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Tsonga Pitek, Emily


The Tsonga are a group of Bantu-speaking people who have historically lived in what is now Mozambique and South Africa. This entry focuses on the Ronga sub-group around the time of 1895, and relies predominantly upon information recorded by the principal ethnographic authority (Junod, 1927ab). According to Junod (1927a), at the time this entry focuses on the Tsonga were composed of a number of clans, which formed six groups, including the Ronga. The primary social unit was the family and household. Several local households formed a village (led by a headman) and several villages formed a clan grouping (led by a chief). The central feature of Tsonga religion was ancestral spirits, known as shikwembu or ancestor-gods. Ancestor-gods were generally of two categories: those pertaining to the family and those pertaining to the country. The ancestor-gods of the chief’s lineage were those pertaining to the country. A formal priesthood was not present, but certain individuals (eldest male in a household/lineage) were responsible for leading religious activity and conducting ceremonies. The main feature of such ceremonies involved propitiation of the ancestor-gods through sacrifice and offerings. Other magico-religious practitioners included those who used magic for evil (baloyi), those who used magic for the good of the community (wizards), medicine men, and divination specialists. Religious beliefs and practices permeated many aspects of society; consequently, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with society itself.

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Attribution 4.0 International