Pedi , also called Transvaal Sotho, Northern Sotho , or Bapedi , a Bantu-speaking people inhabiting Limpopo province, South Africa , and constituting the major group of the Northern Sotho ethnolinguistic cluster of peoples, who numbered about 3,, in the late 20th century. Their traditional territory, which is known as Bopedi, is located between the Olifants and Steelpoort rivers. The ancestors of the Pedi are thought to have settled in the present region about years ago after having migrated from Central Africa. After an initial period of peaceful settlement the Pedi empire arose, built on a number of military conflicts with neighbouring peoples. Pedi fortunes peaked during the rule of the king Thulare in the early 19th century, but the Pedi were subsequently defeated by the forces of Mzilikazi , the eventual founder of the Ndebele Matabele people.
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Together the Nguni and Sotho account for the largest percentage of the total Black population. Much confusion surrounds this term, as Sepedi, the language spoken by the Pedi people, which has been often referred to as Northern Sotho, which is incorrect. The confusion between Northern Sotho and Pedi probably arises from the fact that the missionaries who developed the orthography for Northern Sotho mainly had contact with the Pedi people.
Sepedi is the language of the Pedi people, also known as the BaPedi. Sepedi is closely related to the official language of Setswana or Tswana, and the dialect of Setlokwa and the similar Sotho language, Sesotho sa Borwa, or Southern Sotho. Sepedi is mainly spoken in the northern parts of South Africa, including the provinces of Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng and the North West province. Settlements Early Pedi settlements were divided into kgoro pl. According to research by Peter Delius, members of a kgoro were not always strictly agnatic, and according to circumstances other non-relatives were known to be accepted into a kgoro.
A kgoro consisted of a group huts built around a central area which served as meeting-place, cattle byre, graveyard and ancestral shrine. These were ranked in order of seniority. Each wife of a polygynous marriage had her own round thatched hut, which was joined to other huts by a series of open-air enclosures called lapa encircled by mud walls.
Subsistence and economy Early Pedi settlements were subsistence farmers, and grew sorghum, pumpkins and legumes, which were cultivated by women on fields allocated to them when they married.
Women hoed and weeded; did pottery and built and decorated huts with mud; made sleeping mats and baskets; ground grain, cooked, brewed, and collected water and wood. Men did some work in fields at peak times; hunted and herded; did woodwork, prepared hides, and were metal workers and smiths. Most major tasks were done communally by matsema work-parties. Cattle also played an important role in Pedi society, as it was not only a source of food, but also an important status symbol, and used as bohadi or bridewealth payments.
Labour division shifted significantly after the introduction of the animal-drawn plough, and maize mielies , and due to the effects of labour migration. Migrant labour was also a prominent feature of life under apartheid, as population increases in homelands or reserves, and land degradation, meant that men would have to leave home to work for wages to support their families, who could not survive on subsistence farming alone.
Delius also points out that many young men were drawn to migrant labour because it enabled them to buy cattle in order to marry. It said that despite long absences due to migrant labour, men still remained committed to their fields. This required ploughing during their time of leave, a job that was also handed over to professionals or tractor owners.
Women were then left to perform all the other agricultural tasks, while the men, who were subject to restrictions on their lives to being wage-labourers, resisted direct involvement in cattle-keeping and agriculture. They resisted so much in fact, that a rebellion took place, which was quelled in the s.
Later on, families would continue to practice cultivation and keep livestock, which was more a way of gaining retirement security in a rural social system than a means of household subsistence.
From the s to the s, most Pedi men would spend some time working on a nearby White farm. This would be followed by employment on the mines or domestic service, and later, especially in more recent years, to employment in factories or industry.
Recently, female wages have also begun, but are generally more rare and sporadic. Some of these women work on farms for short periods or as domestic workers in the towns of the Witwatersrand since the s. Another important ritual figure was the kgadi father's older sister. The position of ngaka diviner was traditionally inherited via patrilineal lines, but this position is now inherited by a woman from her paternal grandfather or great-grandfather.
The position of diviner is said to be manifested through illness and violent spirit malopo possession. The only cure for these ailments is to train as a diviner. Apparently, there has been an increase in the number diviners recently, many of whom are believed to be driven only by a desire for material gain. The chief also played the role of rain-maker for his subjects.
Lesotho has a large percentage of Catholics, but also has Protestant denominations. There are also a number of independent churches that combine elements of African traditional religion with Christianity. These churches emphasize healing and the Holy Spirit. Arts Important elements of Pedi arts include metal-smithing, which was a common practice in the Pedi area and surrounds. Other art forms made by the Pedi include beadwork, pottery, house-building and painting, as well as woodwork and the making of drums.
Pedi music mmino wa setso: traditional music, lit. This kind of music was formerly played on a plucked reed instrument called dipela, but its musicians now use trade-store instruments such as the Jew's harp, and the German autoharp harepa , which are now regarded as characteristically Pedi. The height of Pedi musical expression is said to be the kiba genre, which has surpassed its rural roots and has become a migrant style.
In its men's version it is played an ensemble, each member playing an aluminium end-blown pipe of a different pitch naka, pl. Together this ensemble produces a descending melody with harmonies. This is a development of earlier female genres which have recently been included within the definition of kiba. Land tenure The pre-colonial system of communal or tribal tenure which was similar to that practised throughout the southern African region was cemented, but subtly altered, by the colonial administration.
A man was granted land by the chief for each of his wives; and unused land was reallocated by the chief, rather than being inherited within families. Overpopulation resulted from the government's relocation policies, and the system was then modified. A household's fields, and its residential plot, are now inherited, ideally by the youngest married son. Christian Pedi communities who owned freehold farms were removed to the reserve without compensation, but since South Africa many have now reoccupied their land or are preparing to do so, under restitution legislation.
The few Pedi who still live as labour tenants on White farms have been promised some security of tenure by land reform legislation. Kinship Kgoro, or subdivisions of villages and chiefdoms, were made up of a collection of kinsmen with related males at the centre. These kgoro were also jural and kinship units and acceptance into a particular kgoro was up to the kgoro-head's authority, and was not only determined by relations.
Royal or chiefly dikgoro were often faced with subdivision, as sons competed for authority. However, due to a decline in cattle-keeping and increases in land-shortage, this system of inheritance has now altered so that the last-born inherits primarily land. Marriage In traditional Pedi society, marriage was patrilocal, and polygyny was practised by those with a higher social status, including chiefs. Marriage to a cousin was preferred in the ruling dynasty, as this ensured a degree of political integration and control.
This is because the two-sets of in-laws were already connected, and the bohadi bridewealth could then be used for further bohadi payments within the ruling house. Initiation The life of both girls and boys was differentiated by important rituals, such as initiation. Initiation would also include circumcision at koma initiation school which would be held about once every five years.
This initiation process socialised youths into groups or regiments called mephato which would bear the leader's name, and whose members would then be loyal to each other for their lifetimes. These groups or regiments would often travel together to work on farms or on the mines.
Girls attended their own koma and were divided into their own regiments, a process that usually took place two years after the boy's school. Initiation is still practised today, and provides a substantial income to the chiefs who licence it for a fee or. In recent years private entrepreneurs have also established initiation schools, outside the chiefs' jurisdiction.
The Pedi began as a confederation of small chiefdoms sometime before the 17th century, and over time, strong Pedi chiefs claimed land from smaller chiefdoms, and dominated trade routes from the interior to the coast. Historians also credit the Pedi with the first monarchy in the region, but their rule was marked by occasional military defeat and population disruption.
The Maroteng and their symbolic animal noko porcupine were an offshoot of Tswana-speaking Kgatla. In about settled in the area to the south of the Steelpoort River and here, over several generations, linguistic and cultural homogeneity developed to a certain degree. Only in the last half of the 18th century did they broaden their influence over the region, establishing the Pedi paramountcy by bringing powerful neighbouring chiefdoms under their control.
During migrations in and around this area, groups of people from diverse origins began to concentrate themselves around dikgoro s. They identified themselves through symbolic allegiances to totemic animals such as tau lion , kolobe pig and kwena crocodile. The Pedi area, or heartland, is known as Sekhukhuneland, and is situated between the Olifants and Steelpoort Rivers, which are also known as the Lepelle and the Tubatse.
The area is named after Sekhukhune I, the son of Sekwati. Before this, the Pedi polity under Thulare c. Pedi power, at its height during Thulare's reign about was undermined during the period of the Difaqane, by Ndwandwe invaders from the south-east.
A period of dislocation followed, after which the polity was re-stabilised under Thulare's son Sekwati. Sekwati succeeded Thulare as paramount chief of the Pedi in the northern Transvaal Limpopo and was frequently in conflict with the Matabele under Mzilikazi, and plundered by the Zulu and the Swazi. Sekwati was also engaged in numerous negotiations and struggles for control over land and labour with the Afrikaans-speaking farmers Boers who had since settled in the region.
These disputes over land occurred after the founding of Ohrigstad in , but after the town was incorporated into the Transvaal Republic in and the Republic of Lydenburg was formed, an agreement was reached that the Steelpoort River was the border between the Pedi and the Republic.
The Pedi were well equipped to defend themselves though, as Sekwati and his heir, Sekhukhune I were able to procure firearms, mostly through migrant labour to the Kimberley diamond fields and as far as Port Elizabeth.
This system of cousin marriage resulted in the perpetuation of marriage links between the ruling house and the subordinate groups, and involved the payment of inflated bohadi or bride wealth, mostly in the form of cattle, to the Maroteng house. Sekhukune I succeeded his father in , and repelled an attack against the Swazi. At the time, there were also border disputes with the Transvaal, which lead to the formation of Burgersfort, which was manned by volunteers from Lydenburg.
However, tension increased after Sekhukhune refused to pay taxes to the Transvaal government, and the Transvaal declared war in May However, unrest continued, and this became a justification for the British annexing the Transvaal in April , under Sir Theophilus Shepstone.
Following the annexation, the British also declared war on Sekhukhune I under Sir Garnet Wolseley, and defeated him in Sekhukhune was then imprisoned in Pretoria, but later released after the first South African War, when the Transvaal regained independence. However, soon after his release Sekhukhune was murdered by his half-brother Mampuru, and because his heir had been killed in the war and his grandson, Sekhukhune was too young to rule, one of his other half-brothers, Kgoloko assumed power as regent.
Later, according to apartheid segregation policy, the Pedi would be assigned the homeland of Lebowa. The smaller Lobedu population makes up another subgroup among the Northern Sotho. The Lobedu are closely related to the Shona population, the largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe, but the Lobedu are classified among the Sotho primarily because of linguistic similarities.
The Lobedu were studied extensively by the early twentieth-century anthropologist J. Krige, who described the unique magical powers attributed to a Lobedu female authority figure, known to outsiders as the rain queen.
In , Alexander Merensky, a missionary from the Berlin Missionary Society, was instructed to open a missionary station in Swaziland. After failed negotiations with the Swazi, Merensky was then granted consent to build three mission stations in Sekwatis territory, namely Gerlachshoop, Khalatloloe and Petametsane, west of the Leolo Mountains.
From here, several groups of converts later left to purchase land and found their own independent communities — including Doornkop and Boomplaats. Merenksy, who was also played an ethnographic role in the recording of Pedi customs and life at this time, was also involved in mediating between Sekhukhune I and the Transvaal in Here Christian Pedi continued living until they were forcibly removed into the Pedi reserve called Lebowa during the ss in the interests of "ethnic consolidation".
Historical Archaeology & Anthropological Sciences
Over the next century, a series of diverse clusters of people settled in dikgoro or ruling nuclear groups according to animal totems, and the Pedi became more homogenised. At the height of its power, that Pedi polity stretched from present-day Rustenburg east to the lowveld and south to the Vaal River. Both rulers had firepower — guns largely supplied by Pedi men who had worked the diamond mines in Kimberley. But the British annexed the Transvaal in , and in British troops and their Swazi allies defeated the Pedi. Many Pedi did not live there, however, but rather lived on white farms as tenant farmers or in townships near Pretoria and Johannesburg, working jobs on the mines or in the cities. Lebowa was absorbed into South Africa in The ngaka or diviner also holds a significant place in society; the position is generally inherited by women from their grandfather or great-grandfather.
Bapedi history, traditions, culture and food
Together the Nguni and Sotho account for the largest percentage of the total Black population. Much confusion surrounds this term, as Sepedi, the language spoken by the Pedi people, which has been often referred to as Northern Sotho, which is incorrect. The confusion between Northern Sotho and Pedi probably arises from the fact that the missionaries who developed the orthography for Northern Sotho mainly had contact with the Pedi people. Sepedi is the language of the Pedi people, also known as the BaPedi. Sepedi is closely related to the official language of Setswana or Tswana, and the dialect of Setlokwa and the similar Sotho language, Sesotho sa Borwa, or Southern Sotho.
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