Though the smaller Ndebele population is often overshadowed by the larger Shona population when it comes to Zimbabwe, the Ndebele people's presence stretches far into the countries of South Africa, Zim, and Botswana. I recently had the amazing joy of sharing a few pieces of my Zimbabwean Shona and Ndebele experience with a local kindergarten learning about Africa. I had no problem filling all the time I could get with pictures and stories. But the teacher had requested I bring in a few craft ideas for my time, as well... and suddenly I was stumped.
The arts and crafts presence of the Shona Zimbabwean tends toward beaded necklaces made from drilled seeds, carved wooden objects, imported fabric sales, and soapstone and metal sculptures... not extremely colorful, and not exactly what I should be doing with the average kindergartner! Then I remembered Ndebele Dolls: These unique dolls are colorful and unique treasures just like their makers, the Northern and Southern Ndebele people.
While dating, it is traditional for a Ndebele suitor to place a doll outside of a young woman's home to indicate his intention to marry her. The young woman names and cares for a Ndebele doll while preparing to marry, then names her firstborn after the doll. These dolls are now found exported all over the world, and serve as a huge source of income for some Ndebele people.
My Ndebele doll is one of my favorite colorful finds from my time in Africa. You can see why!