Xhosa: Ngqash!


New Member
Hello all,

I'm translating the subtitles of a South African film into Turkish, working from an English script. However, the exclamation "Ngqash!" is not translated, and I can't really deduce what it means just by watching the movie. (During an initiation ceremony, the elders call on an initiate a few times; and each time, he replies by this exclamation, until he finally appears before the old men).

I'd love to learn what it means or, at least, in which occasion it is used. Thanks!
  • Ghabi

    AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod
    Hello localmaximum and welcome to the forum. Could you provide the name of the movie, and the time when the word is used, so our interested colleagues may go to take a look at it, within the bigger context? Thanks!


    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    It looks like we will have no further context from the OP, pity.

    In the context of the film “The wound” here is what I have managed to discover:
    The novelist Thando Mgqolozana lifted the veil on Xhosa initiation – a brave, taboo-busting move – recreating the world of a victim of botched circumcision.
    The story tracks a closeted relationship between two men in the context of the Xhosa initiation ritual.
    Elsewhere, a Xhosa immigrant, here in Europe, tells me how he learnt the word(s) NGQASH! (And GQEZIYA!) He says -
    These are words used only by Xhosa initiates. They have no English translation nor are they ever used outside that space. They are never known or used by anyone who is never undergone initiation.
    They are both exclamation words that rejection and repugnant act or statements or affirm (respectively).
    So no direct translation to English is forthcoming, but at least we are a little closer understanding of the word’s true meaning. My understanding of this last quote: one of those words, rejects all things boyhood/non-Xhosa (unsure which) and the other affirms manhood/Xhosa appartenance; being uninitiated, I cannot say which of the two is implied. Only the specific context of the film would allow us decide if it is the word for rejection or that of affirmation.

    These words are secret to the Xhosa and so perhaps best left untranslated, out of respect for their traditions.
    Last edited:


    New Member
    Thank you all for your input. I'm sorry I haven't been able to reply to your questions. The movie is, indeed, The Wound. Even if I could have replied sooner, however, I couldn't have provided any other details, because the expression is used only in the scene I described in my original post. Yet the explanation given by L'irlandais makes perfect sense and the suggestion to leave the expression untranslated is very apt (especially, considering the movie, as a whole, deals with themes of manhood and tradition). It's a shame I won't be able to share this rather elaborate explanation with the viewers of the film.

    Once again, I apologize for my late reply and thank you all (and your Xhosa acquaintant, L'irlandais).


    New Member
    Hello. I have a problem with the same movie. There is a phrase: "Sayishiya ekitshini apho angazuyifumana khona". Somebody could tell me, what it means?
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