Home > Culture > 5 Tsonga Taboos You Should Know

5 Tsonga Taboos You Should Know

We’ve always heard sayings such as “it is impolite to speak with your mouth full” or “never eat off a knife when having a meal,” these are taboos and are predominantly English. Do you know of taboos from other places or people around the world such as Tsonga people?

According to yourdictionary.com, the word taboo refers to “an activity that is forbidden or sacred based on religious beliefs or morals. Breaking a taboo is extremely objectionable in society as a whole. Around the world, an act may be taboo in one culture and not in another.” While English people would say “it is taboo,” Tsonga people say “swa yila” when they try to prohibit you from doing something morally and socially wrong. Growing up, the elderly would warn young people not to do certain things and it was always without an explanation. Also, as a young person, you were not allowed to ask questions such as “why” or “what will happen” because you would be seen as disrespectful. Below are at least five Tsonga taboos and the lessons they carry around them:

Tsonga Taboo: Swa yila ku tshama ehenhla ka drie foot

Translation: It is taboo to sit on top of a three-legged potjie pot stand

Lesson: Avoid getting hurt. You might sit on top of it one day only to realise it is still hot from the fire and then it burns you.


Tsonga Taboo: Swa yila ku tikhoma tinhlaya.

Translation: It is taboo to put a hand on your face.

Lesson: Putting a hand on your may mean you’re bored around the people you’re with therefore this taught us proper body language.


Tsonga Taboo: Swa yila ku wanuna a mbala xidloko endzeni ka yindlu

Translation: It is taboo for a man to wear a hat inside a house.

Lesson: It is a show of respect.


Tsonga Taboo: Swa yila yima enyagweni.

Translation: It is taboo to stand by the door.

Lesson: Don’t block the door in order to make way for other people to pass.


Tsonga Taboo: Swa yila ku rhwala mavoko enhlokweni.

Translation: It is taboo to place both your hands on top of your head.

Lesson: Placing hands on top of your head in most African cultures represents an agony that one is going through after tragedy has fallen in someone’s home therefore, it was a way to stop the one from giving other people false messages. Also, it is just not comfortable for your body.

RELATED: Top 6 Things You Might’ve Heard About Tsonga People

Do you know any Tsonga taboos? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter  then tag @shangazine, don’t forget to put #TsongaTaboos

Image: Calabash.co.za

Share Our Stories

Hlulani Masingi

Hlulani Masingi, also known as Hlulz; is a young, vibrant and witty black South African Tsonga woman with a solid education and seven years media experience. She graduated at the University of the Witwatersrand with a Bachelors Degree in Media Studies and English Literature and Honours Degree in Media Studies and is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in African Languages and Linguistics in the Media at the same institution.

Born in Johannesburg and raised at ka-Mhinga, an underpriviledged village in Limpopo, Hlulani is a determined individual and regardless of her impoverished background, she has a variety of interests that include PR, Communications, Marketing and Events, her passion is Creative Writing. She has always had a strong thirst for knowledge and could already write the word ‘mother’ in her home language at the age of four. She started her first year of varsity at the age of 16. After working as an Online Editor from 2014 until 2017, Hlulani Masingi founded Shangazine – an online title focused on celebrating Xitsonga people’s traditional and contemporary lifestyle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *