Venda Cuisine - African Food of South Africa

The Ba Venda are a Southern African people that are categorised under the Bantu umbrella. They were originally from the central parts of the continent, but migrated towards the south in search of arable land and better living conditions. These folk lived off the produce of the land and the provisions that their livestock provided. Therefore, once the land had given of itself, they moved on. Their first formal South African settlement was in the beautiful Soutpansberg Mountains.

Did you know? The Ba Venda refuse to include crocodile in their diet as they believe that the brain of this animal contains a deadly poison.

This lifestyle meant that the Venda tribes relied on what grew successfully to form the basis of their traditional cuisine. While this is a combination of grains and vegetables, maize is, without a doubt, the main ingredient of the Venda cuisine. Maize porridge is a common item on the Venda menu. It can be eaten plain, prepared like pancakes, or mixed with spinach and meat as a type of stew. Fortunately, the province of Limpopo is a lush and abundant one, yielding a plentiful variety of crops.

The baobab and marula trees both grow in the Limpopo region and contribute to the cuisine of the resident Venda tribes. Milk dishes are infused with the tart baobab flesh to give them a flavour distinctly Venda. The acidic quality ferments and thickens the milk. The bark of the marula tree is ground and eaten by pregnant Venda women, based on the belief that the ‘gender’ of the tree (female trees produce fruit) will determine the gender of the unborn baby. The marula fruit is delicious and healthy too, and can be fermented for an intoxicating beverage.

Mopane worms are favoured by the Venda people. These worms can be eaten dried or cooked and are extremely nutritious. These caterpillars are high in protein and iodine. Once picked, they are pinched at the tail end to rupture them, and then squeezed along the length of their bodies to expel the contents of their guts. To preserve them, they are either dried in the sun or smoked.

Tins of worms in brine can be found in some rural shops and supermarkets. They are either eaten plain, as a snack, or they can be rehydrated and cooked with tomatoes, onions and spices. Their flavour has been described as being similar to chicken as well as to bone marrow.

Beans, nuts and groundnuts are freely available in Limpopo and, thus, also form a significant part of the local cuisine. The nutty flavours that these impart are extremely popular amongst visitors too, who soon cultivate quite an appetite for this traditional cooking.

Common fruits in this culture include avocado pears, oranges, mangoes and apricots. Interestingly, the Venda people do not eat pork. This is due to the fact that the Lemba (an ancient tribe with Jewish roots) joined the Venda when they entered Africa during the first century of our Common Era. This culture retains some of their beliefs and customs from this time.

The Venda culture makes extensive use of food as part of their ancestor worship. Water spirits are given food as sacrificial offerings as it is believed that these spirits are unable to cultivate fruit or vegetables due to their being confined to a watery world, for example. Therefore, learning about their cuisine is an integral part of understanding the society as a whole.

Also See


Venda Language

Venda is also known as Luvenda or Tshivenda, and originated from the Bantu language. Interestingly, it is also related to Niger and Congo languages. It is one of the 11 official South African languages. Well over 650 000 of Tshivenda speakers live in the ...

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