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Traditions and Culture of the Shangaan People

By Viator, September 2015

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The Limpopo province is home to some of South Africa's most beautiful scenery, game preserves and wildlife, but it's also home to one of the country's most historic and marginalized tribes as well. The Shangaan, also known as the Mapulana. People live deep in Mapulaleng in an area called Bushbuckridge. They practice ancient medicine and ancestral worship.

Sometimes called the faceless tribe, the Mapulana were displaced by white settlers from as early as the 1800s. They were forced to disperse from their fertile lands near Kruger National Park. As a result, the Mapulana developed a rich tradition of training their young to protect and battle. Each winter, the Mapulana gather their young men in the far away mountains for a six-week right of passage that teaches bravery, astronomy, and what it means to be the man of the family.

A tradition of intensive training means the Mapulana people have a rich history of being fierce warriors, having taken up arms against Swazis and Shangaans. Unfortunately few of the tribe’s victories are recognized by the people of South Africa. Today it is hard to find organized sectors of the Mapulana tribe. Although their language is on the brink of extinction, their traditions and culture continue to thrive, with efforts being made to help document what, until now, has been an exclusively oral history.

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