Traditionally in the Venda culture, the Venda wore only clothing made of skins which were obtained by hunting.
The Vendas believe in the ancestors living with the living, so clothes that are believed to be sacred, represent these ancestors. Around the neck of a Venda lady, a series of beads and amulets may be worn, often very old, each of which is associated with an ancestral spirit. These are passed down through generations as sacred trust and to part with one is to risk immediate retribution from the ancestral realm.
Venda Culture: Infants
According to Venda culture, the infant has no specific attire and remains naked, but for a string of wild cotton, (ludede) which is tied around its waist until the weaning stage when they are given the tshideka.
The tshideka is a basic garment, worn by both sexes, and consists of a piece of square cloth sewn on the Ludede to cover the private parts, however the buttocks remain uncovered. Two squares can be used, one for the front and the other for the back. When an infant is immunized it is given the lukunda to be worn round the wrist and ankle to protect them against evil spirits.
As the child is weaned, clothes are used to differentiate sex, the boy puts on the Tsindi, and girls a Shedo.
Venda Culture: Male Dress
The tsindi is a triangular piece of soft skin covering the front, passed between the legs and tied at the back and a male will continue to wear variations of this throughout his life.
The chief traditionally wore an animal skin headband and a karos or sila over his shoulders.
Venda Culture: Female Dress
Girls start with a shedo, a small square of fabric sewn onto a broad strip which hangs down in front as a small apron. When a girl develops breasts she wears a nwenda at the waist or just above the breasts.
Meanings are attached to the embroidery done on the Nwenda. When a single line of embroidery is done, it is an indication that one is not yet engaged, while those who are engaged have a Minwenda with many lines of embroidery.
Around their ankles girls wear grass anklets, Mutate, before they are engaged; these are removed when she receives real anklets from her betrothed.
Mapala beads are worn by girls and young women and advertise ‚ÄúI am still young and lovely just like a flower which attracts bees. I can bear children for you since I am still fertile.‚ÄĚ . The khomba is a girl at a marriageable age, she will still wear a shedo but now solely as an under garment and wears the Nwenda tucked on the waist or above the breast, unless she is performing her initiation rites. Vhukunda (anklets and bangles) is a sign of being engaged, hence the Venda saying: ‚ÄėMmbwa ire na mune ivhonala nga tshiangaladzi‚Äô. Meaning ‚Äėthe dog which has the master is known as such by a neck collar.‚Äô
The bath towel, Thaulo, is an important garment of the Venda female. A woman is said to be well dressed when she emphasizes her hips with a small towel. These days woman wear the towel when they attend the Tshisevhesevhe ceremonies. When a girl is engaged the husband buys a towel for her to cover her face with in case she meets one of her betrothed.
Married ladies dress in a dignified manner, thus demanding respect from the community. She wears the Tshirivha ‚Äďwhich is made from the skin of sheep or goat and is well decorated. The ears of the goat are made up into small studs and fastened at the shoulder part of the skin on the decorated side, where they act as the eyes of the Tshirivha.
Old women, past child bearing, wear a skin similar to the Tshirivha but made with goat skin complete with head and neck. This garment Phale is stretched lengthwise instead of broad wise. This skin, when properly prepared, reaches nearly to the ankles.
Venda Culture: Status Clothes
In Venda culture, there are some clothes that are worn only by specific people indicating their status, rank or power.
A bride of the king, headman or chief wears the Thau indicating her status of being married to the royals. When she confides, instead of wearing the tshirivha (goatskin) witch is worn by commoners, she puts on the Gwana (sheep skin).Her accessories also differ from those of the commoners.
The traditional healers, who are most close to the gods, can never perform their duties without putting on the Palu, which is a bluish cloth with many white or coloured spots and stripes and it is associated with ancestors. Accessories such as the beads Tsilu la Ndou are worn around her neck; crossing over her chest are white beads, Mpakato; on her arms, copper or brass bracelet Mulinga can be seen and terracotta beads of ancient origin all denote the divine powers given to her by the ancestors. It is felt that the ancestors will not be able to communicate with her if she is not totally clad in this attire.
The Malombe (those possessed by ancestral spirits) during the Malombo dance also wear the Palu. Should it not be included the ancestors will trouble the Venda people. Palu stands for Nwali - "God himself‚ÄĚ.
The Malombe dancers will also wear the Matongo, pieces of fabric of different colours, which have a meaning. Red stands for soil or God, blue for the
sky, which brings rain, black stands for darkness or the dead and white for happiness.
Venda Culture: Dance Groups:
Dancers wear a Tshithuza which is a beaded or crocheted skirt decorated at the hem by tassels or pompoms. Around the calves they wear Thuzwu or Tshwayo. When the mutuzwu fruits are dry, the seeds are taken out and they are filled with little stones. As they perform Venda culture dances they make a noise just like a rattle, thus complementing the rhythm of the drum and the song.