/euhn deuh bee"lee/, n., pl. Ndebeles, (esp. collectively) Ndebele for 1.
1. Also called Matabele. a member of a Nguni people of the Transvaal and Zimbabwe.
2. the Bantu language of these people.

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Bantu-speaking people who live primarily around the city of Bulawayo, Zimb.

, but also in Botswana. They originated early in the 19th century as an offshoot of the Nguni of Natal, moving first to Basutoland (now Lesotho) and ultimately to Matabeleland (Zimbabwe). Under Lobengula they grew in power but were defeated by the British in 1893. Today they are a farming and herding people numbering more than 1.5 million. They differ from the Ndebele of South Africa, whose women are known worldwide for their elaborate beadwork and the strong geometric designs they paint on the walls of their houses.

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▪ South African people
also called  Transvaal Ndebele, 

      any of several Bantu-speaking African peoples who live primarily in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in South Africa. The Ndebele are ancient offshoots of the main Nguni-speaking peoples and began migrations to the Transvaal region in the 17th century.

      The main group of Transvaal Ndebele traces its ancestry to Musi, or Msi, who, with his followers, diverged from a small group of Nguni people migrating down the southeastern coast of Africa and eventually settled in the Transvaal at the site of modern Pretoria. The descendants of Musi's people were joined in the 18th and 19th centuries by Nguni people fleeing from the wars of Dingiswayo and Shaka in Natal. The Transvaal Ndebele survived the Zulu raids by hiding in the bush. As a result, however, they were geographically divided into separate groups.

      Like most Nguni peoples, all the Transvaal Ndebele groups resided in hamlets and relied on animal husbandry and the cultivation of corn (maize), millet, beans, sweet potatoes, and various other crops. Polygyny was permitted, and descent, succession, and inheritance followed the male line.

      The Ndebele women continue their tradition of creating elaborate beadwork of all sorts and of painting the walls of their homes (both interior and exterior) with strong, brightly coloured geometric designs. Although the modern Ndebele have retained many of their unique customs, urbanization has affected their traditional culture patterns. Many Ndebele men are now employed in towns or mines, and many others are forced to leave their families for extended periods in search of work.

      In 1979 many of the Transvaal Ndebele were resettled in KwaNdebele, a Bantustan (homeland) which became part of Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) province in 1994. Other Transvaal Ndebele were included in the Bantustan of Lebowa (now in Limpopo province).

▪ Zimbabwean people
also called  Ndebele of Zimbabwe,  or  Ndebele Proper,  formerly  Matabele 

      Bantu-speaking people of southwestern Zimbabwe who now live primarily around the city of Bulawayo. They originated early in the 19th century as an offshoot of the Nguni of Natal.

       Mzilikazi, an Nguni military commander under Shaka, king of the Zulu, came into conflict with Shaka and in 1823 was forced to flee, migrating with his followers first to Basutoland (now Lesotho) and then north to the Marico Valley. In 1837, after his further defeat at the hands of the European settlers of the Transvaal (South African Republic), he moved northward, ultimately (c. 1840) settling in Matabeleland (Zimbabwe), where his successor, Lobengula, extended the tribe's power, absorbing Sotho, Shona, and other extraneous tribal elements. The establishment of the British South Africa Company (1890) led to further conflict with colonists, and the Matabele (as they were then known) were defeated in a war in 1893, after which they were administered by the company in separate districts.

      The short-lived Matabele state became stratified into a superior class (Zansi), composed of peoples of Nguni origin; an intermediate class (Enhla), comprising people of Sotho origin; and a lower class (Lozwi, or Holi), derived from the original inhabitants. Men of all classes were organized into age groups that served as fighting units. The men of a regiment, after marriage, continued to live in their fortified regimental village.

      Contemporary Ndebele reside in hamlets of dispersed family homesteads called kraals (kraal). A circle of houses for a husband and his wives and children surrounds the cattle corral. A husband will allocate land and livestock to his wives; the eldest son of the first wife is the principal heir and inherits this property. Ndebele also practice the custom of levirate, in which men are obligated to support the wives and children of their deceased brothers.

      Corn (maize) is the staple crop of the Ndebele. Cattle are kept for milk, as a source of prestige, and for use in bridewealth payments and other exchanges. Men do all of the herding and milking and also hunt, while women do most of the farming.

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Universalium. 2010.

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