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Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival 2019 aiming to boost rural economy, cultural tourism and promote unity in a diversity of cultures

26 June 2019

By Stella Sigcau

Ntabankulu which is the Mountainous part of the Mpondo Kingdom surrounded by the mighty Mzimvumbu River will once again become colourful and a centre of attraction during the second weekend (13th -15th) of September 2019 receiving guests from various walks of life attending the famous and historic Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival. Over 20 000 people are expected to attend this event which will be held at Lwandlolubomvu Great Place, Matshona Village, Ntabankulu. September month called Umphanda in the Mpondo language is of significance in the Mpondo history as it was apparently the first month of the New Year in ancient times.

The Festival was launched in 2006 to commemorate the liberation activist, Senior Traditional Leader, Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau, who was the head of the Lwandlolubomvu Traditional Council in Ntabankulu and to share and promote Mpondo culture, heritage, language and history.

Ntabankulu which is a cultural hub and home to the Mpondo Festival has a rich history which encompasses liberation heritage and is an environmental haven which has a lot to offer to tourists and guests including but not limited to hiking in Mqikela Mountain, swimming and fishing in Mzimvubu River, picnics and watching beautiful sunsets at Ntabankulu Dam, exploring Ntabankulu forest, visits to the historic Xukula Bushman caves and graves.

The Xukula Bushmen Graves at Bathweni Village in Ntabankulu, date back to the 1880s. During times of drought, locals apparently assembled at the grave of the prominent Bushman Ngwevana Mhlatyana who had special powers to pray for the rain and performed certain rituals. It is said that within hours of this traditional ceremony, rain will fall.

Another tourist attraction is the Lalashe Horseshoe which is a magnicent bend (horseshoe) in the Mzimvubu River, which cuts through the natural landscape and is earmarked for being a nature conservation area in Ntabankulu. Discussions are in the pipeline in this regard to also boost environmental tourism as well as the green economy.  The festival contributes to environmental tourism and cultural tourism which is said to be one of the cornerstones of the tourism industry and exposes guests to experiencing and learning about rich Mpondo culture, language, heritage, traditions and history. It promotes intercultural interactions, contributes to social cohesion and boosts the hospitality sector. It also seeks to attract investment in the Mpondo Kingdom on the blue and green economies, agriculture, maritime heritage, environmental and cultural tourism as well as on indigenous knowledge systems to contribute to rural development in the Mpondo Kingdom, Eastern Cape province economy and a better life in South Africa whilst tackling the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality which are quite evident within the Kingdom of amaMpondo.

Guests at the festival will be treated to Mpondo cuisine and hospitality and experience the culture through also lodging at the village homesteads that will be prepared to receive guests. This will also boost rural economy and empower locals. Amampondo are known for their humorous personalities often referred to as Mpondo humour, are friendly and hospitable people with ubuntu grounded in their traditions and cultural values. They take pride in their cultural identity and land, hence the term “Mpondo pride”. During this event amaMpondo dress up in their colourful and distinct Mpondo traditional outfits accessorised with colourful beadwork. The festival will showcase the distinctive features of the Mpondo culture including the dances, clothing, art and craft, beadworks, pottery, weaving, Mpondo comedy, poetry/ praise singing, horse parades, traditional music and rhythmic traditional chants. It brings the Mpondo nation together and promotes unity in a diversity of cultures as the event is multicultural in nature and attracts diverse guests and tourists from various parts of South Africa, within the continent and across the oceans.

Preceding this festival is the Mpondo Reed Dance which attracts young maidens from all over the Kingdom as well as SMME and Agriculture produce exhibitions and arts and craft expo. The maiden group that performs the traditional dance the best receives the Ndlunkulu Nombethe Award.

The 13th of September which is the youth cultural day will mark the official opening of the Festival followed by the Mayor’s Gala Dinner with relevant stakeholders including potential investors. Conferring of awards to deserving personalities will form part of the main event on the 14th of September. Recipients include Reverend Tiyo Soga posthumously for the King Sigcau Bravery Award; Nkosikazi Nosandi Mhlauli, Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders for the Queen MaSarhili Award; Celebrated Imbongi/ praise singer Jessica Mbangeni for the Queen Majali Award, young achiever, legal expert, academic and prominent and progressive leader in the corporate world Dr Yondela Ndema for the Queen Mamjoli Award; Granddaughter of the late King Sobhuza, niece to King Mswati of eSwatini Kingdom and daughter of Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini, Princess Celentle to be awarded the Princess Stella Sigcau II Award for   her inspiring role in youth and cultural development. Nkosi Jongilanga Award will be conferred to local traditional groups/ artists and Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau Memorial Award to deserving personalities.

Local traditional groups and artists are expected to perform as well as artists from the African continent including Casper the Golden Voice and Kamvuthu Traditional Group from the Republic of Botswana. The 15th September is the day of the regiments (imini yamabutho/ iindlavini) where regiments from various parts of the Mpondo Kingdom will be performing their traditional dances. The event will also include the official identification of the land set aside for the Mpondo cultural village, library and museum to also contribute to cultural tourism and preservation of Mpondo culture, history and heritage. Stalls for exhibitions will be availed. Participatants include, local painters, traditional clothing and beading  for example Heritage Inceptions, hand painted clothing by Zam Creations to mention a few.

Preparations are underway by various stakeholders including the communities as well as the co-hosts the Ntabankulu Municipality, Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau Foundation and Lwandlolubomvu Traditional Council to ensure that the festival is a great success and contributes to local economy, encourages sustainable development of the Kingdom including empowerment of women and youth as well as attract investment to contribute to a better life, rural development and evokes a sense of pride whilst promoting unity in a diversity of cultures.




February/March 2020


















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