Ntombhi Ya Mutsonga
Celebrating one’s heritage important and vital because it keeps our traditions alive, fosters unity, and instils pride in our identity
Masingita Shibambu is a dynamic young praise poet with an unwavering passion for preserving her Xitsonga language and culture.
Tell us about yourself.
I am Masingita Shibambu, but my stage name is Ntombhi Ya Mutsonga. I am a 23-year-old praise poet and author from Matiyani village in Malamulele, in the Collins Chabane Local Municipality, Limpopo.
What interested you in praise singing and why is it important to you?
Praise singing has always been a part of my heritage, and it’s a powerful way to preserve our traditions and connect with our roots. It’s my way of celebrating our identity and unity as South Africans.
You recently performed at the Brics Summit 2023 — what was that experience like?
It was remarkable. It allowed me to showcase our linguistic diversity on a global stage and promote our heritage to world leaders.
You are an author. How did that come about?
I ventured into writing to bridge the gap between tradition and contemporary society. My poetry book XEWANI is a testament to this mission, guiding individuals to embrace modernity while staying rooted in their cultural heritage. XEWANI has an assortment of day-to-day reflections [and] confronts cultural, social, and economic issues.
Why is celebrating one’s heritage important?
It is vital because it keeps our traditions alive, fosters unity, and instils pride in our identity. It’s about preserving the essence of who we are as a people.
What else do you do?
I’m also a founder of the Ntombhi Ya Mutsonga Foundation, where I promote linguistic excellence and honour language champions. Additionally, I’m exploring a career in broadcasting, where I am leveraging my BA in media. I did this degree at the University of Limpopo and completed a project management course at the University of Cape Town.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Ushering in President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation Address in 2020. It was a profound testament to my influence and significance. I’ve published my first book, and my second book will launch in November.
I have also won awards — at the South African Traditional Music Awards in 2021 and 2022 as the best traditional praise singer, and at the Limpopo Music Awards in 2021. Through my foundation, I hosted the first annual Indigenous Language Champ Awards on 16 June this year. For this, we had 50 learners participating in spelling bees, reading, and poetry. Moreover, we honoured one of Xitsonga’s living legends, HW Makhubele [A Xitsonga singer].
What challenges do you face in your career?
One is ensuring that indigenous languages and cultural traditions are preserved and embraced in a rapidly changing world. There is also the need to expand my foundation’s reach into more marginalised communities.
People think that you can’t embrace your identity when you are young, they set limitations on how far you can go and [what you can] do in terms of contributing to heritage preservation, but I am grateful to those who support the vision and rally behind me throughout. Moreover, people don’t like to read. It’s heartbreaking to hear a Xitsonga-speaking person tell you that they won’t support your book because they claim that they cannot read Xitsonga.
People pride themselves in not knowing who they are and so it becomes discouraging when you try to remind them and close the identity gaps [and your] efforts are not appreciated.
However, I tell myself that I cannot change everyone — just one person at a time.
What plans do you have for the future?
I have a lot of ambitions. I want to build my brand on a global scale, publish even more books, and one day establish a media and publishing house.
I have big aspirations to venture into broadcasting as a presenter or newsreader and to expand the reach of the Ntombhi Ya Mutsonga Foundation to assist more marginalised communities with reading materials and talent platforms.