Marvellous Traditional House

Art Traditional House painting

In the 18th century the Ndzundza Ndebele people of South Africa created their own tradition and style of house painting. Until the late 1900s, the Nguni people were very fierce warriors and large landowners. In the autumn of 1883, they went to war with the neighboring Boer workers. The loss of the war brought on a harsh life and horrible punishments for the Ndebele. Through those hard times expressive symbols were generated by the suffering people expressing their grief. These symbols were the beginning of the African art known as .

The Ndebele tribe originally in the early 18th century lived in grass huts. They began using mud-walled houses in the mid-18th century when these symbols begin to be created on their houses and walls. These expressive symbols were used communication between sub-groups of the Ndebele people. They stood for their continuity and cultural resistance to their circumstances. The Boer farmers did not understand the meaning and viewed it as cultural art that was not harmful, so it was allowed to continue. These wall paintings done by the women was their secret code to their people, disguised to anyone but the Ndebele.

The vibrant symbols and expressions portray communications of personal prayers, self-identification, values, emotions, and marriage. Sometimes the male initiation, known as the wela, was a reason for repainting, but the ritual was not expressed. One quality of life that has never been expressed or directed through their walls is sacred expression. The rituals and religions have never been a part of the Ndebele's house paintings. The women of the Ndebele are often the tradition carriers and the main developer of the wall art of their home. The tradition and style of house painting is passed down in the families from generation to generation by the mothers. A well-painted home shows the female of the household is a good wife and mother. She is responsible for the painting of the outside gates, front walls, side walls, and usually the interior of her home. One thing that has changed since the beginning of the house painting and the present-day wall art is their styles.

In the beginning of house painting their symbols and patterns were often based from Ndebele's beadwork. The patterns were tonal and painted with the women's fingers. The original paint on the house was a limestone whitewash. The colors added to make the paintings were mostly natural pigments consisting of browns, blacks, and ochers. Most of the patterns were of a V shape and a very simple triangle on a large shape of color. The patterns, earth tones, directions, and sizes were more important than the present-day vivid and bright colours.

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