Traditional tribal rituals at Mandela's funeral

2013-12-15 11:34
AP

AP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - An ox is slaughtered, the deceased is wrapped in a lion skin and a family elder keeps talking to the body's spirit: The state funeral for South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela will also include those rituals from the tradition of the Xhosa people, to whom Mandela's Thembu clan belongs.

The coffin of the country's first democratically elected President on Sunday was wrapped in the South African flag, standing atop animal skins at the beginning of the funeral in Mandela's south-eastern childhood village of Qunu.

 The ceremony was poised to be an eclectic mix of traditional rituals, Christian elements and those of a state funeral.

His body will be buried at noon, "when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest", Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the country's ruling party, the African National Congress, said during the ceremony.

Here's a brief look at the Xhosa people and the main elements of their burial traditions:

The Xhosa people

The majority of the country's 7 million Xhosa people live in the country's southeast, in the Eastern Cape province. Their language, Xhosa, is famous for its three click sounds. The Xhosa recognize the presence of ancestral spirits and call upon them for guidance. Veneration for the world of the ancestors, or Umkhapho in Xhosa, plays an important role in their culture. The ceremonial slaughtering of animals is one of the ways the ancestors are called upon for help, according to a website of South Africa's Tourism Department.

Talking to the body

Following a tradition called Thetha, Xhosa culture requires a family elder to stay with Mandela's body and explain to his spirit what is happening. "When the body lies there, the spirit is still alive," said Reverend Wesley Mabuza, chairperson of South Africa's Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the right of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.

"The body must be informed of whatever is happening before the funeral," said Nokuzola Mndende, director of the Icamagu Institute for traditional religions. The body must rest for one night in his family house before the burial. "On Sunday he must then be told 'Madiba, we are now burying you'," she added, using his clan name in an expression of affection and respect.

Wrapped in a lion skin

The deceased must be wrapped in a special garment. For people of a high rank like Mandela, who is the son of a traditional clan chief, the body or the casket is usually wrapped in the skin of a leopard or a lion, according to Mndende. Mandela's body was wrapped in a lion skin. "But because Madiba is also a former statesman, maybe there will also be the South African flag," she said. Mabuza added: "It's a ritual showing deep respect for the deceased."

Slaughtering the ox

Xhosa tradition requires the slaughtering of an animal early on the day of the burial. After the ritual throat slitting, the animal will be eaten by the mourners, usually outside the family house. For people of a high rank like Mandela an ox will be killed, Mndende said.

"That ox is slaughtered, cooked and eaten all in one day," she said. In some regions no salt will be used to season the meat, but in the area of Mandela's clan that's up to the family's discretion, she added.

End of the mourning

A year after the burial another ox will be slaughtered and eaten by the family to mark the end of the mourning period, in a tradition called Ukuzila. "There must be a time when the mourning is broken," Mndende said.

Bringing back ritual

About another year later a joyous ceremony is celebrated to bring back the deceased into the family so that the person will henceforth be looking over the family and its children as a well-meaning ancestor, a ritual called Ukubuyisa, according to Mndende.

Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.

Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest in Qunu. Say your final farewell and be published on News24 by e-mailing or uploading.

Read more on:    nelson mandela

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Jordaan missing in action

2016-09-25 00:00

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
PARTNER CONTENT
INFOGRAPHIC: New thinking required for retirement

Everything we believe about retirement is fast becoming outdated.

PARTNER CONTENT
WATCH: How education can change a life

A university education gives students the chance to create a better future for themselves, their families and to opportunity achieve their dreams.

/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.