Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Venda Python Dance (information & videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides brief information about the Venda people of Southern Africa. This post also provides information and features selected YouTube videos of the traditional python dance which is performed by the Venda people of Southern Africa.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and aesthetic purposes. A portion of this post was published on my pancocojams to show the similarities between the python line formation and the probate entrance marches that are common to historically Black (African American) Greek lettered sororities. Click for that post.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

With considerable regret, I have disabled the comment feature on this blog (and on my other blogs except for, because of the large number of spam comments that I received on those blogs.

Comments for those blogs can be sent to my email address azizip17 dot com at yahoo dot com for possible inclusion in a specific post on those blogs.

From [hereafter given as Wikipedia- Venda]
"The Venda (Vhavhenda or Vhavgona) are a Southern African people living mostly near the South African-Zimbabwean border. When the bantustan of Venda received nominal independence in 1973, their population stood at 200 000.[citation needed] In 1996, there were 600 000 Venda speakers.[citation needed] The 2001 census revealed that there were 800 000 Venda speakers in South Africa, while the 2011 census indicated 3.5 million speakers of the language in South Africa..."

From Wikipedia - Venda:
"The Domba is a pre-marital initiation, the last one in the life of a Venda girl or boy. The chief or sovereign will 'call' a domba and preparations are made by the families for their girls to be ready and to prepare what’s necessary to attend the ceremony (entry fees for the ruler, clothes and bangles).

Historically girls used to stay with the chief for the whole duration (3 months to 3 years) of the initiation; nowadays because of schooling, girls only spend weekends at the ruler’s kraal.

This rite of passage was attended by both girls and boys after each individual had previously attended other separated initiations dedicated to one’s gender; Vhusha and Tshikanda for girls and Murundu for boys (the circumcision done during this rite has been introduced by Vhalemba). Since the missionaries decided that mixing males and females in the same ceremony was immoral...

Various rituals are particular to the Venda and certain aspects are kept secret and not discussed with westerners, however, it is known that the python dance, conducted at the female coming of age ceremony (iconic to the Limpopo region) is usually where the chief chooses a wife...

Girls and boys dance fluidly, like a snake, to the beat of a drum, while forming a chain by holding the forearm of the person in front. Once a wife has been chosen a set of courtship and grooming rituals take place over a number of days.-snip-
To clarify, female and males perform the python dance separately.

Additional comments about the python dance that is performed at the Domba are found below the video that is given as "Video #1" in this post.

Two of the YouTube videos of that dance (given here as Videos #1 & #2) show the female in the front of the line with one or both of her hands held out to suggest a snake's head. The faces of the females in the line are expressionless and their eyes are closed. Each woman behind the woman at the head of the line lays her head on the back of the woman in front of them. The impression I got from the dance that the woman were very tired and were slowly walking forward in their sleep. Occassionaly, the right arms and then the left arms of the entire group rhythmically undulate in a synchronized manner as the group slowly proceeds across the floor.

Judging from current YouTube videos of historically Black Greek lettered sororities the line formation described above but without the undulating arms appears to be used rather often as the entrance procession for most Black Greek lettered sorority probates. Although I'm not certain of this, the sorority that least often appears to use this locked arms, very close contact formation for its probates is Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The names of the other three historically Black Greek lettered sororities are given in the video section below.

I've not reviewed many videos of the five historically Black Greek lettered fraternities to determine if each of those organizations have a similar close contact formation for their probates or their other members. However, I came across this video of a similar formation by members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc:". In this video the men stand very close together with locked arms and without moving away from their spot. The first man in line doesn't fold his hands in a triangle position, and the men after the first person in line don't lay their head on the person in front of them.

Video #1: Domba

bigbluemeanie, Uploaded on Nov 9, 2006

The famous Domba initiation dance of the Venda tribe of Southern Africa
Here are two comments from this video's viewer comment thread:
filato22, 2010
you can say that again its more zululized than venda. proudly venda
bigbluemeanie, 2012
..."Domba was the third and final phase in Venda girls' initiation, which should have been attended after a girl had been to vhusha and tshikanda. It took place every three to five years at the head-quarters of chiefs and certain senior headman, and lasted for about one year. Its importance to the Venda was marked by the use of the bass drum (ngoma), which was also used in tshikona, the Venda national dance. There were a number of special rites and shows associated with domba…

Video #2: UMOJA - The Spirit of Togetherness Part 2

Mrbobodigital, Uploaded on Mar 23, 2011
The Domba dance is from 2:17 to 3:50 of this video.

The description of this dance given as a subtitle in this video is "initiation dance for young women when they reach womenhood".

Video #3: Domba La Africa

dombalaafrica, Uploaded on Feb 26, 2010

Traditional Dance Group based in Soweto. Founded by the Late Co-founder of the Soweto Gospel Choir and Musical Director David Mulovhedzi
The Domba dance is performed in this video from .53 to 1:01 and the video ends with a still photograph of that dance.

Video #4: venda dance

nkosiafrika, Uploaded on May 13, 2010

great va venda mothers proudly dance @a wddng in soweto south africa

Here are links to two other traditional Venda dances:

Venda women perform Malende traditional dance

Tshikona traditional Venda dance

Note: These links aren't meant to imply that these are the only other traditional Venda dances.

Thanks to all those featured in these videos. My thanks also to the producers of these videos and their publishers on YouTube.

Thanks for visiting zumalayah.

Zumalayah showcases videos of dances & singing games done in circles or in lines, and other movement performance arts from African American culture, from African cultures, and from other cultures of the African Diaspora.

Visitor commentsa are welcome.

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