The Xhosa people lend a fascinating spiritual and cultural facet to South African culture. The language - famous for its multitude of 'click' sounds - also holds an esteemed place in South African history, with political heavyweights such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Thabo Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Govan Mbeki all speakers.
The Xhosa are part of the southern Nguni migration, which moved south from the region around the Great Lakes. The name Xhosa refers to a specific tribal leader, uXhosa, from whom the Xhosa clan descend.
Historically viewed as an 'open' society because of its readiness to learn from, trade and interact with other groups, the Xhosa culture incorporated and sometimes completely absorbed entire Khoi and Griqua cultural groups. This has resulted in the inclusion of a variety of consonantal 'click' sounds, which have been borrowed from now extinct Khoisan languages of the region.
Traditional Xhosa culture includes diviners, who serve as herbalists, prophets and healers for the community.
A key figure in the Xhosa oral tradition is the imbongi or praise singer. Traditionally a praise singer lives close to the chief and accompanies him on important occasions.
Praise singer Zolani Mkiva preceded Nelson Mandela at his Presidential inauguration in 1994.