The Xhosa Tribe

The Xhosa Tribe and their culture

In the 11th century, a massive migration of people took place across the continent. As a result, many people from southern Zaire moved to different directions and settled in most parts of southern Sahara. Among the tribes that took part in this major migration was Xhosa. The Xhosa tribe settled and became a part of the larger South Africa.

The Xhosa speaking group has various tribes with similar or related but divergent heritages. The major tribes include Bomvana, Mpondomise and  Thembu have adopted the language of Xhosa. The word Xhosa is from a legendary leader known as uXhosa. Another theory claims that the word Xhosa is derived from san or khoi-khoi language. The word Xhosa means ‘angry’ or ‘fierce’, the Xhosa being the fierce group. The Xhosa refers to their language as isiXhosa and themselves as amaXhosa. The culture of the Xhosa people are as follows:

Xhosa Food

Xhosa people share many food traditions with the other tribes of South Africa. The Xhosa cuisine is at its most authentic in the rural Eastern Cape. Some of the people’s popular staple foods include corn (maize) and bread, beef, mutton (sheep meat), and goat meat. Sorghum beer and Milk is often drunk in its sour form. Umngqushon is the most famous maize dish in Xhosa cuisine.

Xhosa Traditional Attire

Recognised as the second largest cultural group in South Africa, after the Zulu-speaking nation, the Xhosas originally wear skin garments but today many of them wear western type clothes. This has however not totally displaced their traditional mode of dressing. For instance, women must always wear dresses that cover the shoulders and upper arm and dresses with beads are a sign of the traditional ancestor worship. Hats or scarves are worn most of the time, but especially in church.

Other unique Xhosa dress includes intricately sewn designs on blankets that are worn by both men and women as shawls or capes. The Xhosa tribe has remained famous for the bravura and a wide range of their bead works. Traditionally, the woman’s life stages were reflected on ornamentations and garments. Newly married women wore a unique headdress, a dissimilar style by the women who had given birth etc.


The men traditionally fulfilled the warrior’s role, stockman as well as a hunter while the women tilled the land.  A clan consists of many groups. A chief, also referred to as Inkosi, heads each clan. The land is very important, and it is usually allotted to individual as they need it. The clan shares everything at all time. The families help one another to complete a certain task such as building of the hut. The Xhosa have diviners in their tribes, most of whom are women.

The Xhosa tribe have an affluent cultural heritage. They have also majorly contributed to the development and growth of South Africa. Nelson Mandela, a leading icon on the continent and the first African president of the Republic of South Africa in 1994 is from Xhosa.

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