The Soutpansberg Mountains of the Limpopo Province in South Africa is the home of the Venda people, one of the smallest of the South Africa cultures. The Venda culture is steeped in the spirit world and finds expression in their woodcarvings, pottery and the decoration of their buildings.
Many things make the Venda people unique from the many cultures in South Africa but today we want to focus on one specific thing which the Venda people are known for; The Domba. Many cultures having different ceremonies for both girls and boys initiation, for instance the Xhosa tribe of South Africa’s ritual is traditionally intended as a teaching institution, to prepare young males for the responsibilities of manhood and as much as the Domba initiates the same thing, it is done differently to many other cultures.
Domba is the third and final phase in Venda girls’ initiation, which should have been attended after a girl had been to vhusha and tshikanda. It takes place every year at the head-quarters of chiefs and certain senior headman.This traditional dance is held at the Fundudzi lake, which lies between Thohoyando and Louise Trichadt. This is where the Venda women go for initiation.
Its importance to the Venda was marked by the use of the bass drum (ngoma), which was also used in tshikona, the Venda national dance. There were a number of special rites and shows associated with domba, but its most notable feature was the great domba dance, performed regularly in the evenings. The girls formed a long chain (deu) and moved in a clockwise direction about the courtyard. The girls began with a monotonous response to the lead singer; then they broke into the ecstatic tivha khulo style of vocal hocketting; and at the end of the dance the girls stopped moving and would lean over toward the centre of the circle. The dance symbolised the mystical act of sexual communion, conception, the growth of the foetus, and child-birth. The successive performances of the dance during the months the school was in progress symbolised the building up of the foetus.
Domba is a very sanctuary moment for the Venda people. They celebrate and embrace their culture and traditions, thus passing it down to generations to come. The dance celebrates her womanhood and at the ceremony, men attend the occasion particularly to pick a wife.
Only young women who have started their menstruation cycles and have been perceived as mature, strong woman are allowed to take part in the rituals. The significance of this is so that they can bring good luck for the next seasonal rain and the ritual is above all, their preparation for womanhood.
If you want to see and experience this phenomenal culture, do remember to visit the North Eastern region of South Africa. You will learn to appreciate not only their culture, but the fine land and colour it brings.