Vital cultural insight for true communication and heritage preservation


I grew up watching Musangwe, a traditional Venda fist fighting sport for men. I never took part and was content to be a spectator – no one was obliged to take part. Some people participated out of peer pressure, others to gain respect, and others for the love of the sport.

Musangwe starts in December until the end of the holiday season in the first or second week of January. If you were a respected Musangwe fighter, your relatives and friends would not be bullied. They just needed to mention your name to fend off enemies. A Musangwe fight could also be stirred up by an incident outside Musangwe, but would not continue past Musangwe. Fighting outside Musangwe might get you arrested, but in Musangwe you fight without such worries.

It’s a legal traditional sport where participants consent and quit when they’ve had enough, so people also take the opportunity to settle personal scores. A fight lasts as long as the participants can endure each other, and you don’t defeat a man when he’s down or after he surrenders.

A guy ahead in the fight might go first. To surrender, all you have to do is raise your hand and the fight is over. When you surrender after receiving more big hits, your impatient opponent will not be amused as they would like to keep fighting. But once someone raises their hand, even after 30 seconds of fighting, the fight is over and you can claim victory with your blues. This is the risk you take when you participate.

There is no prize so not everyone intends to win. Someone could land a punch and call it a day. Yes, it’s a cowardly gesture but you know what? He landed it and you can never undermine it again because you would know he can land a vicious one. Such cowardly acts of punching and surrendering are condemned and frowned upon, but not prohibited.

After the Musangwe season, people would have a new respect for the guys they previously undermined and would also lose fear for the guys they once feared based on their respective performance in Musangwe. During fighting season, if you lose badly to someone, those who feared you before will also want to challenge you – right after your defeat, because you’ve just been exposed as a bad fighter. If you declined the challenge, your challenger has become a superior fighter to you even though you have never fought him.

It is also through our own voices that our stories can be told with sincerity, respect and authenticity.

You might also fear someone based on the type of fighters who decline their challenge. The fact that some respected fighters refuse to fight him means he is a vicious fighter. Women were prevented from attending Musangwe to protect the dignity of participants. You don’t want to hear your wife say “I will call Lufunoduring a family argument after she saw me hit you in Musangwe. Suddenly, you are no longer enough man at home.

Banning women also meant preventing them from interfering in fights involving their loved ones. When men interfere is when they are ready to fight for whom they would defend, which is permitted, but the opponent has no obligation to accept the challenge. He might refuse to fight you. Even the men who frequented Musangwe did not tell the women about it, and the women knew it was a man’s sport and did not ask who won or lost. A similar honor applied to what happened in the mountain initiation schools, it was never discussed with women – and also what happened in the women’s initiation schools n was ever discussed with men. This was part of our values ​​and preserved everyone’s dignity.

If a non-Venda person tells the story of Musangwe, they will miss this cultural context and its nuances, and might portray the tradition as barbaric, seeing it blindly from the outside. But the lack of cultural context doesn’t seem to stop people from telling stories they know little about. They insist on telling them because they have the platform to do so, ending up diluting and distorting other people’s cultures.

Culture cannot be preserved; it must be embraced with pride. Without proper documentation and membership, your culture could eventually cease to exist, turning you into an outsider in your own country.

At the heart of cultural misrepresentation is the lack of transformation in the communications industry. The BANA (Black Agencies Network Association) was recently invited to present a brief to the Commission on Human Rights on discrimination in the advertising industry. We were happy to participate and hope that our contribution will be taken seriously.

Whether intentional or not, the lack of cultural understanding of the people you engage with or talk to always carries a risk of offending them. Beyond offense, we also know that the media plays a key role when it comes to influencing behavior. The media is the voice of the country and if that voice does not represent the demographics of the country, your identity will necessarily be diluted.

BANA’s core mandate is to advocate for transformation and inclusivity within the advertising and communications industry, and to establish an enabling and sustainable business environment for Black communications professionals. It is also through our own voices that our stories can be told with sincerity, respect and authenticity.

Lufuno Makungo is a founding member of the Black Agencies Network Association. He is an account management consultant and founder of Ngano Media.

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