Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Tsonga are a group of loosely related Bantu-speaking people living in southern Mozambique and the Northern Province of South Africa. Traditional Tsonga subsistence depended on agriculture practiced by women. With the expansion of mining in South Africa, labor migration has become an important source of income for many rural families. Commercial Tsonga farmers in South African benefited from improved market access, while Mozambican Tsonga suffered from protracted civil wars.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Southern Africa



South Africa

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Tsonga (FT06) collection covers cultural, economic and historical information circa 1895 to 1990. The basic sources to consult are two books by the Swiss Missionary anthropologist Henri Junod who lived among the Tsonga in 1895-1909 (Junod 1927, no.1; 1927, no. 2). Together, these books provide a comprehensive account of Tsonga culture and society as observed by the author and his key informants. Major themes covered include agricultural and industrial activities, literary and artistic life (with particular emphasis on language, folklore and music, and texts of songs, proverbs, riddles and folktales), and religious beliefs including concepts of nature and man, medicine and ancestor worship, magical practices, spirit possession, witchcraft and divination, and morality and taboos.

The remaining documents compliment these classic ethnographic accounts by examining specific issues relating to change and continuity including the local consequences of labor migration (Harris 1959, no. 8; Rita-Ferreira 1960, no. 7), dynamics of kinship (Jacques 1929. no. 5; Webster 1986, no. 10), history of ethnicity and gender relations (Harries 1989, no. 4; Webster 1991, no. 9) and rites of passage (Heusch 1980, no. 5).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Gandzelo –altar for putting sacrifices of food and beer to ancestral spirits– Use PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES ( 782) with CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769) andor SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Hahani –father’s sister– Use KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 602) with KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY ( 601)

Hosi –hereditary lineage or tribal chief– Use STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE ( 554) with LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

Kokwana –mother’s brother– Use KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 602) with KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY ( 601)

Miganga –local communities which form the basic administrative units– Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)

Mmiri –physical attributes of human body– Use ETHNOANATOMY ( 826)

Moya –non-physical attributes of human body– Use ETHNOANATOMY ( 826) with ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Ndhuna –ward headmen responsible for land allocation, tax collection and dispute settlement– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622) with LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

Ndzhuti –personal attributes associated with specific characters of a person– Use ESCHATOLOGY ( 775) and/or PERSONALITY TRAITS ( 157)

Shikwembu Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776) with COSMOLOGY ( 772)

Swikwembu –spirits of the dead– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769) possibly with ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Tatana –father– Use KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY ( 601)

tindhuna –the chief-in-council of a rural administrative unit, often appointed by ability– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)

Tin’anga –specialized herbalists and diviners who also use magic– Use REVELATION AND DIVINATION ( 787) with MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS ( 791) and/or SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756)

valoyi –evil sorcerers– Use SORCERY ( 754)


xivongo –exogamous patrilineal clans– Use CLANS ( 618) and/or REGULATION OF MARRIAGE ( 582)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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