Meet the Pedi of South Africa

When my Tk went to South Africa a few months ago, she sent a postcard and a note card. Both took a really long time to arrive— almost one month and two months respectively. Though Tk was a little frustrated, they were worth the wait. The Mandela quote has a place on my inspiration board, and I learned about the Pedi People. Wouldn’t you like to know a little about them too?

Here’s the mini history of the Pedi People printed on the back of the card:

Two groups of Sotho-speakers migrated into South Africa from North Africa in about 1400 A.D. Both groups had totems or mascots that they held in veneration. One group called themselves baFokeng and settled on the edge of the Kalahari Desert (Botswana). The other group were skilled metal workers and called themselves baRolong, settling in the Northern Province but soon splintered into different groups as a result of infighting. The splinter group which settled along the beautiful Soutpansberg Mountains (neighboring the Venda) became known as the Pedi deriving their name from the Karanga people (the Wambedzi) whom they conquered. BaPedi is the Sotho-Tswana from of the name Wambedzi.

The Pedi dominated large parts of present Mpumalanga and Northern Province until attacked by the Matabele under the rule of Mzilikazi. Under Apartheid, a homeland was established for the Pedi, known as Lebowa, which has subsequently been incorporated into the Northern Province of South Africa.

The card is gorgeous, but I’m sharing it because the long timeline of the Pedi demonstrates that the continent of Africa has many peoples with complex histories and diverse contributions to art, culture, and history.

The beautiful 6×6 card features the work of South African artist Barbara Tyrrell (1912-2015), represented exclusively by Asher House in association with Pretoria University.

17 thoughts on “Meet the Pedi of South Africa

  1. Ellen Hawley says:

    Thanks for this. I’d never heard of the Pedi.

    Have you see Henry Louis Gates’s Africa’s Great Civilizations? It doesn’t cover the Pedi but it introduced me to a history I knew next to nothing about. As far as my history textbooks were concerned, Africa came into existence with the start of the slave trade. And pretty much dropped out of existence when it ended.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chandra Lynn says:

      Your last couple of sentences was the original ending for this post, but I decided to keep it “positive.” I’ve seen bits of the Gates series and used in the classroom where appropriate. African Lit is one of my areas of specialization, so my students get quite a bit of the history.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Filosopete says:

      Even in South Africa, the name is lesser known but the BaTswana, BaSotho Lebowa and BaSotho Borwa are what people realise, being part of the Pedi. Lebowa means “north” and Borwa means “south.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Filosopete says:

      Africa existed well before the slave trade and certainly didn’t die when slavery was abolished. Slaves were caught by African chiefs, in the most brutal ways, then sold to mainly Arabic slave traders but also European. About 320,000 African slaves were taken to the USA, while 1.25 million white slaves were raided from Europe and enslaved in North Africa from the 1600’s – 1800’s.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. shail says:

    If I had read your post before today I wouldn’t have known anything about the Pedi of South Africa. But I am fresh from reading Trevor Noah’s book ‘Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood’ and so the title of your post immediately rang a bell. Glad to read more about the Pedi. The pictures are lovely too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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