The Evolution of Xitsonga Women’s Traditional Wear

We’re one of the people who love and embrace our own culture, wearing bright clothes on a daily basis may be a shock to some people but Xitsonga people are never shy. We wear our colours with pride!


However, it is important to understand how our modern day fashion has evolved throughout the years. The picture below shows two Tsonga women in the early 1900s wearing Tsonga original traditional wear in a place called Thabina, Limpopo.

Africa | Tsonga ( Shangaan) women at Thabina, Limpopo. South Africa. Early 1900s | ©Alfred Duggan-Cronin / McGregor Museum

It was was captured by Alfred Duggan-Cronin (1874-1954) who came to South Africa, settled in Kimberley and worked at De Beers, a mining company until his retirement in 1932. The mining industry introduced the migrant labour system to prevent permanent labourers from settling in with their families. Therefore it meant the men would seperated from their families for long periods of time which disrupted their ways of living. The system also brought different people from rural areas to the mines and this is how Alfred managed to capture workers in their traditional clothes. We know what you’re thinking; Tsonga people also walked around bare chested? One might argue that the  image above resembles that of Zulu culture, but this is a topic for another day so we’ll park it for now!

From thereon, it somehow evolved to how Kate Lukz looks in the picture below. There isn’t much of a difference but we now cover our upper bodies.

Fast-forward to today, this is how we wear our traditional wear. Bright and colourful!

To make up just one outfit today, one would need different clothing items.

  1. Nceka/Shawl and Nceka/Headwrap – These are made out of imported cotton fabric with flower patterns that are now used
  2. Xibelani – This is a knee-length skirt worn by women. It is made by a bolt of cloth about 18-metres from a fabric called salempur.
  3. Yele/Top – There’s also a top called yele but you can wear just any tight fit T-Shirt cover cover your chest unlike before.
  4. Yele/Top – There’s also a top called yele but you can wear just any tight fit T-Shirt cover cover your chest unlike before.
  5. Madeha, Masiha na ti-Queen – These are accessories such as bracelets, ankle-lets and necklaces are also worn.
  6. Flat Sneakers – Traditionally, you’re not supposed to wear shoes however, seeing that times are evolving – women now wear takkies to allow comfortability when dancing.

Please share your traditional wear and tag us using our handles @shangazine on Twitter and Instagram.

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  1. i want to commend the idea of this magazine ,i was listening to your interview on 702 ,well i just believe the best would be if our own MLFM be the one to interview you first before they outclassed by other station ,just sayin ,
    Your interview was great but just have some thoughts about the the magazine ,,,ie.
    1–if you can start including some male teens because it looks like it cover mainly girls
    2–if you can dig more on the history of our tribe then you add a dashboard that may remain on your page and rotate maybe change weekly ,not the whole history but just a phrase per week
    3–can you organize more events /fashion shows that will display our teens dressed in our same xibelana but in deferent ways like is beeing displayed on your page
    well i have been following your page since last year and is awesome ideas that you are bringing .well done !!!!!

  2. I need to purchase xibelani blue and pink colour I’m in tembisa ivory

  3. It is a Xibelani used as a top because it is a versatile clothing item 🙂

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