NofinishiMrs Nofinishi Dywili was born in Ngqoko village in Lady Frere where she led a normal life as a resident of a remote Xhosa village. She married at the age of 23 and had six daughters and a son with her husband Qongqothwane Dywili. Her name Nofinishi was given to her by her father-in-law after paying her Lobola (bride price). Nofinishi’s husband was the last-born son at his home, his father having paid lobola for the last time was relieved that at last he was ‘finished’ paying bride price for his sons.

Culturally it is the right of the father-in-law to give a new name to the bride and as such, he named her Nofinishi. Like many wives in the rural Eastern Cape, Nofinishi worked on maize and sorghum fields in order to take care of her family while her husband worked in the mines in Johannesburg. He later left the mines to join his wife to work in the fields.

Nofinishi learnt to play uHadi from an early age by observing and imitating other bow players. Her musical skill and knowledge of traditional lore, especially regarding the traditional education of young women, gave her leadership roles in the village. She was recognised for her comprehensive knowledge of traditions and customs and she played an important role in the training of girls and young women as they prepare for marriage.

Nofinishi’s musical ingenuity is eminent in her mastery of rhythm, as well as her practical knowledge for all the highly sophisticated style elements of traditional Thembu[1] music. Her songs proved her to be a music leader of her community and a transmitter of Xhosa lore and culture – as depicted in her unique song writing.

Nofinishi’s songs have been brought back to life from the International Library of African Music (ILAM) by many bow players including the Bow Project in 2002, which aimed to encourage South African composers to engage with traditional music as a compositional resource. Bow players like Madosini, Dizu Plaatjies, Sazi Dlamini and many others have also reinterpreted and reimagined uHadi  songs of Nofinishi. Her contribution to this music pioneered a trend in ethnomusicological research in Bow music. Many academics would study her music to discover indigenous bow instruments’ virtuosity.

Nofinishi’s Inxembula performed by Mthwakazi band can be found on Youtube.


[1] AbaThembu is nation of people found in the Eastern Cape. In the 19th century the Thembu had an independent kingdom. The clan name of their kings is Madiba. One of the most famous persons from the Thembu clan was Nelson Mandela.