Episode 24 – The foundation of the Xhosa Kingdom, Tshawe, Phalo, Gcaleka and Rharhabe.


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This is episode 24, the Foundation of the Xhosa Kingdom, the heroes Tshawe and Phalo. I’ve made use of a number of books and documents in the series so far, but Jeff Perez’s House of Phalo is probably my favourite source material mainly because he lectured me at Rhodes University in the mid-1980s. His book on the Xhosa is still the go-to research document and I’m leaning quite heavily on the work for this episode. Let’s take ourselves back to Xhosa pre-history, that time in early oral tradition where myths and legends are difficult to separate from reality. The Xhosa people of today think of themselves as being the common descendents of a great hero named Xhosa who lived many hundreds of years ago. Some believe he was the son of Mnguni who gave the name to the Nguni language – and brothers of other kingdoms such as the pre-Zulu Ndwandwe or Mthethwa, as well as the Swazi, or the Zulu themselves. The word Xhosa is a Khoi word meaning ‘Angry Men’ and Vete who is the main historian of the nearby Mpondomise people believes they were named by the amaThembu. Remember we met the amaThembu last episode, the people who lived on the boundaries of the Xhosa and were regarded as poorer because their land was less fertile. The earliest historical occurrance specific to the Xhosa was the installation of the amaTshawe as the royal family – and the story of Tshawe is probably the best-known of all Xhosa traditions. John Soga wrote about this in his work South Eastern Bantu which is a highly respected original document outlining the people of Xhosaland.

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