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Mourning period continues in South Africa: Body of Winnie Mandela prepared in Xhosa tradition

in Africa & the Diaspora by

Cleansing and purification rituals from the Xhosa tradition were performed throughout the day by healers and family members of Winnie Madizikela-Mandela.


The body of the anti-Apartheid hero was taken from the morgue then her casket, carried by male kin was paraded onto the streets in front of thousands.

Those lined up to see one of the most prominent modern-matriarchs of post-colonial Africa sang freedom songs and traditional melodies to wish Madizikela-Mandela off. The mood was somber as Madizikela-Mandela’s funeral rites in her South African Bantu heritage begins.

At times, there was complete silence that marked a Xhosa custom in which the living remain quiet so that the dead can deliver their messages to the ancestors.

The burial rites of the Xhosa center the spirit of the deaceased to peacefully return back into the realm in which they came — the world of the ancestors. Today’s customs consisted of killing an ox then eating it cooked in pots of boiling water without spices in a ritual called “umkhapo” to bring the soul back home.

Tonight, a vigil over her body will held.

Afterwards, the family of Madizikela-Mandela will wait for up to 6 months to a year to perform burial rituals to ensure that the her soul returns back to the spirit realm of the ancestors. After this time, it is believe that the deceased has fully become an ancestor.

Tomorrow, Madizikela-Mandela will be buried in Fourways Memorial Park.

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