Heritage Month – Tsonga Culture

Hello hello lovely people, before we start with the last post of my mini series, thank you so much to so many of you that showed an interest to learning more about South African cultures, I too have learnt so much. Today I’m sharing half of my culture, the Tsonga culture, I was very excited for this post and saved the best for last.

The Culture, The People!

The people are a bantu ethic group mainly referred to as Xitsonga, they are known for their bright and colourful attires, probably the most colourful tribe in Southern Africa. Xitsonga people have native and current roots in South Africa and Southern Mozambique, not to be confused wit the Tonga people of Zimbabwe and Zambia as they differ in both culture and language. The current Tsonga tribe came about when King Shaka of the Zulu Kingdom sent Soshangane to conquer the Tsonga people in the North. What he found was small peace-loving people of scattered communities and he decided to make it his home instead of returning back to Shaka. Till today, in my personal opinion, Tsonga people are some of the most warmest and welcoming people. When you are with us, you want to stay. Besides their colourful clothes that has inspired many fashion houses in South Africa, they are also known for their upbeat music, energetic dances styles and delicacies.

The Traditional Attire.

The most iconic part of the Tsonga traditional attire is the large tired skirt called Xibelani, this is made of a heavy cloth (I’ll be honest, I asked many what this cloth was made of and it seams to be a mistery fabric) with bright shimmery bindings and trimmings. The skirt is worn with a colourful top called yele, a 1.5m x 1.5m shawl fabric called minceka and a head wrap called a duku. For jewellery, they wear silver and brown metal bangles called vusenga and lastly for shoes, they usually worn with Tomy sneakers called masandhazi as they come in a variety of colours.

The Pattern and Fabric

Tino wearing modern Tsonga attire made of Minceka fabric.

Of course in recent history the Minceka fabric has evolve from 1.5m x 1.5m square to buying in per meter to making full blown garments. Minceka is notable for its medium size florals and then a large scale florals as a boarder. I always joke that when colour blocking came back in fashion a couple of years ago, Tsonga people were like “We’ve been having it.” The fabric is so vibrant that you will seldom find an outfit made in just one colour, we Tsonga people love colour ( this is not a stereotype, we really do), you guys see me and my me mades, it’s the Tsonga in me. I had 1m of the pink minceka and 4m of the turquoise, I wanted to use both fabrics just to show how we love to mix colours. This time I drafted both patterns, the top is a basic box crop top with side bust darts and puff sleeves and the skirt skirt is a straight skirt with a front slit.


Because of the large scale floral border, I decided a crop top with a simple pencil skirt would be nice to play with. I used the boarder for the skirt hem and on the top’s sleeve. I would have liked to make the sleeves more puffy, but my fabric was very limited but I happy with how it still turned out. The fabric is quite light weight so I decide I needed to fully line the shirt. Honestly I’m not someone who lines a lot of things because I hate how lining sometimes has a life of it’s own, so I first basted the fabric and lining pieces together and then sewed them as one. I really like how this turned out. So I wasn’t settled on the design, even as I was making the pattern and sewing, while I was sewing the darts I decided to convert the one dart into a side split, good idea for the waist not so good for the hips. It’s a little tight around the hip as I didn’t take into account the 1.5cm allowance I was taking away but it still turned out good. I was feeling myself in this outfit and my family were gassing me up. Thank you to my Sew Sister Nyiko for taking these amazing pictures of me, the photoshoot was just as fun! The mini series has come to an end, but I hope you will continue to visit my blog as I share more of my sewing journey. Thank you for all the kind comments received, they were so appreciated.

6 thoughts on “Heritage Month – Tsonga Culture

  1. The pencil skirt and crop top outfit is so amazing I didn’t think it was possible to mix those 2 colors with that pattern and come out looking fabulous and sophisticated!! Well done !!


  2. That traditional skirt – it must take miles of fabric, but it’s so beautiful! I love all the bright colors. The modern outfit is awesome! I love border fabrics, so you had me drooling over these beauties. I love the design of both pieces! Nice job, and I love the history about Soshangane being sent to conquer but deciding to make it his home instead. That’s a happy and welcoming culture that can inspire such a change of plans 🙂


    1. The traditional skirt is made from about 20m of fabric and it’s quite heavy. Right, it’s truly inspiring that he chose to build instead of conquering 😊


  3. Another wonderful post! The colors make me smile and my heart sing! I love the part of the history where Soshangane went to conquerer the Tsonga people and instead decided to make his home with them. It is an awe-inspiring end to the story that he decided not to conquer but to live in peace and love. Thank you again for sharing this series! xo


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