The Settlers of the ‘Pleasant Place’

Thato Blessing Khalidzwe
Thato Blessing Khalidzwe
Thato Blessing Khalidzwe is from South Africa and is in the last year of her BA, majoring in political studies and international relations.


The Venda people were an ethnic group who lived south of the Limpopo River and north of the Matopos.Founded in the 19th century, Venda migrants originally came from the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, located south of Great Zimbabwe. Under the ruling of King Shiriyadenga in the year 1240 the Kingdom slowly dissolved, and the Tshivenda people migrated to the South of the Limpopo River and became one of the last indigenous tribes to migrate into South Africa in the 18th century.  Upon arrival, Venda settlers found a plentiful area which they named "shango la mtakalo," which when translated from Tshivenda into English means the "pleasant place," which was where they settled, and their beautiful kingdom began to flourish roughly between the years 1240 and 1640 AD under the watchful eye of the paramount chief, Thohoyandou. With an influx of other migrants making their way from Zimbabwe, the Venda population and language grew and are believed to be integrated with the origins of other ethnic populations, such as Zulu, Shona,  Sotho-Tswana, and the Lemba tribes (descendants of Arab traders). This mixture of languages was soon absorbed by the different groups, and lead to what is now known population as, VhaVenda.  The first ever capital of the unified Venda nation was confirmed at Dzata, a valley in Nzhelele.


The Venda population is one of color, belief, spirituality, and music. It has been said that the Venda people were a highly spiritual population. With their ancestral beliefs, the Venda people are believed to live very spiritual lives and have associated many of their life wonders with spiritual meanings. For example, historically, Vendas would speak to their ancestors through a lake, Lake Fundudzi. This lake was located in the high mountains of the Soutspansberg Mountains. It was believed that the God of Fertility (White Python) was one of the mystical water spirits that helped them communicate with their ancestors. This was considered one of the Venda’s most sacred sites when they settled in Limpopo, due to the strong belief that water was a holy and sanctified resource. The children and elders were also important members of their tribe and ancestral history.Since children were still new to the earth, they were considered to still be relatively close to the ancestors, therefore making them just as spiritually important. While the elders were considered to be in close relation with the ancestors because they would be joining the spiritual realm when they died, making them just as spiritually important as the ancestors.


Historians looking into the Venda tribe also make some mention of the initiation schools. This was a time when young Venda girls and boys used rhythmic and tonal organization to express themselves. These initiation schools were a time for musical and performance enhancement. As John Blacking put it in his study of the Venda initiation schools, "Venda music is systematic and logically organized, but not necessarily like any other musical system." This was another form of communication between the Venda people. They would assign meaning to different sounds. This was a "symbolic expression of aspects of the Venda culture" (Blacking 1967). This, in turn, distinguished the Venda tribe from other South African populations because only members of this tribe understood the significance of music among their people.Initiation schools were also established as a place where Venda girls and boys learned "Milayo," which means "laws" or "instruction." Children were taught things such as the names of specific objects, the rules of conduct and etiquette, and the meanings behind cultural rituals along with why they were so symbolic to their people. These initiation schools were a large part of the upbringing of Venda children.


The Venda population is one of many ethnic populations in South Africa, but just like all the other populations, the Venda tribe’s history, beliefs, and overall culture are what set it apart from all the others. Today it is known as one of South Africa’s most colorful, diverse, and historically important populations. The history of Venda is definitely one to remember, and a pleasant one at that. Both historically and in present-day times