics on a shoestring, in an arrangement that appealed to officials. Yet as nationalist movements developed in the first half of the twentieth century, women from Inanda and peer institutions found in their work as teachers and health workers power to shape the future of ‘the race’. When apartheid officials came to power in 1948, they needed the skills of an African middle-class to govern. But they needed to undermine this class politically to rule. These tensions came to a head in the Bantu Education Act of 1953 which sought to resolve them through a gendered strategy: officials encouraged African women’s training as teachers and nurses, even as they attempted to limit African male-led political agitation by nationalising most mission schools and limiting their curricula to preparation for semi-skilled labour. From the interstices of racialised patriarchy, the most talented African female students at Inanda and other high schools used their schooling to push at personal, professional and political boundaries – belying the gendered assumptions of ‘separate development’.

In its gendered analysis and choice of subject matter this study can make an important contribution to South African education history. There are few studies of African women’s schooling in South Africa, and none of this academic weight.
— Dr Helen Ludlow, School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand

The author has deftly woven theoretical arguments about social reproduction and gender into the narrative, without these arguments obscuring the fascinating people and places she describes. The portraits of the successive headmistresses of the school are compelling, and she writes with great sensitivity and compassion about them and the constraints and opportunities in the era in which they pursued their calling.
— Sue Krige, Johannesburg-based heritage specialist

Meghan Healy-Clancy is a social historian of sub-Saharan Africa, with a Ph.D. in African Studies (2011) and an M.A. in History (2007) from Harvard University. She holds a dual appointment at Harvard College in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature and in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies.

February 13, 2013

Inanda Heritage Route development in maps

The maps below are excerpted from DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK PLAN & MARKETING STRATEGY INANDA HERITAGE ROUTE Harber & Associates IHR Consortium FINAL REPORT July 2010. For a more detailed view, click on the link, find them in the original document and extract them.

January 30, 2013

Ekuphakameni no Shembe

Ekuphakamenikwasetha umProphet Isaiah Shembe umsunguli we Nazareth Baptist noma isonto lakwaShembe, okuyilona elikhulu nelizimele e-Afrika ngo 1911. UShembe wathenga indawo eNanda yesonto lakhe wayibiza ngokuthi kusekuPhakameni (indawo yokuqhuba ukholo). UShembe washona ngo 1935, wafinhlwa ekuPhakameni futhi ithuna lakhe lithatheka njengeshini. Imikhosi eminingi yenzelwa khona ngo Masingane, uMbaso, uNtulikazi kanye noMandulo minyaka yonke.



Isaiah Shembe

History of Prophet Isaiah Shembe