Tsonga Traditional Attire

Tsonga traditional attire is one of the most unique in the world. It comprises a variety of materials, including beads, shells, animal hides, and feathers. The garments are brightly coloured and often adorned with detailed designs. 

In the Tsonga culture, traditional dresses for females are rather distinct. It’s usually a long, brightly-colored gown, typically either yellow or red. They often have floral and frill patterns. Read on to learn more about Tsonga traditional attire. Explore dresses below👇🏾

Types of Tsonga Traditional Attire

Tsonga women wear blouses and wrap-around skirts with V-shaped necklines. They will sometimes also wear headdresses.

Tsonga traditional attire comprises colorful and distinctive ensembles that are unique to the ethnic group. A colorful sash is also worn around the waist, along with an ostrich feather headdress.

tsonga traditional attire
Tsonga Traditional Attire

General Dresses

These will typically be worn to special events such as funerals, cultural events, birthdays and weddings, if you’re a guest. See some examples below which include short Tsonga traditional dresses.

Tsonga traditional attire
Green Dress
white patterned tsonga dress
White Patterned Dress
white and lime green tsonga dress
White and Lime Green
tsonga traditional dresses
Tsonga Traditional Dresses on the Runway
yellow tsonga dress
Dress and Doek
modern tsonga traditional dresses
Tsonga Gown
tsonga traditional attire in yellow & purple
Tsonga Traditional Attire in Yellow & Purple
lime green tsonga wedding dress
Lime Green Dress

Tsonga Traditional Wedding Dresses

Below you’ll find an assortment of beautiful Tswana traditional wedding dresses. These wedding dresses can be worn in a variety of different occasions, from very formal weddings to more casual ceremonies. They make up a key part of Tsonga traditional attire.

bridesmaid tsonga traditional wedding dresses
Green & White Wedding Dress
tsonga wedding couple
Tsonga Wedding Couple
tsonga wedding dress
Curvy Tsonga Wedding Dress
wedding dress tsonga
Summer Vibes
Tsonga traditional attire
Tsonga Couple Getting Married
two tone tsonga dress
Purple and Yellow Wedding Dress

Tsonga Ethnography

Let’s explore the Tswana ethnography. This involves taking a deep dive into the people, culture and customs.

Tsonga History

The Tsonga people migrated into and out of South Africa for over a thousand years. They originated from Central and East Africa somewhere between AD 200 and 500.

The Tsonga people first inhabited the coastal regions of northern Mozambique, but they eventually immigrated to South Africa’s Transvaal Province and St Lucia Bay. Their presence in this region is thought to go back as early as the 1300s.

It is commonly accepted that the Tsonga people are one of the three major groups of Southern Africa, alongside the Xhosa and Zulu Nations.

Early written records describe them as a powerful tribe who were ruled by an authority known as The Chief of Vatsonga. This position was held until 1712 when he died. At this point his son The Swati King took power and ruled until 1817.

Before this, Henri Alexandri (HA) Junod released his book titled “The life of a South African Tribe,” which was initially published in two volumes in 1912–1913 and re-released in 1927.

The Tsonga people’s history is characterized by several movements, with the Tembe people establishing themselves in southern Eswatini around the 1350s. The Van’wanati and Vanyayi moved into eastern Limpopo between the late 1400s and 1650s. During the 1800s, several migrations from diverse parts of Mozambique occurred.

Portuguese sailors encountered Tsonga peoples along Mozambique’s coast when they first arrived in the region in 18th century.

The early tribes identified were the Mpfumo, who belong to Rhonga clan of the larger Tsonga (Thonga) people, and the Valenga, Vacopi, Vatonga (Nyembana), Vatshwa, and Vandzawu.

tsonga mothers and children
Mothers and Children

Tsonga Language

The Tsonga people speak Xitsonga, which is one of the national languages of South Africa’s Republic. According to historians, the Xitsonga language developed in the 1500s alongside its predecessor “Thonga,” which was considered to be the main source.

The late 1800s to mid-1900s was when missionary efforts resulted in the Tsonga people’s dialects and language characteristics being studied more effectively. The efforts of Henri Junod and his father helped the Tsonga people rediscover their past history.

It was, however, Paul Berthoud and his companion Ernest Creux who went out of their way to engage with the Tsonga people of the Spelonken region in order to create the first hymn books in Xitsonga at around 1878.

The first translation, however, was provided by a pair of Swiss missionaries without prior knowledge of the Xitsonga language. They relied on native speakers to provide translations since they did not understand the Xitsonga language. Paul Berthoud wrote the first book in the Xitsonga language after putting in enough effort to learn it.

While the Tsonga people were still using Xitsonga, they had begun to learn it and write it. However, long before the Swiss Missionaries arrived, the Tsonga people were well-off in Xitsonga or one of its dialects.

There is evidence to suggest that the “language was already spoken by the primitive inhabitants of the country more than 500 years before the arrival of Swiss missionaries.”

Tsonga Customs


Young teenage girls go to an initiation school run by old Vatsonga women called Khomba. After which they are referred to as tikhomba (khomba- singular, tikhomba- plural).

Young boys go through the Matlala/Ngoma initiation school before becoming men. The initiates of this age group are known as tikhomba (khomba- singular, tikhomba-plural).

This is an initiation school for women who are still virgins. They will be educated further about womanhood, how to conduct themselves as tikhomba in the community, and how to get married.

The Vatsonga people living along the Limpopo River in South Africa have recently attracted a lot of attention for their high-tech, low-fi electronic dance music Xitsonga Traditional. It is otherwise known as Tsonga Disco, electro, and Tsonga ndzhumbha.

The music of the Tsonga people, which is more traditional, was pioneered by General MD Shirinda, Fanny Mpfumo, Matshwa Bemuda, and Thomas Chauke.

Joe Shirimani, Penny Penny, Peta Teanet, and Benny Mayengani are among the artists that have popularized experimental Tsonga genres like as disco and ndzhumbha.

In Europe, the more Westernized form of sound, which includes a lot of English phrases, sampled vocals, and strong synthesizers, is known as Shangaan electro and was pioneered by Nozinja, Tshetsha Boys, and DJ Khwaya.

The Tsonga people are also recognized for numerous traditional dances including the Makhwaya, Xighubu, Mchongolo ,and Xibelani.

tsonga boys initiation

Belief Systems

The Tsonga people, like most Bantu cultures, have a strong respect for their ancestors, who are thought to have a big influence on the lives of their descendants. The title “n’anga” is given to traditional healers.

According to legend, the first Tsonga diviners of the South African lowveld were a woman known as Nkomo We Lwandle (Cow of the Ocean) and a man known as Dunga Manzi (Stirring Waters).

They were allegedly taken by a strong water snake, Nzunzu (Ndhzhundzhu), which supposedly imprisoned them in deep waters.

Nzunzu kept them in a cave for three days, during which time they remained underwater. They lived underwater and breathed like fish after their relatives had slaughtered a cow for Nzunzu.

nNkomo We Lwandle and Dunga Manzi became famous healers and trained hundreds of women and men as diviners after their people were set free.

Symptoms exhibited by the Tsongases, such as chronic aches, infertility, and outbursts of violence, might all be attributed to an extraterrestrial presence in a person’s body.

If a n’anga is called, he or she will go to see one in order to learn the reason for the sickness. They will become a client of a senior diviner who will not only cure the sickness but also call upon and train spirits into becoming future diviners.

The initiates are immersed in water as part of the diviner’s initiation, after which they emerge as diviners.

The spirits bestow the talents of divination and healing on the nganga after he or she has been converted from malevolent to beneficial powers.

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