Historical background

The area was originally settled by Bushmen (San) and Hottentots, but towards the end of the 17th century they were gradually displaced by the Hlubi people wandering down from KwaZulu-Natal, led by a woman named Xhosa. These people claimed a common ancestry with all the tribes of the eastern coast, originating from a place called eMbo. When the Xhosa encountered the Hottentots, they were much taken with the clicks in the Hottentot language, which became a fashionable part of the Hlubi language.

Successive waves of people came down the coast and began to split up into homogenous groups. The northern group became the Pondo, the middle group became the Mtembu and the southern group became the Gcaleka.

Pressure from migrating tribes in the north pushed the population southwards where they began to encounter the white traders and settlers moving north. The inevitable result was conflict.

The Ama-Xhosa of the Transkei

  • Posted on: 10 November 2011
  • By: JB

This is a must-have book for your coffee table...

Click on the pic to order your copy: 

The Ama-Xhosa of the Transkei - by Deryck Lang. Edited by Dianne Lang

Gqira: Priest-divinerGqira: Priest-diviner

A photo journal depicting and explaining the customs of the amaXhosa, the largest tribe in South Africa. Deryck spent his life among the amaXhosa in the Transkei, and was a respected member and Elder of the amaTshezi; the foremost clan of the Bomvana tribe. The photographs he took are a testament of his enduring love of the people, and their deep respect for him. Deryck "Mdesaleni" Lang: 1934 - 2009

Deryck "Mdesaleni" Lang: 1934 - 2009 Few, if any, outsiders have been as privileged to photograph tribal customs and ceremonies, to share in their fortunes and their sorrows; and to live amongst them their entire life.

Deryck captured an intimate glimpse into what could sadly be the end of a cultural era. Deryck was a true African in the deepest sense of the word, a man who epitomised the meaning of "Ubuntu" and "Umntu Ngumntu Ngabantu".

Lala Ngoxolo Mdesaleni


Wild Coast History

The infamously dangerous 300km coastline between East London and Port Edward known as the Wild Coast has been described by experienced seafarers as South Africa's own Bermuda Triangle; where ships disappear without a trace.

Freak waves which frequent this notorious coast have plunged untold ships to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, or sent them crashing onto the shore. The most famous victim was the SS Waratah, which vanished a hundred years ago, on the 29th July 1909, with all 211 passengers and crew aboard. (See www.wildcoast.com/shipwrecks for more info.)

The last ship to tragically sink with all her crew was the Indian-registered Cordigilera, which disappeared without a trace on November 13 1996¹ in the vicinity of Port St Johns. Seven months later, on the 9th of July 1997, the Romanian cargo vessel, the Calarasi, perished in similar weather conditions about five nautical miles from the site where the Cordigilera went down. In her case, however, twenty of her 21 crewmen were airlifted to safety from this treacherous Transkei coast.

100 years since SS Waratah disappeared off the Wild Coast

The Waratah 1908 - 29 July 1909

The Waratah 1908 - 29 July 1909Source: Daily Dispatch

The SS Waratah, sometimes referred to as "Australia's Titanic", was a 500 foot steamer. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The disappearance of the ship remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time. To this day no trace of the ship has ever been found.

According to Dispatch archives, the 10 000 ton ship passed along the Transkei coast on July 28, 1909 after stopping off in Durban the previous day.

History and folklore of Hole in the Wall

Photo (c) Neels BotmaHole-in-the-Wall is one of the most impressive landmarks along the entire South African coastine. Second only to Table Mountain, most likely, though only a fraction of the size. Standing at the mouth of the Mpako River, the cliff consists of dark-blue shales, mudstones and sandstones of the Ecca Group, dating back some 260 million years. These rocks were subsequently intruded by a dolerite sheet, and the ‘hole’ was created over millions of years by the buffeting waves, which eroded away the softer rocks underneath the dolerite to form an arch. The same process also eventually separated the cliff from the mainland.

Xhosa - Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage, Relationships, Living conditions


PRONUNCIATION: KOH-suh (See: http://www.wildcoast.co.za/xhosa_phrasebook for more accurate pronunciation)

LOCATION: South Africa (eastern, urban areas)

POPULATION: 6 million

LANGUAGE: Xhosa (Bantu)

RELIGION: Traditional beliefs (supreme being uThixo or uQamata); Christianity


The word Xhosa refers to a people and a language of South Africa. The Xhosa-speaking people are divided into a number of subgroups with their own distinct but related heritages. One of these subgroups is called Xhosa as well. The other main subgroups are the Bhaca, Bomvana, Mfengu, Mpondo, Mpondomise, Xesibe, and Thembu. Unless otherwise stated, this article refers to all the Xhosa-speaking people.


  • Posted on: 1 November 2007
  • By: JB

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence- it is a force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."

"Occupants of public offices love power and are prone to abuse it."

~George Washington

Towns of historical interest in the 'kei


Butterworth is the oldest town in the Transkei, built quite near to the place where the great chief Hintsa had his palace. It was founded by Methodist missionaries in 1827. The Xhosa name is Gcuwa after the river running through it, but the English name is from the then- treasurer of the Wesleyan Mission Society, Reverend Butterworth. At the end of the Frontier Wars – during which the town had been burnt down three times - traders began to settle here. During the days of 'independence' it was earmarked as a site for industrial development but most of these ambitious projects have now been abandoned.

Xhosa Calendar

The Xhosa months of the year are poetically named after stars and seasonal plants of Southern Africa.

The Xhosa year traditionally began in June and ended in May, when Canopus, the brightest star visible in the Southern Hemisphere, signalled the time for harvesting.

In urban areas today, anglicised versions of the months are used, especially by the younger generation. But in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape – the old names still stand.

  • January - EyoMqungu (month of the Tambuki Grass)
  • February - EyoMdumba (month of the swelling grain)
  • March - EyoKwindla (month of the first fruits)
  • April - uTshaz'iimpuzi (month of the withering pumpkins)
  • May - EyeCanzibe (month of Canopus)
  • June - EyeSilimela (month of the Pleiades)
  • July - EyeKhala (month of the aloes)
  • August - EyeThupha (month of the buds)
  • September - EyoMsintsi (month of the coast coral tree)
  • October - EyeDwarha (month of the tall yellow daisies)
  • November - EyeNkanga (month of the small yellow daisies)
  • December - EyoMnga - (month of the mimosa thorn tree)
  • Nongqawuse

    Nonkosi (L) & Nongqawuse (R)1856 was a bad year for the Xhosa nation of the Wild Coast. Their lands had been taken by the British, drought had withered their crops, and their prized cattle were dwindling under a mysterious disease. The people were facing a hard winter when hope came in the shape of a young girl called Nongqawuse, the niece of a prophet. Nongqawuse claimed that the spirits of the ancestors had spoken to her from a pool in the Gxara River. If the people would only kill all their cattle and burn their crops, a day would come when new cattle and crops would arise along with an army of the ancestors who would drive the whites into the sea. The "vision" took hold among the desperate people, who followed her orders. By February 1957 more than 200 000 cattle had been slaughtered and left to rot. All the summer crops had been burnt.