Fr Roten Blog #27: South Africa
Painted Houses Ndebele Artisans
The colorful animals and the painted house illustrate Ndebele (Nguni people of South Africa) culture and design. The strong and vivid geometric patterns have symbolic meaning. They are used as code to express values, prayers, and emotions typical to the Ndebele people. The origin of this secret symbolic language lies in the conflict between Ndebele and Boer farmers in the late 19th century. Harsh life and suffering, as well as horrible punishment led to this form of secret communication among tribal groups. The two midwives in this setting emphasize the fact that Ndebele women carry on and watch over tradition. They are the main developers of Ndebele design of painted houses and complex beadwork. Like painted houses, Christmas is a code for those who cherish and share the message of God's loving presence for this world.