Saluting our Sotho heritage

Zandile Mbabela

A SPONTANEOUS trip by a young couple from Bloemfontein in search of greener pastures in Port Elizabeth almost 80 years ago paved the way for the descending of a Sesotho family, who has since formed part of the Friendly City’s landscape.

Having always had a penchant for the finer things, the Headbush patriarch, James, then 21, and his headstrong Tswana wife, Peggy, 19, hopped into their luxury Ford vehicle and headed for the windy city in 1938.

They made their first home in the “mix masala” region of Sidwell – a place where black, coloured, Chinese and Indian folk could live together before being grouped into specific areas.

The couple, now late, moved to New Brighton when it was first established in the early 1940s, where they raised their children, Justice, Dipuo “Talks”, Matule “Mark”, Dorcas, Freedom and Sello.

That was to become the prominent Headbush family, who have over the decades provided the Bay with an array of services – from the famous funeral parlour to a number of service stations – becoming ‘pioneers’ in the Bay in their black-owned family business.

One could say the family’s heritage and culture is deeply etched in their business accounting books, as the only ancestral ceremonies performed were the initiations of boys into manhood.

However, as youngsters, the Headbush children, who have since become grandparents themselves, would accompany their parents to Kwazakhele’s Woolfson Stadium during cultural days, where they would watch their mother doing traditional Sotho and Tswana dancing.

The Headbushs’ second eldest son, Mark, recalls how his son was circumcised according to Sotho custom at thirteen years of age in Lesotho. However, back home in Port Elizabeth, when the young man’s Xhosa friends were about to undergo their initiation at sixteen, the teenager wanted to “go again”. His father had to arrange with the traditional surgeon to ‘pretend’ he was performing the ‘snip’.

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