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Article credited to Mzala Tom


Inxwala was a national ceremony for spiritual renewal and thanksgiving for the first fruits in the Ndebele kingdom. The main Inxwala came a lunar month after the conduct of the minor inxwala.

2. Once the date for the main inxwala was set, a clarion call was

was made at all kraals in the regions of the kingdom for people to attend the big ceremony. ‘Umthwakazi kagcobe!’, ‘Let the nation dress up for Inxwala!’ the town criers would announce with great excitement.

3. All roads would then lead to the capital. The people brought with them food, beer and oxen for slaughter. There were special oxen known as amamvubu, the hippo oxen. These oxen were regarded as sacred animals. It was believed that the king’s ancestral spirits lived in them.

4. These oxen were kept at a special kraal. They were not used for manual labour and it was a not permitted to kill them. These cattle were trained to do special parades at the inxwala grounds at the capital as part of the ceremony.

5. Amamvubu were driven ahead of the soldiers and were trained and drilled to move in unison in a compact formation. On arrival at the capital, there were booths to accommodate the different regiments that came from different regions of the kingdom.

6. On the day of inxwala, the soldiers gathered and assembled in the parade grounds in the centre of the capital. They stood in a wide semi-circle wearing their full military regalia facing the royal quarters. The queens dressed colourfully and stood in the wings.

7. Two songs were sung as the military drilled and systematically danced. The first song was ‘Phuma sikubone nyoni yelizwe’, ‘Come out so we may see you bird of the nation’.

8. After much singing and dancing the next song lined up was, ‘Uyingwe emabalabala phuma sikubone sonke’, ‘You are a spotted leopard come out so we may all see you.’ Thousands surrounded the parade grounds cheering the soldiers as they sang and danced in unison.

9. At his instance, the king emerged from the royal quarters wearing a cap of the otter skin, a long blue crane feather on his head, a cape of ostrich feathers on his shoulders, a girdle of blue-monkey skins around his loins, and circlets of long ox-hair around his arms and legs.

10. He carried in his hand, a huge spear and on the other hand, a beautiful shield of ox hide with one white spot. His emergence was greeted with electric shouts and acclamations of Bayethe! This thunderous salutation was wound up with a long and melodious whistle.

11. This was followed by a special song in prayer and thanksgiving sung during these festivities known as ingoma yenxwala. This song was sung once and people were not permitted to sing it privately. [From my upcoming book *History & Heritage : The Ndebele Kingdom of Zimbabwe] END

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Credit: Mzala Tom

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