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Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore, by George McCall Theal, [1886], at


A large proportion of Kaffir tales have a similar termination with many English ones; the heroine gets married to a prince. These show that a desire for worldly rank is as great in the one people as in the other. Most Kaffir tales are destitute of moral teaching from our point of view. What recommendation, for instance, has the girl in this story to the favour of the young chief?

The custom which the chief's daughter disregarded is the following--

When a Kaffir girl arrives at the age of puberty, messengers are sent by her father to all the neighbouring villages to invite the young women to attend the "Ntonjane." The girl in the meantime is kept secluded in the house of an aunt, or other female relative, and her father does not see her. Soon parties are seen coming from all sides, singing as they march. The first party that arrives halts in front of the cattle kraal, where it is joined by those that come after. When the girls are all assembled, the father chooses an ox to be slaughtered. The rneat is cooked, and men and women come from all directions to the feast. The men then instruct the women to dress the girls for the dance, and when this is done they are ranged in rows in front of the cattle kraal. They ire almost naked having on only a girdle round the waist, and an apron, called cacawe, made for the occasion out of the leaves of a certain plant. In their hands they hold assagais, using them as walking sticks.

When all is ready, four of the girls stop out of the front row and dance, the rest singing; and when these are tired four others step out, and so on, until all the girls present have danced. The spectators then applaud the best dancer, or if they do not at once unanimously fix upon the same person, the girls dance until all present agree.

The girls then give room to the men and women, who form themselves in lines in the same manner, and dance until it is decided which of them surpass the others. The dancing is continued until sunset, when the men and women return home, leaving the party of girls (called the "jaka") who remain overnight.

Next day dancing is resumed in the same order, the guests usually arriving very early in the morning.

If the girl's father is a rich man three oxen are slaughtered, and the ntonjane is kept up for twelve days. On the thirteenth day the young woman comes out of the house where she has all the time been living apart from her family. If the girl is a chief's daughter the ntonjane is kept up for twenty-four days. All the councillors send oxen to be slaughtered, that there may be plenty for the guests to eat.

The following ceremony takes place on the occasion of a chief's daughter coming out of the house in which she was concealcd during the twenty-four days:-

A son of her father's chief councillor puts on his head the two wings of a blue crane (the indwe), regarded by the Kaffirs as an emblem of bravery only to be worn by veterans in time of war. He goes into the house where she is, and when he comes out she follows him. They march towards the kraal where the dancing took place, the girl's mother, the jaka, or party of young women, the girl's father, and his councillors, forming a procession. More cattle are slaughtered for the "indwe," and then dancing is renewed, after which the girl drinks milk for the first time since the day when she was concealed in the house. Large skins containing milk are sent from different kraals to the place where the ntonjane is held. Some milk is put into a small vessel made of rushes, a little of it is poured on the fireplace, the aunt, or other fernale relative, in whose charge the girl was, takes the first mouthful, then she gives the milk to the girl, who, after having drunk, is taken to her mother's house. The people then disperse, and the ntonjane is over.

This ceremony is frequently attended with gross licentiousness. The girls of the jaka are allowed by immemorial custom to select sweethearts, and this liberty often leads to depravity.

Next: Notes: The Story Of Simdukumbukwana