Wednesday, 29 June 2011

ABC Wednesday X is for Xhosa

The Xhosa or Frontier Wars took place intermittently between 1779 and 1879 and were fought between the Xhosa people, who farmed crops and cattle in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and the Cape Colonists. There were nine wars in all, centring on the requirement of an increasing number of immigrant Europeans to find good farming land.

The Cape was annexed by the British in 1806. Settlers complained about Xhosa raids and British expeditions were sent to impose law and order. Eventually, the British dominated the area, which led to conflicts with the Boers and other settlers as well as the Xhosa people.

The Fourth War, from 1811 – 1812, was the first to involve professional British soldiers. By this time the Boers and the British occupied the East and the Xhosa were in the West. Between the two locations lay an area of neutral territory called the Zuurfeld, but the Xhosa had moved to control this land in 1811, causing trouble with the colonists. Colonel John Graham was tasked to eject the Xhosa from this area.

The site of Colonel Graham’s headquarters formed the foundation of the town now known as Grahamstown (Grahamstad in Afrikaans)

In 1857 a Xhosa prophet told his people of a prophecy that said that if all the cattle were slaughtered, as a sacrifice, the British would be deposed. This action brought about widespread starvation and ended the ability of the Xhosa to resist for twenty years.
At the end of the nine wars the remaining Xhosa lands were absorbed into the Cape Colony. 

There are currently around eight million Xhosa in South Africa and Xhosa is the second most common native language after Zulu, though many Xhosa also speak Zulu, English or Afrikaans. The language uses ‘click’ consonants as shown in the YouTube clip below.
Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Desmond Tutu are three famous Xhosa.

Click here to see more Xs.


  1. I can't click! At least not well.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. Fascinating! I feel like I should have known at least some of this but I didn't so thanks!

  3. Never heard of this conflict or these peoples, at least not the Xhosa name. Sounds like the problems that arose in the United States with the American Indians and with other settlers throughout the world. It's a topic for an interesting and lively debate.

    Tossing It Out

  4. Wow! They fought for 100 years every now and then.

  5. How interesting!

    And I just spent 20 minutes on YouTube listening to Xhosa (and now I know how THAT's pronounced!) speech.

    Humans are fascinating...


  6. Thank you! I knew the name - now I know more!

  7. Fascinating language, so unusual to English-speaking ears.

  8. War is always ugly. I enjoy the read, but always saddened by the tragedy that accompanies war.

  9. Jabblog, thank you for the education on the history and language of the Xhosa. I always find colonial history very distressing.
    ABC Wednesday Team

  10. Wow. Really cool post and wonderful background. I also love how you relate it to today with Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela.

  11. Xhosa is an amazing language - informative as ever Professor!

  12. I saw Xhosa in your post title and thought 'Xhosa, rings a bell, not sure what or who', so I popped over here to follow your lecture. And then you told us about the Xhosa people, and I thought: 'Oh yes, aren't they the ones with the clicking language?'. Lo and behold, they are. Sometimes I amaze myself ;-)

    Thank your for another informative post. I can't believe they killed all their animals. Actually, I can't believe a lot of things people do because someone wrote it down ages ago or because someone tells them to.

    Anyway, Xhosa is an amazing language ;-)

  13. A truly fascinating article that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I love history, and you worked the letter X into it beautifully. Well done!

    Miskmask's Letter X poem


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