Inheriting a father’s name: ndebele customs, rituals

Source: Inheriting a father’s name: ndebele customs, rituals | Sunday News (Entertainment)

Mzala Tom

This is a continuation on the series related to burial customs and inheritance laws of the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe. Today we will focus on the ukubeka ibizo (imparting a new name) ceremony.

This ceremony was part of the many ceremonies done after the death of a family patriarch, a few days after the umbuyiso ceremony discussed in the umbuyiso threads. The name of the departed who was brought home after the umbuyiso ceremony was given to his first born son.

The ceremony was done this way. On the date set for the ceremony, early in the morning, one of the uncles would randomly grab the son unawares and say to him “Nangu u…”/ “Here is…” calling him by the name of his late father.

As he grabs him, he would also put isongo (copper bracelet) on his wrist. Those watching would respond by whistling and ululating. A girl child could only be chosen if the ancestors had chosen her to receive her father’s name. This had to be confirmed by izanuse/seers.

After some time from the day of ukubekwa ibizo, the next stage was known as umgeziso (cleansing). The ceremony was done to wash away umnyama/darkness & ithunzi/shadow of the deceased. Special beer was brewed for this day.

The ceremony was public and as such, all relatives, neighbours and friends were invited to attend. The son needed to choose usonyongwana, who would accompany him to the river where the cleansing was done. In most cases, he chose his cousin or close friend.

Before going to the river for cleansing , a ritual was done, where the elders smeared him all over the body with umswane wembuzi/partially digested material inside a goat’s stomach, mixed with special medicines. Usonyongwana would carry his changing clothes for him.

If the person being cleansed was male, he had to be accompanied by men and if it was a woman, she had to be accompanied by women. At the river, cleansing was done using trees like ingwaqela, umfan’uzacile and other herbs. Usonyongwana was also cleansed.

After the cleansing, the son wore his new clothes. The dirty were given to one of those who were cleansing him. When going back to the homestead, umthimba would sing, whistle & ululate as if it’s a wedding day. Many would shout Nangu u….. calling him by his father’s name.

Those remaining at home would prepare reed mats for him to sit, by the entrance of the homestead. As the entourage arrived, people would welcome them with wild celebrations calling the son by his father’s names.
Sitting by the reed mats, people would bring various gifts to him. In modern days, people now give monetary gifts . The son had to sit there all day with his sonyongwana. The family and guests would continue feasting, celebrating, singing and dancing.

It was believed that the spirit of the deceased now lived in his son. The son had to be accorded the respect of the head of the homestead. It was believed that the son would start manifesting the character, mannerisms and skills that his late father possessed