There are two versions of Ndebele in South Africa, they both belong to the Nguni group of Bantu Languages. The Northern Ndebele or Nrebele and the Southern Ndebele otherwise known as Amandebele. There is also a separate language called Ndebele (spoken primarily in Zimbabwe, but also in Botswana - see Matabele.)
The first group of Ndebele speakers are found in the Limpopo Province (formerly Northern Transvaal or Northern Province) of South Africa around the Towns of Mokopane (Potgietersrus) and Polokwane (Pietersburg). Unfortunately this language was never taken seriously, so it was never taught at school and neither did anyone sit down and compile a proper orthography. The language is sometimes mistakenly grouped under the Northern Sotho group of dialects. This language is becoming extinct. The new generation mostly speaks Northern Sotho.
One of the Ndebele people's famous achievements is that they caught the Afrikaners by surprise and killed one of their leaders Piet Potgieter. The Afrikaners built a monument and called it "Moorddrift". As revenge the Ndebele King was killed in his cave refuge, together with a few of his followers.
This group is sometimes called BaTlou. If this language were to be further grouped it would be grouped with Swazi, because of their use of the root ti- as opposed to izi- for example:
The second group of Ndebele speakers is found in the Mpumalanga and Gauteng Province of South Africa. This group's language was not taken seriously, and for years the children were taught Zulu instead. They were lucky because the apartheid government created a Bantustan for them called Kwandebele, and with this came the radio station, Radio Ndebele. In the new South Africa the name of the station was changed to Ikhwekhwezi, meaning Star. This station has funnily enough expanded its footprint to include the Northern Ndebele region. The language luckily still retains most of its flavour with a few Northern Sotho and Afrikaans words trickling in.
The Ndebele people have recently become famous for their colourful wall paintings and traditional garb. Their paintings are used for instance to attract tourists and were used to decorate tails of 15 British Airways jets as part of their ethnic art relaunch.
The Zimbabwean Ndebele is closer to Zulu than it is to the two South African Ndebele languages.
If Ndebele insists on his tireless propagation of a type of literary tradition in South Africa, he must clearly see that literature is so wide and varied that to try and confine it to a particular tradition for whatever reason, would be like trying to confine the wind to a particular direction.
Ndebele evokes the sense of the writer's accountability to the majority African population, even if, as he acknowledges, the writing itself lands up in most cases in the hands of a white liberal readership.
Ndebele's boy protagonists in these stories celebrate victory by defiance, endurance, and fulfilment — the boy refuses to play the violin, he takes an unauthorized, risky run in the rain, he is disobedient, and he sheds all belief in the supernatural.
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