|12 million (2000)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|11 million (2000)|
| Shona, English |
Second or third language:
|Christianity, African Traditional Religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Lemba, Kalanga, Venda and other Bantu peoples|
The Shona ( // ) are a Bantu ethnic group native to Zimbabwe and neighboring countries. The people are divided into five major clans and adjacent to other groups of very similar culture and languages. This name came into effect in the 19th century due to their skill of disappearing and hiding in caves when attacked. Hence Mzilikazi the great king called them amaShona meaning "those who just disappear." When the white settlers came to Mashonaland, they banned the Shona people from staying near caves and kopjes because of their hiding habits. This explanation is because there is no word called "Shona" in the Shona language vocabulary. There are various interpretations whom to subsume to the Shona proper and whom only to the Shona family.
An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation. Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance.
Zimbabwe, officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The capital and largest city is Harare. A country of roughly 16 million people, Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, with English, Shona, and Ndebele the most commonly used.
The 19th (nineteenth) century was a century that began on January 1, 1801, and ended on December 31, 1900. It is often used interchangeably with the 1800s, though the start and end dates differ by a year.
The Shona people are divided into various tribes in the east regions of Zimbabwe. It is important not to mistake the Bukalanga tribe of Matabeleland as these are a distinct clan of the Lozwi-Moyo Empire. Ethnologue notes that the language of the Bukalanga is mutually intelligible with the main dialects of the Eastern Shona as well as other Bantu languages in central and east of Africa, but counts them separately.
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world. It was first issued in 1951, and is now published annually by SIL International, a U.S.-based, worldwide, Christian non-profit organization. SIL's main purpose is to study, develop and document languages to promote literacy and for religious purposes.
The Nguni people are a group of Bantu peoples who primarily speak Nguni languages and currently reside predominantly in Southern Africa. The Nguni people are Xhosa, Zulu, Mpondo people, Ndebele and Swati people. They predominantly live in South Africa. Swati people live in both South Africa and Eswatini. While Ndebele and Xhosa people live in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the historic Nguni kingdoms of the Xhosa, Zulu, Mpondo, Ndebele, Tsonga and Swazi lie on the present provinces of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga. The most notable of these kingdoms is the Zulu Kingdom, which was ruled by Shaka kaSenzangakhona, a powerful warrior king whose conquest took place in the early nineteenth century. In Zimbabwe, the Ndebele people live primarily in Matebeleland, Bulawayo, and Midlands.
Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966. Since then, they maintain a tradition of stable representative republic, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa since at least 1998. It is currently Africa's oldest continuous democracy.
Ndau is a Bantu language spoken by 1,400,000 people in central Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe. The major varieties in Mozambique are called Shanga and Danda; that in Zimbabwe is simply called Ndau or Ndaundau.
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When the term Shona was invented during the Mfecane in late 19th century, possibly by the Ndebele king Mzilikazi, it was a pejorative for non-Nguni people. On one hand, it is claimed that there was no consciousness of a common identity among the tribes and peoples now forming the Shona of today. On the other hand, the Shona people of Zimbabwe highland always had in common a vivid memory of the ancient kingdoms, often identified with the Monomotapa state. The terms "Karanga"/"Kalanga"/"Kalaka", now the names of special groups, seem to have been used for all Shona before the Mfecane.
Mfecane, also known by the Sesotho name Difaqane or Lifaqane, was a period of widespread chaos and warfare among indigenous ethnic communities in southern Africa during the period between 1815 and about 1840.
Mzilikazi was a Southern African king who founded the Matabele Kingdom (khumalo), Matabeleland, in what became British South Africa Company-ruled Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe. His name means "the great road". He was born the son of Matshobana near Mkuze, Zululand, and died at Ingama, Matabeleland. Many consider him to be the greatest Southern African military leader after the Zulu king Shaka. David Livingstone, in his autobiography, referred to Mzilikazi as the second most impressive leader he encountered on the African continent.
A pejorative is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, showing a lack of respect for someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others. Sometimes, a term may begin as a pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense in some or all contexts.
Dialect groups are important in Shona although there are huge similarities among the dialects. Although 'standard' Shona is spoken throughout Zimbabwe, the dialects not only help to identify which town or village a person is from (e.g. a person who is Manyika would be from Eastern Zimbabwe, i.e. towns like Mutare) but also the ethnic group with which the person identifies. Each Shona dialect is specific to a certain ethnic group, i.e. if one speaks the Manyika dialect, they are from the Manyika group/tribe and observe certain customs and norms specific to their group. As such, if one is Zezuru, they speak the Zezuru dialect and observe those customs and beliefs that are specific to them.
In 1931, during the process of trying to reconcile the dialects into the single standard Shona, Professor Clement Dokeidentified six groups, each with subdivisions:
The above differences in dialects developed during the dispersion of tribes across the country over a long time. The influx of immigrants, into the country from bordering countries, has obviously contributed to the variety.
There are more than ten million people who speak a range of related dialects whose standardized form is also known as Shona. [ citation needed ]
The Shona are traditionally agricultural. Their crops were sorghum (in modern age replaced by maize), yam, beans, bananas (since middle of the first millennium), African groundnuts, and, not before the 16th century, pumpkins. Sorghum and maize are used to prepare the main dish, a thickened porridge called sadza , and the traditional beer, called hwahwa.The Shona also keep cattle and goats, in history partly as transhumant herders. The livestock had a special importance as a food reserve in times of drought.
Already the precolonial Shona states received a great deal of their revenues from the export of mining products, especially gold and copper.
In their traditional homes, called musha, they had (and have) separate round huts for the special functions, such as kitchen and lounging around a yard (ruvanze) cleared from ground vegetation.
The Shona are known for the high quality of their stone sculptures.
Also traditional pottery is of a high level.
Traditional textile production was expensive and of high quality. People preferred to wear skins or imported tissues.
Shona traditional music, in contrast to European tradition but embedded in other African traditions, tends to constant melodies and variable rhythms. The most important instrument besides drums is the mbira. Singing is also important and families would group together and sing traditional songs.
The term Shona is as recent as the 1920s.
The Karanga, from the 11th century, created empires and states on the Zimbabwe plateau. These states include the Great Zimbabwe state (12-16th century), the Torwa State, and the Munhumutapa states, which succeeded the Great Zimbabwe state as well as the Rozwi state, which succeeded the Torwa State, and with the Mutapa state existed into the 19th century. The states were based on kingship with certain dynasties being royals.[ citation needed ]
The major dynasties were the Rozwi of the Moyo (Heart) Totem, the Elephant (of the Mutapa state), and the Hungwe (Fish Eagle) dynasties that ruled from Great Zimbabwe. The Karanga who speak Chikaranga are related to the Kalanga possible through common ancestry, however this is still debatable. These groups had an adelphic succession system (brother succeeds brother) and this after a long time caused a number of civil wars which, after the 16th century, were taken advantage of by the Portuguese. Underneath the king were a number of chiefs who had sub-chiefs and headmen under them.
The kingdoms were destroyed by new groups moving onto the plateau. The Ndebele destroyed the Chaangamire's Lozwi state in the 1830s, and the Portuguese slowly eroded the Mutapa State, which had extended to the coast of Mozambique after the state's success in providing valued exports for the Swahili, Arab and East Asian traders, especially in the mining of gold, known by the pre-colonisation miners as kuchera dyutswa. The British destroyed traditional power in 1890 and colonized the plateau of Rhodesia. In Mozambique, the Portuguese colonial government fought the remnants of the Mutapa state until 1902.
Nowadays, between 60% and 80% of the Shona are Christians. Besides that, traditional beliefs are very vivid among them.The most important features are ancestor-worship (the term is called inappropriate by some authors) and totemism.
According to Shona tradition, the afterlife does not happen in another world like Christian heaven and hell, but as another form of existence in the world here and now. The Shona attitude towards dead ancestors is very similar to that towards living parents and grandparents.
Nevertheless, there is a famous ritual to contact the dead ancestors. It is called Bira ceremony and often lasts all night.
The Shona believe in heaven and have always believed in it. They don't talk about it because they don't know what is there so there is no point. When people die they either go to heaven or they don't. What is seen as ancestor worship is nothing of the sort. When a man died, God (Mwari) was petitioned to tell his people if he was now with Him. They would go into a valley surrounded by mountains on a day when the wind was still.
An offering would be made to Mwari and wood reserved for such occasions would be burnt. If the smoke from the fire went up to heaven the man was with Mwari; if it dissipated then he was not. If he was with Mwari then he would be seen as the new intercessor to Him. There were always three intercessors so the Shona prayed somewhat along these lines:
To our grandfather Tichivara we ask that you pass on our message to our great-grandfather Madzingamhepo so he can pass it on to our great-great-grandfather Mhizhahuru who will in turn pass it to the creator of all, the bringer of rain, the master of all we see, he who sees to our days, the ancient one (these are just examples of the meanings of the names of God. To show respect to him the Shona listed about thirty or so of his names starting with the common and getting to the more complex and or ambiguous ones like...) Nyadenga- the heaven who dwells in heaven, Samatenga- the heavens who dwells in the heavens, our father... Then they would describe what they needed.
His true name, Mwari, was too sacred to be spoken in everyday occasions and was reserved for high ceremonies and the direst of need as it showed Him disrespect to be free with it. As a result, God had many names, all of which would be recognised as His even by people who had never heard the name before. He was considered too holy to just go to straight up, hence the need for ancestral intercessors. With each new one the oldest was let go.
When the missionaries came, they talked about Jesus being the universal intercessor, which made sense as there were conflicts in the society, with some people wanting their so-and-so, who they believed was with God, to be included in intercession. Doing away with ancestral intercessors made sense.
However they made no effort to know how the Shona prayed and violently insisted they drop the other gods (i.e., the different names for God) and keep the high name Mwari. To the Shona this sounded like 'to get to God all you need to do is disrespect him in the most profound way', as leaving out his names in prayer was the highest form of disrespect.
The missionaries would not drink water from the Shona, the first form of hospitality required in the tribe. They would not eat the same food as the Shona, another thing God encouraged.
Added to that, Matopos hill and the land around it was considered the most fertile land in Mashonaland and was reserved for God. John Rhodes took that land as his and chased away the caretakers of the land. People could no longer go there to petition God.
All of which led people to hold on to ancestral intercessors all the more. Jesus was seen as a universal intercessor but as his messengers lacked 'proper manners' it reinforced ancestral intercessors.
The modern form devolved from the original as most ceremonies for God were outlawed, and families were displaced and separated. The only thing left was to hold on to their ancestors. Still if you ask the so-called ancestor "worshippers" about their religion they would tell you they are Christians.
In Zimbabwe, totems (mutupo) have been in use among the Shona people since the initial development of their culture. Totems identify the different clans among the Shona that historically made up the dynasties of their ancient civilization. Today, up to 25 different totems can be identified among the Shona, and similar totems exist among other South African groups, such as the Tswana, Zulu, the Ndebele, and the Herero.
People of the same clan use a common set of totems. Totems are usually animals and body parts. Examples of animals totems include Shiri/Hungwe (Fish Eagle), Mhofu/Mhofu Yemukono/Musiyamwa (Eland), Mbizi/Tembo (Zebra), Shumba (Lion), Mbeva/Hwesa/Katerere (Mouse), Soko (Monkey), Nzou (Elephant), Ngwena (crocodile), and Dziva (Hippo). Examples of body part totems include Gumbo (leg), Moyo (heart), and Bepe (lung). These were further broken down into gender related names. For example, Zebra group would break into Madhuve for the females and Dhuve or Mazvimbakupa for the males. People of the same totem are the descendants of one common ancestor (the founder of that totem) and thus are not allowed to marry or have an intimate relationship. The totems cross regional groupings and therefore provide a wall for development of ethnicism among the Shona groups.
Shona chiefs are required to be able to recite the history of their totem group right from the initial founder before they can be sworn in as chiefs.
The totem system is a severe problem for many orphans, especially for dumped babies.People are afraid of being punished by ghosts, if they violate rules connected with the unknown totem of a foundling. Therefore, it is very difficult to find adoptive parents for such children. And if the foundlings have grown up, they have problems getting married.
The identification by totem has very important ramifications at traditional ceremonies such as the burial ceremony. A person with a different totem cannot initiate burial of the deceased. A person of the same totem, even when coming from a different tribe, can initiate burial of the deceased. For example, a Ndebele of the Mpofu totem can initiate burial of a Shona of the Mhofu totem and that is perfectly acceptable in Shona tradition. But a Shona of a different totem cannot perform the ritual functions required to initiate burial of the deceased.
If a person initiates the burial of a person of a different totem, he runs the risk of paying a fine to the family of the deceased. Such fines traditionally were paid with cattle or goats but nowadays substantial amounts of money can be asked for. If they bury their dead family members, they would come back at some point to cleanse the stone of the burial. if someone bets his or her parents he would suffer after death of the parents due to their spirit.
Shona (chiShona) is the most widely spoken Bantu language as a first language and is native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. The term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Central Shona varieties: Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika and, Korekore and Budya. Based on Clement Doke's 1931 report, Union Shona or Standard Shona was developed from the Central Shona varieties. Because of the presence of the capital city in the Zezuru region, that variety has come to dominate in Standard Shona.
The Kingdom of Mutapa – sometimes referred to as the Mutapa Empire, Mwenemutapa, – was a Kalanga kingdom which was centered in the Zambezi valley in what are the modern states of northern Zimbabwe, north western Mozambique and south eastern Zambia. King Mwene Mutapa and his people are believed to be related to the Mwene kingdoms of Zambia, see Bemba and Mbunda, they moved to the Zambezi valley from the north. However written history is only known from their contact with the Kalanga and the Portuguese. When Great Zimbabwe collapsed mostly probably due to succession battles and attacks from the Portuguese, some BakaLanga went west, led by Dlembeu and established Khami. Some went north. Here on the Zambezi valley they found the Zezuru of the Mwene Mutapa kingdom which was already weakened by Portuguese incursions and they overran it. Continued attacks by the Portuguese and Arab traders forced the Kalanga to abandon this state and move back south. They found their relatives at Khami and a fight broke out. Khami was burnt but they later found peace and ruled side by side at Nalatale and Danangombe. They were later conquered by the Ngunis. However, the exact location of the capital of this kingdom is not known even up to today.
Manicaland is a province in eastern Zimbabwe. After Harare Province, it is the country's second-most populous province, with a population of 1.75 million, as of the 2012 census. After Harare and Bulawayo provinces, it is Zimbabwe's third-most densely populated province. Manicaland was one of five original provinces established in Southern Rhodesia in the early colonial period. The province is divided into ten administrative subdivisions of seven rural districts and three towns/councils, including the provincial capital, Mutare. The name Manicaland is derived from the province's largest ethnic group, the Manyika, a Shona subgroup who speak a distinct Shona dialect, Manyika.
Masvingo is a province in southeastern Zimbabwe. It has a population of 1.485 million as of the 2012 census, ranking fifth out of Zimbabwe's ten provinces. Established as Victoria Province by the British South Africa Company, it was one of the five original provinces of Southern Rhodesia. In 1982, two years after Zimbabwean independence, it was renamed Masvingo Province. The Great Zimbabwe national monuments, a world heritage site are located in the northern part of the province near Masvingo City. The province is divided into seven districts, including Masvingo District, which contains the provincial capital Masvingo City.
Manyika is a Shona language largely spoken by the Manyika people in the eastern part of Zimbabwe and across the border in Mozambique. It includes dialects ChiBocha, ChiUngwe, and ChiManyika, from which the broad Manyika language gets its name.
Kalanga, or TjiKalanga, is a Bantu language spoken by the Kalanga people in Botswana and Zimbabwe. It has an extensive phoneme inventory, which includes palatalised, velarised, aspirated and breathy-voiced consonants, as well as whistled sibilants.
The Manyika tribe are a Shona people with its own dialect, Manyika. The majority of Manyika comes from the eastern region of Zimbabwe. The dialect is widely spoken in Manicaland Province and in certain areas of Manica Province in neighbouring Mozambique. The Manyica dialect varies from region to region in Manicaland. Those from Nyanga, Nyamaropa, Nyatate and surrounding regions have a different tone and shaping of words compared to those from the Buhera and Bocha areas. There are inherent cultural norms in each of the sub-regions inhabited by the Manyika.
The Ndau are an ethnic group which inhabits the Zambezi valley, in central Mozambique all the way to the coast, in central Malawi, and eastern Zimbabwe, south of Chipinge and Chimanimani. The Ndau people identify with a lion as their totem. The name "Ndau" itself means "lion" in the Ndau and Shona languages. The three largest Ndau groups are the Magova; the Mashanga; the Vatomboti, and the Madanda.
Balobedu(BaLodzwi/Bathobolo) is a southern African tribe and an ethnic group of the Northern Sotho group. They were initially known as BaKwebo .The name "bolobedu" means place of tribute, go loba/lobela. Hence BaLobedu are people who receive tribute from others.They have their own kingdom, the Balobedu Kingdom, within the Limpopo Province of South Africa with a female ruler, the Rain Queen Modjadji.
Gokomere is a place in Zimbabwe, sixteen kilometers from Masvingo known for its rock art dating from 300 to 650 AD.
Mberengwa is a district in Midlands province in Zimbabwe. The district is now divided into sub-districts: Mberengwa North, East, West and South. It is bounded by Gwanda in Mberengwa west, and by Zvishavane in its northern zone, to the south it stretches to Neshuro, Chikombedzi and bounded by Manyuchi dam.
The pre-colonial history of Zimbabwe lasted until the British government granted colonial status to Southern Rhodesia in 1923.
Many languages are spoken, or historically have been spoken, in Zimbabwe. Since the adoption of its 2013 Constitution, Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, namely Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa. The country's main languages are Shona, spoken by roughly 70% of the population, and Ndebele, spoken by roughly 20%. English is the country's lingua franca, used in government and business and as the main medium of instruction in schools. English is the first language of most white Zimbabweans, and is the second language of a majority of black Zimbabweans. Historically, a minority of white Zimbabweans spoke Afrikaans, Greek, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese, among other languages, while Gujarati and Hindi could be found amongst the country's Indian population. Deaf Zimbabweans commonly use one of several varieties of Zimbabwean Sign Language, with some using American Sign Language. Zimbabwean language data is based on estimates, as Zimbabwe has never conducted a census that enumerated people by language.
The Kalanga, or BakaLanga, are a southern Bantu ethnic group mainly inhabiting Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, with smaller numbers in northeastern Botswana, Gaza Province in Mozambique, and Limpopo Province in South Africa.
White people first came to the region in southern Africa today called Zimbabwe in the sixteenth century, when Portuguese colonials ventured inland from Mozambique and attacked the Kingdom of Mutapa, which then controlled an area roughly equivalent to eastern Zimbabwe and western Mozambique. Portuguese influence over Mutapa endured for about two centuries before fading away during the 1690s and early-1700s (decade). During the year of 1685, French Huguenots emigrated to present-day South Africa and whilst some settled there, others moved further north into the continent. Those who did, settled within modern-day Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana, and co-existed with the indigenous people; most of whom, in Zimbabwe, were the Naletale people.
The Shona languages are a clade of Bantu languages coded Zone S.10 in Guthrie's classification. According to Nurse & Philippson (2003), the languages form a valid node. They are:
Mthwakazi is the traditional name of the proto-Ndebele and Ndebele kingdom that existed until the end of the 19th century within the area of today's Zimbabwe. Mthwakazi is widely used to refer to inhabitants of Matebeleland and Midlands provinces in Zimbabwe.
Christianity is one of the major religions practiced in Zimbabwe. The arrival of Christianity dates back to the 14th century by missionaries such as Robert Moffat of the London Missionary Society (LMS). Christianity is embraced by the majority of the population. It is estimated 85 percent of Zimbabweans claim to be Christians, with approximately 62 percent regularly attending church services. Christian faith plays a very important role in the organization of our society; the bible is regarded as the only source of hope and truth. It is highly esteemed and its writings considered sacred.
Mwari is the Supreme Creator in the shona contextual meaning Shona including the Kalanga. Mwari refers to the supreme Deity who created all things and it is believed that he is the author of all things and all life and all is in him. The same is applied and also referred to as Inkhosi in Northern and Southern Ndebele, and it is this deity that is worshiped in the traditional religion known as African Traditional Religion wereby people worshiped through the ancestors via Spirit Mediums who were believed to be inspired by the spirits of truth which were believed to connect to the deity to deliver messages and divine guidance. The majority of this Deity's followers are concentrated in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Mwari is an omnipotent being, who rules over spirits and is the Supreme God of the religion.