Sepedi – A Fascinating Language and People

Also known as Northern Sotho or “Sesotho sa Laboa”, Sepedi is spoken by more than 4.2 million people and is proudly, one of the official languages in South Africa. Generally, Sepedi is spoken in the Gauteng, Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga areas, but is also spoken in neighboring Botswana. Sepedi is a so called Bantu language, belonging to the language family of the Niger-Congo, which is most closely related to Setswana and Sesotho.

The Sepedi people have their own unique and fascinating traditions. Among the most interesting, is their wedding ceremony. The families of the bride and groom get together to discuss Lebola. This is where the bride’s family requests items, livestock or money in exchange for their daughter. And no request is frowned upon. They could ask for sheep, clothing, televisions or even a case of whiskey! Sepedi weddings do not have a church ceremony, it is held at either the bride or grooms’ family home. The bride starts to work even on her big day. She is required to collect wood and water from a river, all in her wedding dress. Her dress is called a Dintepa, which is made from the hide of a cow. The groom however, is permitted to wear a suit. After the bride has completed her tasks, and is finally ready for her big moment where she walks towards her groom, one of the grandmothers clears her way, so to speak, by sweeping in front of the bride as she walks.

The Sepedi ceremony is concluded by the slaughter of a cow or sheep, of which the meat is divided equally between both families. And no wedding should be without song and dance. Sepedi has its own traditional music, namely Kiba. Unfortunately ladies, only men are permitted to partake in dancing to Kiba music.

For any visitors traveling in Sepedi territory, here are a few phrases to assist you! The general Sepedi greeting for hello is “Dumela” and to say good-bye, you would say “Gabotse”. To inquire, How are you?, use “O kae”, and if you are asked the same in return, simply rely “Ke Gona” to say I am fine. If you are offered items to buy, you can use “ee” (yes) and “aowa” (no) to accept or decline a purchase. But the most important question to remember, “Ke bokae”, meaning How much is this?

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