The name supposedly refers to one of their legendary chieftains of old. They refer to themselves as the amaXhosa and their language is known as isiXhosa — another prefix-oriented Bantu language. As their Bantu-speaking ancestors moved south, they may have absorbed some local Khoisan and Griqua populations, with a consequent impact on the language.
Although they are distributed across the country, they are concentrated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Under the pre_1994 South African system of bantustans, they were allocated to Transkei or Ciskei, now both a part of Eastern Cape.
Historically they were pushed west by expansion of the Zulus, as the northern Nguni put pressure on the southern Nguni, a process known as the Mfecane. Their ability to resist the British colonisers was weakened by the famines and political divisions that followed in the wake of the Cattle_Killing of 1856–1857 (see Nongqawuse).
The ox-head is also a specific reference to the Xhosa prophet Ntsikana (died 1820), who preached an indigenous form of Christianity to the amaXhosa in the first two decades of the 19th century.
The name amaXhosa belongs, strictly speaking, to the nation which regards itself as being descended from an eponymous ancestor called Xhosa: the amaGcaleka of Transkei, and the amaRharhabe of Ciskei (who are further divided into a number of smaller groups).
The amaXhosa who live west of the Kei first settled their lands about the time of Jan van Riebeeck’s foundation of the settlement at the Cape.
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