With enthusiastic articulations of his cultural praises, Thamsanqa Myeni, a Law student at the University of Johannesburg told The Open Journal that he celebrates Nguni culture through beadwork.
“I am a beadwork artist very much into culture and tradition. Beadwork came as a dream to me; I was nurtured by community beading grandmothers from back home in Newlands,” Thamsanqa said.
Thamsanqa’s love for beadwork began at a young age. Throughout the years, he has perfected his craft and now uses a wide variety of material. The law student earns extra money selling the artwork.
Despite being a talented artist, Thamsanqa is also passionate about his culture that he wants to challenge the negative stereotypes attached to traditional Nguni ceremonies involving young men and women.
These ceremonies are meant to uphold the existing traditions to be passed down to younger generations.
The notion of purity amongst unmarried women is very important in the Nguni culture. Purity has become more important considering the rise in sexually transmitted infections.
“I’m part of a unisex group, [the] Snethemba cultural group which teaches us Amahobo (ancient war songs) and cultural dances as Amakhosi Wengoma (boys). Girls are taught about and go for virginity testing,” Thamsanqa said.
His main contribution to the group is to create beaded jewellery that is worn by participants during these cultural ceremonies.
Young Nguni women are encouraged to take part in a number of ceremonies associated with purity. These lead up to the main ceremony called Ukuhlololwa kwezintombi where the girls undergo virginity testing.
“The main aim of the practice is to educate the girls to stay pure as they are the pride of our nation,” Thamsanqa explained. Purity is a two-way path as even young men are advised on how to conduct themselves prior to marriage. They are taken through a process called Ukusoma.
“As guys, we are there to protect girls as they are the pride and dignity of our culture,” Thamsanqa said about the practice.