31 May 2007

The Rozvi Empire

The Rozvi empire was established on the Zimbabwean Plateau in the 1600s.

In 1693 the Portuguese were defeated by the Rozwi. Modern scholars think they were led by Changamire Dombo, whose power was based in Butua in the southwest. The Rozwi were formed from several Shona states that dominated the plateau of present-day Zimbabwe at the time. The Portuguese were driven off the central plateau and only retained a nominal presence at one of the fairs in the eastern highlands. The whole of present-day Zimbabwe was brought under the control of Changamire and became known as the Rozwi Empire. This fierce tribe of warriors was to be known as the Rozvi people and after driving the Portuguese out of the area, went on to establish the Rozvi Empire.

The Rozvi were not a recovering segment of the Mutapa people as other historical sources point out, but in fact a people emerging under the wing of the Mutapa After the administrative power of the Mutapa was failing to control the whole empire a leader of the people of Guruuswa who was given the title Changamire, who was known as Dombo became independent from the Mutapa and when the Portuguese took over, led rebellions against the European rule. The area of the Rozwi empire fluctuated. Its influence extended over much of present-day Zimbabwe and westward into Botswana and southward into northeastern South Africa.

NOTE: Dombo, contrary to tales, was not born Chikura Wadyembeu, the latter being a different leader from a different people.

Technology, Economy and Culture

The Rozwi chiefs revived the tradition of building in stone and constructed impressive cities throughout the southwest. Polychrome pottery was also emblematic of its culture. The economic power of the Rozwi Empire was based on cattle wealth and farming with significant gold mining continued. Trade was established with Arab traders where metals such as gold and copper and ivory were exchanged for luxury goods. Records from the Portuguese account have shown that the Rozvi were expert military strategists and that they had used the cow-horn formation years before the great Zulu leader Shaka had. Without the use of guns and cannons, but spears and bows and arrows, the aggressive Rozvi took over the plateau.

Politics and Decline
The Rozvi, unlike the Mutapa, did not much rely on the intervention of spirit mediums to decide the monarch, but rather wealth and acclaim or, in many cases, succession. This system caused problems, as some people disagreed with the successors and after nearly two hundred years of total rule over the region, the empire was starting to decline. In the 1790s the whole southern African region began to experience a prolonged series of droughts. They weakened the Rozwi Empire, which allowed local chiefs and spirit mediums to begin seizing power. The gold fairs functioned only intermittently. Internal feuding also weakened the empire. In the early 19th century, the period of regional warfare and forced migrations known as the mfecane began. Following victories by the Zulu king Shaka in what is now eastern South Africa, the Ndwandwe, a Nguni-speaking people, were forcibly dispersed, and armed bands led by Ndebele chiefs migrated northward, invading the Rozwi Empire. The empire was devastated by the Ndwandwe armies of Nxaba and Zwangendaba. In the early 1830s the last Rozwi ruler was killed in his capital of Khame. Zimbabwe came under control of Ndebele chief Lobengula in 1834.

Today, the Rozvi descendants are those of the family Moyondizvo. Among the Moyondizvo family there are families like Mutendi, Chiminya and Gumunyu now stationed in Gokwe. Chiminya could have been derived from " Chimininyambo or Kandeya II, who ruled between 1828 and 1830.

Mutapa Empire

The Empire of Great Zimbabwe (also called Munhu mu tapa, Mwene Mutapa, Manhumutapa, Monomotapa, Mutapa, all meaning "Ravager of the Lands") was a medieval kingdom (c. 1450-1629) which used to stretch between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers of Southern Africa in the modern states of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Its capital city was the Great Zimbabwe.

The empire is thought to have been established by the Rozvi whose descendants include the modern-day Shona people. African folklore has it that this polity was preceded and loosely based on the empire of "the strange ones", reported to have had white skins, red hair and green eyes. The founder of the ruling dynasty was Mbire, a semimythical potentate active in the 14th century. Great Zimbabwe reached its zenith around the 1440s on the virtue of its brisk trade in gold conducted with Arabs via the seaport of Sofala south of the Zambezi delta. The fabrics of Gujarat were traded for gold along the coast.

By the beginning of the 16th century, the pressures from European and Arab traders began to change the balance of power in the region. Mbire's purported great-great-grandson Nyatsimba was the first ruler to assume the title of the "Ravager of the Lands", which became hereditary among his descendants. It was he who moved the capital from Great Zimbabwe to Mount Fura by the Zambezi.

The Portuguese began their attempts to subdue the Shona state as early as 1505 (when they took hold of Sofala) but were confined to the coast for many years until 1613. In the meantime, the Monomotapa Empire was torn apart by rival factions, and the gold from the rivers they controlled was exhausted. The trade in gold was replaced by a trade in slaves. Around this time the Arab states of Zanzibar and Kilwa became prominent powers by providing slaves for Arabia, Persia and India.

The empire was further weakened by the Zulus' migration down to their present location in South Africa from an area north of the Zambezi river which they had left because of a plague complicated by a severe drought. It was finally conquered in 1629 by the Portuguese and never recovered. Remnants of the government established another Mutapa kingdom in Mozambique sometimes called Karanga. The Karanga kings styled themselves the Mambo and reigned in the region until 1902.

The Mwenes or Monomatapa of the first Mutapa state:
  • Nyatsimba Mutota (c. 1430–c. 1450)
  • Matope Nyanhehwe Nebedza (c. 1450–c. 1480)
  • Mavura Maobwe (1480)
  • Mukombero Nyahuma (1480–c. 1490)
  • Changamire (1490–1494)
  • Kakuyo Komunyaka (1494–c. 1530)
  • Neshangwe Munembire (c. 1530–c. 1550)
  • Chivere Nyasoro (c. 1550–1560)
  • Chisamhuru Negomo Mupuzangutu (1560–1589)
  • Gatsi Rusere (1589–1623)
  • Nyambo Kapararidze (1623–1629)
  • Chimbwanda Matombo (1634-1698)

The Mwenes of the second Mutapa state:
  • Kangara II (1803 - 1804)
  • Mutiwapangome (1804 - 1806)
  • Mutiwaora (1806)
  • Chipfumba (1806 - 1807)
  • Nyasoro (1807 - 1828)
  • Cimininyambo or Kandeya II (1828 - 1830)
  • Dzeka (1830 - 1849)
  • Kataruza (1849 - 1868)
  • Kandeya III (1868-1870)
  • Dzuda (1870-1887)
  • Chioko Dambamupute (1887-1902)


The mbira is a musical instrument consisting of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. It is often fitted into a deze that functions as a resonator. Mbira performances are usually accompanied by hosho. Among the Shona there are three that are very popular.

Mbira dzavadzimu is often played at mapira (religious ceremonies and social gatherings). The traditional mbira dzavadzimu is usually made up of 22 keys on three different registers, two on the left and one on the right.

The mbira dzavadzimu is constructed from 22 to 28 strips of cold or hot forged metal of varying lengths affixed to a hardwood gwariva or soundboard. The gwariva has a hole in the bottom right corner through which the little finger of the right hand is placed while playing, allowing the right thumb and index finger to pluck the high notes from above and below the keys.

There are usually several bottle caps, shells or other objects affixed to the soundboard (known as machachara) which create a buzzing sound when the instrument is played. This sound is known to attract the ancestral spirits

The keys are arranged in three rows, two on the left and one on the right. The bottom-left row contains the bass keys, the top-left row the middle-range keys and the right row a combination of the secondary bass keys and the high keys.

Religious and social significance
The Mbira Dzavadzimu is very significant in Shona religion and culture, the national instrument of Zimbabwe, and is sacred.

With an enduring history of over 1,500 years, it has been traditionally played at both religious ceremonies and social gatherings, most often when communication with the ancestor spirits is desired or when necessary within the royal Shona Courts. However, the use of Mbira has diversified in modern times. In the ancient days songs for guidance, success in the hunt or battle, or for healing, were prevalent whilst today, one can listen to "new compositions" about love or politics.

Shona Songs

* Karigamombe - means "undefeatable"
* Mahororo - named after a small river in Zimbabwe, used to welcome hunters home after long hunts
* Nyamaropa - literally means "meat and blood" and is considered among the oldest of mbira music. and mig the first piece composed for the instrument. Although it may have originally been a song to prepare for battle, it is now considered a hunting song.
* Nhemamusasa - A musasa is a shelter hunters would build while away from their homes. Like nyamaropa this song was also once associated with war, but is now used as a hunting song.
* Kuzanga - Chartwell Dutiro explains that the title means "to thread beads," and states it is a "song about an old woman who stays in the forest alone, making beads for her ancestors. For the old woman, making beads for the ancestors is living happily and free from fear."
* Taireva - it expresses the importance of what is on your mind, and listening to your elders and is also a derivation of nyamaropa
* Vadzimu - This is a version of nyamaropa played by the contemporary Shona musician Fabio Chivhanda. Also known more generically as "Nyamaropa yaChivhanda"
* Bangidza or Bangiza - is understood to be a very ancient spiritual song and is reported to date back to the 14th-16th century, during the time of Mwenemutapa.
* Marenje - a song typically played on the gandanga (mavembe) tuning of the mbira (as is Ngozi ye Muroora).

The Shona People

The Shona are a cluster of peoples who have lived for about 2,000 years in a region of the southern Africa Plateau that includes most of Zimbabwe and parts of Mozambique.

There have been many civilisations in Zimbabwe as is shown by the ancient stone structures at Khami, Great Zimbabwe and Dhlo-Dhlo. The archaeological ruins known as Great Zimbabwe have been radio carbon dated to approximately 600 A.D. Historic findings seems to point to the fact that the ancestors of modern day Shona people built Great Zimbabwe and hundreds of other stone walled sites in Zimbabwe. Bantu-speaking farmers, either Khoisan settlers or Iron Age migrants from the north, were the first occupants of the Great Zimbabwe site in the south of the country. Between 500 and 1000AD, the Gokomere (a Bantu group) enslaved and absorbed San groups in the area.

As early as the 11th century, some foundations and stonework were in place at Great Zimbabwe and the settlement, generally regarded as the burgeoning Shona society.

The Shona believe in veneration of spirits. There is a line of thought that suggests that the Shona people are descendants from one group of families, that was ruled by one paramount Chief. This line of thought would justify the fact that such Shona High spirits as Chaminuka, Kaguvi and Nehanda command unquestionable authority over all Shona tribes. It is this that could have enabled the Shona risings of 1896 - 1897. Before the risings there where a number of mhondoro in the then Rhodesia but none had the authority to co-ordinate the various Shona tribes against the European settlers. The Shona people as they are today are a fragmented horde of tribes with very tenuous bonds of unity between them.

Most Shona people identify with a particular clan rather than with the Shona group as a whole, and most Shona communities contain a mixture of clans. The Shona consisted and still consist to this day of two distinct families – the original Bantu occupants of the country and the conquerors – each which has split up into a multiplicity of tribes.
The original Shona occupants of Zimbabwe are all embodied under the umbrella name Hungwe. The conquerors of the Hungwe fall under the blanket name Mbire. It is believed that it was the Mbire who were the founders of the Mutapa Empire as well as the Rozvi Empire which was destroyed by the various Nguni tribes that passed through the land of Zimbabwe during the Mfecane, namely the Ndebele tribe, who now occupy southwest Zimbabwe, and the Shangane tribe in the southeast of Zimbabwe. The Hungwe settled in Zimbabwe for probably two to three hundred years before the Mbire arrived.

Its important to note that the difference between the present day Mbire (which refers to the Marondera – Wedza district and the people whose mutupo is Soko), and the 1500 A.D. Mbire. In about 1500 A.D. the term referred to all the members of the invading family which took over the land from the Hungwe. The Mbire took over the land of Zimbabwe around somewhere between 1000 and 1050 AD. Their invasion from across the Zambezi river marked the beginning of the dynasty of the Mbire empire which is commonly known as the Mutapa Empire. The Mutapa Empire or Mbire Empire covered most parts of present day Zimbabwe. The empire incorporated most of the whole of Mozambique, south of the Zambezi river and north of the Sabi river down to the sea. Some of the present day South African tribes are known to have been segmented from the Shona (the best known ones are the Venda and Lovendu). The expansion of Mbire Empire included the following Shona tribes: Barwe, Manyika, Ndau, Korekore, Shangwe, and Guruuswa.

The Mwanamutapa (Monomatapa) were the first major civilisation to become established in Zimbabwe. The Mwanamutapa empire, headed by a ruler of the same name, was founded about 1420 among the Karanga people and was centered at Great Zimbabwe. By the mid 1440's, the empire included almost all of the Zimbabwean plateau and extensive parts of what is now Mozambique. The empire was ruled in pyramidal fashion, with the Mwanamutapa appointing regionally based vassals. The wealth of this empire was based on small-scale industries, for example iron smelting, textiles, gold and copper, along with agriculture. At the height of Mwanamutapa state, it
was part of a gold trade network that extended as far as China.

In about 1490 the empire split into two parts — the Changamire in the south (including Great Zimbabwe) and the Mwanamutapa in the north. The latter stretched from the Indian Ocean in the east to present-day central Zambia in the west and from central Zimbabwe in the south to the Zambezi River in the north. The regular inhabitants of the empire's trading towns were the Arab and Swahili merchants with whom trade was conducted. The empire was an important source of gold and ivory, the area attracted Swahili traders from the east coast of Africa (in modern Tanzania). When the Shirazis founded Sofala (in present-day Mozambique), the Karanga empire acquired an export market for its mining production. The Monomotapa (the Karanga leader) imposed a tributary relation on the neighboring Muslim nation as he had done with other minor cultures of the area. Thus, Karanga supremacy was established over a region including parts of present-day Malawi.

The area around Great Zimbabwe became the trading capital of the wealthiest and most powerful society in south-eastern Africa of its era. The hilltop acropolis at Great Zimbabwe came to serve not only as a fortress but as a shrine for the worship of Mwari, the pre-eminent Shona deity.
In the early 16th century the Portuguese arrived in the form of traders and soldiers from Mozambique, and established contact with the empire. Between 1509 and 1512 António Fernandes traveled inland and visited the Mwanamutapa kingdom, which controlled the region between the Zambezi and Save rivers and was the source of much of the gold exported at Sofala. Soon after, Swahili traders resident in Mwanamutapa began to redirect the kingdom's gold trade away from Portuguese-controlled Sofala and toward more northern ports. Thus, Portugal became interested in directly controlling the interior. In 1531, posts were established inland at Sena and Tete on the Zambezi, and in 1544 a station was founded at Quelimane.

The Mutapa empire started its decline around 1500 AD, power struggles among the Mbire resulted in the fall of the Mutapa state and the founding of the Rozvi Empire in the South West of present day Zimbabwe . Further splits resulted in the fragmentation of these empires, which led to the innumerable autonomous Shona tribes found in present day Zimbabwe.

In 1560 and 1561 Gonçalo da Silveira, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, visited Mwanamutapa, where he quickly made converts, including King Negomo Mupunzagato. However, the Swahili traders who lived there, fearing for their commercial position, persuaded Nogomo to have Silveira murdered. The presence of the Portuguese had a serious impact that affected some of its trade and there had been a series of wars which left the empire so weakened that it entered the 17th century in serious decline. By the mid-17th century the Portuguese controlled Mwanamutapa empire.

By 1690 the Portuguese had been forced off the plateau and much of the land formerly under Mwanamutapa was controlled by the Rozwi. The Shona dynasties fractured into autonomous states, many of which later formed the Rozwi empire. Peace and prosperity reigned over the next two centuries and the centres of Dhlo-Dhlo, Khami, and Great Zimbabwe reached their peaks. The Mwanamutapa citadel and palace were taken over by the Rozwi, whose Changamira extended his control over the mining area. The Rozwi empire did not however succeed in controlling an area as vast as the ancient Karanga had done.

As a result of the mid-19th century turmoil in Transvaal and Natal, the Rozw
i Empire came to an end, this was due to the fact that The Matebeles led by Mzilikazi came and devastated the region. The Rozwi emigrated westwards; cities and farmlands, palaces and irrigation canals were abandoned and grass began to grow over the ancient walls of Great Zimbabwe.

It was not until the late 19th century that the peoples speaking several mutually intelligible languages were united under the Shona name. There are five main language clusters: Zezuru, Korekore, Manyika, Ndau, and Karanga. The last of these groups was largely absorbed by the Matebeles (Ndebele) when they moved into western side of present day Zimbabwe.

History of Zimbabwe

After the decline of Great Zimbabwe, which had begun in the 13th century, the fragmented Shona tribes allied themselves and created the Rozwi state and encompassed over half of present day Zimbabwe. This state lasted until 1834 when it was invaded by Ndebele warriors and came under the rule of Lobengula. Lobengula soon found himself having to deal with Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and signed a contract giving up mineral rights to his land in exchange for guns, ammunition and money. A series of misunderstandings followed this agreement and the Ndebele found themselves fighting the BSAC.

British Settlement and Administration
In 1888, Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mineral rights from local chiefs. Later that year, the area that became
Southern and Northern Rhodesia was proclaimed a British sphere of influence. The British South Africa Company was chartered in 1889, and the settlement of Salisbury (now Harare) was established in 1890.

In 1895, the territory was formally named Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes and it was under the British South Africa Company's administration. In the early 1890's the losing Ndebele allied themselves with the Shona and continued a guerilla war but eventually an agreement was reached to end the fighting.

By 1896, it was apparent to t
he Shona and Ndebele peoples that the Rhodesian government was not interested in their problems, thus the first Chimurenga was begun. Though this resulted in moderate success, it ended only a year later when the leaders were arrested and hanged. During the next 60 years, conflicts between blacks and whites continued. Laws were passed guaranteeing rights to whites and stripping them from blacks. Land was redistributed to whites and working conditions and wages declined. By the late 50's two black political parties, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) had sprung up but just as quickly they were banned and their leaders imprisoned.

In 1964 Ian Smith became prime minister of Rhodesia, replacing Winston Field, and started pressing for independence from Britain. The British imposed strict rules before they would grant independence and they included greater equality for blacks. Since Smith knew the whites would never agree to the conditions, in 1965 he made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). Sanctions imposed by Britain were ignored by most other western countries and the economy of Rhodesia actually improved. Conditions for blacks did not improve however and a resurgence of ZANU & ZAPU guerilla warfare began to strike deeper and deeper. Whites began abandoning their farms. This became known as the second Chimurenga. Smith finally began to realize that something needed to be done. Negotiations between Smith and the black political parties began and broke down. Parties disagreed and fragmented. Years of negotiations continued as did white emigration.

In 1976, Ian Douglas Smith received tremendous international pressure, which he could not ignore, causing him to reach an agreement with the political leaders which would result in majority rule in two years. This resulted in the Internal Settlement of March 3, 1978 and general elections in April 1979 under a new Constitution, which provided 75 seats for blacks and 25 seats for whites in Parliament. All residents of Rhodesia over the age of 18, regardless of race or colour, were enfranchised for this election. Bishop Muzorewa's UANC Party won a majority of the seats reserved for blacks and Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front party won all 25 white reserved seats. The UANC took office in June 1979, and the country was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia.
Although the British Conservative Party, while it was still the official opposition, had said they would recognize a majority government resulting from the Internal Settlement, they reneged on this promise when they came to power.

Instead, they demanded further negotiations, involving all internal and external political parties. The Lancaster House Conference took place in late 1979, at which the British Government, the UANC and the Patriotic Front (ZANU and ZAPU) agreed to participate in new elections, which commenced on 27 February 1980.
Elections took place over three days, from 27 February to 1 March 1980, under the supervision of the British Governor. ZANU Patriotic Front won a majority of seats and Robert Mugabe became Prime Minister. In 1990 ZANU Patriotic Front amended the Lancaster House Constitution and Mugabe was appointed President and the country was renamed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.

Mbuya Nehanda

"My Bones Shall Rise Again”
Living in the Hills around Mazoe, Zimbabwe, were various sub-chiefs including Wata and Chidamba. In the Chidamba Village lived the famous Shona spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda (Charwe Nyakasikana, c. 1862-1898). She must have had great authority even before the 1896 - 1897 Rebellion and it is interesting to note that in a map drawn up showing missionary work by the Anglican Church after 1888 there is a village in the area called Nehandas. She was a powerful woman spirit medium that was committed to upholding traditional Shona culture, she was instrumental in organizing the nationwide resistance to colonial rule during the First Chimurenga of 1896-7.
Even Lobengula recognized her as a powerful spiritual medium in the land.

According to historical sources the original Nehanda was the daughter of Mutota, the first Monomatapa who was living in the escarpment North of Sipolilo in about 1430. This some 70 odd years before Christopher Columbus discovered America and Bartholemew Dias reached the Cape . Mutota was the founder of the Mutapa state, and he also had a son who later became the second Monomatapa. This son was called Matope, and he was Nehanda’s half brother. To increase the power of Matope, Mutota ordered his son to commit incest with his half sister, Nyamhika, who became widely known as Nehanda. This incest ritual is believed to have increased Matope’s rule and his empire, and due to this Matope handed over a portion of his empire to Nehanda who became so powerful and well known that her spirit lived on in the human bodies of various spirit mediums over the years until almost 500 years later when we find it occupying the body of the Mazoe Nehanda.

Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana was considered to be the female incarnation of the oracle spirit Nyamhika Nehanda.
As white settlement increased in the land, according to sources, Nehanda initially welcomed the occupation by the Pioneers and counseled her followers to be friendly towards them "Don't be afraid of them" she said "as they are only traders, but take a black cow to them and say this is the meat with which we greet you." Unfortunately relationships became strained when the settlers starting imposing taxes, forced relocations, forced labor, etc. As colonialism began to get its grip on the natives of Zimbabwe, there was a military drive to rid the land of the British settlers.

The collective efforts of the locals to get rid of the British colonialist in the period of 1896 - 1897 have become known as the First Chimurenga. Due to the cultural beliefs of the locals, the leading roles behind the rebellion were by three spirit mediums. The rebellion was initiated in Matebeland in May 1896, the leader there being Mukwati, and in October 1896 Kaguvi and Nehanda from Mashonaland joined in; these were the three critical people behind the rebellion
Kaguvi was believed to be the spirit husband of Nehanda, and it may have been this connection which enabled him in due course to persuade Mbuya Nehanda to preach the gospel of war resistance in Mashonaland, which led to the first Chimurenga.

The role as well as the influence of the spirit mediums in form of Kaguvi and Nehanda, can not understated. As far as the people were concerned Nehanda and Kaguvi were the voices of Mwari. Kaguvi, and later Nehanda (after convincing by Kaguvi) preached that according to Mwari the cause of all the trouble that had come upon the land was the white man. They had brought the locusts and the rinderpest, and to crown it all, they, the owners of the cattle which had died, were not allowed to eat the meat of the carcasses, which had to be burned or buried.
Mwari decreed that the white men were to be driven from the country. They, the natives, had nothing to fear, Mwari would turn the bullets of the white man into water.
For her role in the resistance a warrant was issued for the arrest of Nehanda. Nehanda was able to avoid arrest for over a year but she was eventually captured at the end of 1897 and brought to trial in 1898 for her part in the killing of native commissioner Pollard. Pollard had created great resentment among her people by thrashing Chief Chiweshe for failing to report an outbreak of rinderpest among his herds. He was captured at the outbreak of the Rebellion and an eye witness reports as follows:
"So they took him to Nehanda." She said "Bring him here." Then she came and knelt down and spoke with Pollard. I then heard Nehanda say to Watta "Kill Pollard but take him some way of to the river or he will stink.” They took an axe and they chopped of his head. "

So Nehanda along with her Spiritual husband were both charged with murder—Kaguvi for the death of an African policeman, and Nehanda for the death of the native commissioner Pollard—and summarily sentenced to death by hanging. At Nehanda’s hanging there was drama, which could have been a display of her spiritual powers. Two unsuccessful attempts were made to hang her. An African prisoner present at her hanging then suggested that the hangman should remove from her belt a tobacco pouch. This was done and on the third attempt she was successfully hanged. Nehanda's dying words were, "Mapfupa angu achamuka". There were numerous and strenuous attempts by a Catholic priest to convert her to christianity but she remained defiant to the end, but Kaguvi gave in and was converted.

Nehanda is rightfully honored by the Shona people as a resistance heroine. Her fortitude both before and after her arrest is remarkable, it played a critical part in Zimbabwean History. Her heroism became a significant source of inspiration in the nationalist struggle for liberation in the 1960s and 1970s. Her name is now usually prefixed by the respectful title of Mbuya. The main maternity hospital in Harare is name after her as well as several main streets in Zimbabwe.

Sekuru Kaguvi

Gumboreshumba , also known as Kagubi, lived in Chikwaka's Kraal in the Goromonzi Hill, near Harare. He was obviously a man of some substance in the area. He was married to a daughter of Chief Mashonganyika whose kraal was some three miles to the south of the Goromonzi Hill and he also had wives from the kraal of headman Gondo which is also in the vicinity of Goromonzi Hill. He became known as a supplier of good luck in hunting and was able to speak to people “from the trees and the rocks”. He was believed to be the spirit husband of the other great Shona spirit, Nehanda. He was a powerful spirit medium and, along with Mbuya Nehanda and Mkwati, he was instrumental in organizing the first nationwide resistance to colonial rule (the Chimurenga of 1896 - 1897)

The historical Kaguvi lived in the land currently known as Zimbabwe and was active between 1660 and 1680 as one of the founders of the Rozwi Empire. He was at that time the leader of Guruuswa, the area occupying the south-west quarter of Zimbabwe, and he took over leadership of the Rozwi dynasty from Gumboreshumba who is called the progenitor of the Rozwi dynasty which eventually ruled most of this country.

Kaguvi's spirit (his mudzimu) lived on from that time occupying the human form of a svikiro (spirit medium). Before the European occupation of present day Zimbabwe, Kaguvi's spirit medium was Kawodza who lived on the present day Kaguvi Hill on the southern bank of the Umfuli River approximately 13 miles west of Beatrice town. Below this hill is a pool in the Umfuli River which has never been known to dry up and which according to Shona tradition used to give forth the noises of cattle, sheep, goats and cockerels. Kawodza himself was killed in a Matabele raid and the family of his son fled north, eventually settling in these hills. One of his sons was Gumboreshumba, presumably named after the founder of the Rozwi dynasty and, prior to the European occupation in 1890, Gumboreshumba found himself possessed of the Kaguvi spirit previously held by his grandfather, Kawodza.

As colonialism began to get its grip on the natives of Zimbabwe, there was military drive to rid of the British settlers. The collective efforts of the locals to get rid of the British colonialist in the period of 1896 - 1897 have become known as the First Chimurenga.
Due to the cultural beliefs of the locals, the leading roles behind the rebellion were played by three spirit mediums. The rebellion was initiated in Matebeland in May 1896, the leader there being Mukwati. In October 1896 Gumboreshumba and Nehanda from Mashonaland joined in; these were the three critical people behind the rebellion

Gumboreshumba, who is hereafter called Kaguvi, whilst he was in the Umfuli area sent messengers to the spirit medium, Mukwati, who lived in a cave in the Matopos and who was the svikiro of the Supreme God, Mwari. These messengers were sent to obtain medicine to destroy locusts but they came back to Mashonaland with the news that Mukwati had revealed that the Shona should rise up against the whites in the same way as the Matabele were doing and that Kaguvi would have the same powers to kill the whites as Mukwati had. Kaguvi being the spiritual husband of Nehanda managed to convince her to preach the gospel of war in Mashonaland.

Because of Kaguvi’s Goromonzi connection, it is not surprising that his message was acted upon quickly in the area. In fact the commander of Chief Chikwaka's warriors, Zhanti, actually travelled to the Umfuli to receive the message and returned to this place eager to act upon it. The rebellion broke out around 16 June 1896, with the first killings being in the Umfuli / Hartley and Norton areas. So it was that Kaguvi, who was an emaciated looking 'man of about forty years of age', who had previously specialized in providing medicine to ensure success in hunting, now preached war to the death. There is a historical eyewitness account of some of the events Kaguvi was involved in:

“Kaguvi and Dakwende arrayed themselves in striking feather caps and fastened horns upon their heads …. These two worthies would then rush into the centre of the people….. then falling into trance, presumably possessed, gave out orders as though coming from the ancestors whom they all revered”

By the end of 1896, the authorities had at last recognised the importance of the 'spirit mediums' to the rebel cause. Lord Earl Grey wrote to his wife, “Kaguvi is the witch-doctor who is preventing the Mashona from surrendering, whilst a native commissioner in the then Salisbury wrote, “If we capture Kaguvi the war is over”. From then on the military began to exert increasing pressure on the areas where Kaguvi and Mkwati had set up their headquarters, but both men escaped when, after three attempts, the stockaded kraal was stormed. They took refuge in the Mazoe valley with Nehanda.

After their capture, the prisoners, Nehanda and Kaguvi were perplexed by the white men's long processes of the law which only ended in March of 1898 with their conviction; they were hanged seven weeks later. It is necessary to read the account of Kaguvi's last days, written by a priest from Chishawasha Mission. He came to offer Nehanda and Kaguvi religious instruction and baptism, and, although Kaguvi at first refused to listen to him, he came to believe later that it might help him to avoid the gallows; somewhat pathetically he even offered his clerical visitor "10 head of cattle, his children, etc., if only I could get his sentence changed'.

Nehanda on the other hand loudly and constantly rejected the priest's services. Nehanda was hanged first, in the view of Kaguvi.

“After which though a very much frightened Kaguvi listened to me and repeated he would no longer refuse to receive baptism. After he had made the necessary acts of faith, repentance, etc., I baptised him, giving him the name of the chief Dismas . . . Kaguvi did not give the least trouble nor did he make any lamentation. He died. . . quiet and resigned, and, as I hoped, in good dispositions."
He was hanged in 1898 at the same time as Nehanda, but unlike Nehanda who remained proud and unrepentant to the end, Kaguvi appeared to recant and shortly before his execution.

It seems clear that despite this somewhat abject ending, Kaguvi should be credited with the spark which set alight the rebellion and yet his spirit wife, Nehanda, seems to have received more acclaim for this than he has. Is it that the people remember and compare his lack of courage at the end with the steadfastness of Nehanda or is it that his spirit was not as powerful as that of Nehanda? One hears of the Nehanda spirit being resurrected not only in the war that led to the independence of Zimbabwe but also in other times of crisis between the first and second Chimurenga wars.

Charles Bullock in a footnote in his book, The Mashona, published in 1927, has this to say:

"It was no leading Mashona chief who fermented the rebellion in Mashonaland but Kaguvi. That false charlatan with his concertina and paraffin tins deceived the people into believing that he was the host of the God of Battles - the Lord of Sabbath; and that his spirit power would blind the white enemies or turn them into mountain hares. He was an impostor to us - but even so to the natives eventually; for the spirit he claimed as he did, did not rise again in another. "

30 May 2007

Duramazwi Diki

Munogona Shona here vanhuwee? Ndinenge ndichiwedzera mazwi pano asi zvinonetesa. Chimbowonai andaisa

babamukoma - elder brother acting as head of the family. 2. Husband of one's elder sister (woman speaking)
babamunembeva - wind-breaker, lumberjacket
babandu - of crunching (e.g. roasted nyimo).
bacha - Industrious person 2. Reckless person. 3.Vicious animal
badanuka - flake, chip. (Chindiro ichi hachitani kubadanuka)
badudza - cause to split or crack. 2. Hit hard on the head. 3. Punch face or head
badzaihosha - lazy-bones
bafamwa - sitting, loose-limbed & bent forward, as idiots do.
bafu bafa - walking with slow, heavy tread (e g of portly person).
bakapaka - Rustling sound (e g of leaves or paper)
bamakata - sitting down quietly, shyly.
bamara - Forehead (esp of animal).
bambamukota - Grasshopper (edible)
banamhana - Big, flat object. (e.g. zidzoro rako rakaita zibanamhana serenzuma yapaza danga)


The Mbende/Jerusarema Dance is a popular dance style practiced by the Zezuru Shona people living in the Murewa and Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe districts in eastern Zimbabwe.

The dance is characterized by sensual and acrobatic movements by women in unison with men, driven by a single polyrhythmic drummer accompanied by men playing woodblock clappers and by women handclapping, yodelling and blowing whistles. Unlike other drum-based East African dance styles, the Mbende/Jerusarema does not rely on intricate foot stamping or many drummers. Instead, the music is performed by one master drummer, and no songs or lyrics are involved. A rich material culture, including drums, clappers, whistles and costumes, is associated with the dance.

In the course of the dance, men often crouch while jerking both arms and vigorously kicking the ground with the right leg in imitation of a burrowing mole. The dance’s curious name reveals much about its vicissitudes over the centuries. Before colonial rule, this ancient fertility dance was called Mbende, the Shona word for “mole”, which was regarded as a symbol of fertility, sexuality and family.

Under the influence of strict Christian missionaries who strongly disapproved of this sexually explicit dance, the dance’s name was changed to Jerusarema, deriving from the Shona adaptation of the name of the biblical city of Jerusalem, in an effort to transform the original connotation into a religious one. Both names are commonly used today. In spite of its condemnation by the missionaries, the dance remained popular and became a source of pride and identity in the struggle against colonial rule.

The dance risks losing its original character and meaning as its vulgarization as an exotic animation dance for tourist audiences becomes more widespread. It is also increasingly used at political party rallies, where it is removed from all its original intentions. The drum (mitumba), rattles and whistles, which used to accompany the dance, have successively been replaced by instruments of poor quality, contributing to the loss of the uniqueness of the Mbende music.


He was a famous seer from Chitungwiza, in the Hartley district. He seems to have been a man of high character and unusual gifts. Lobengula used frequently to consult him, and for many years treated him with great consideration. He had remarkable power over animals: he kept tame pythons and other snakes; antelopes gambolled fearlessly about his hut, and his celebrated bull, Minduzapasi, would lie down and rise up, march and halt, at the word of command. He was believed to be the medium of the spirit called Chaminuka; his real name was Tsuro. He was credited with the power to bring rain and to control the movements of game; Frederick Courteney Selous, when hunting in that part of the country, was told by his followers that they would never succeed in killing an elephant unless they first asked Chaminuka's permission. When this was done he gave the messenger a reed which was supposed
"to bring the elephants back on their tracks by first pointing the way they had gone and then drawing it towards him."

In 1883 a man who believed Chaminuka to have been responsible for the death of his wife went to Lobengula with a false accusation of witchcraft against him. The king may or may not have believed this, but in any case he resolved on Chaminuka's destruction. He sent him a message, inviting him to Bulawayo on a friendly visit, but the old man was not deceived. He said, "I go to the Madzwiti [ Amandebele], but I shall not return; but, mark you, some eight years hence, behold I the stranger will enter, and he will build himself white houses."

The prophecy was fulfilled before the eight years were out, for the Chartered Company's pioneer expedition entered Mashonaland in 1890.

He set out, accompanied by his wife and two of his sons, and met Lobengula's war-party near the Shangani river. Most of the warriors kept out of sight; only a few headmen came to meet him. His wife, Bavea, who had been a captive of the Amandebele (she was sent to Chaminuka by Lobengula), said, "They are going to kill you! I know the Amandebele; I see blood in their eyes! Run! Run!" He refused, saying he was too old to run. "If his day has come Chaminuka does not fear to die; but bid my son, who is young and swift of foot, creep away in the bushes while there is yet time and carry the news to my people."

The little party were soon surrounded and all killed, except Chaminuka himself, Bavea, and his other son, Kwari, who was wounded in the leg, got away. The old chief sat on a rock, calmly playing on his mbira. His assailants tried to stab him with their spears, but could not even wound him. Some of them had rifles and fired at him, but the bullets fell round him like hailstones, without touching him.

At last he told them that he could be killed only by an innocent young boy, and such a one, being fetched, dispatched him unresisting. The impi, having cut up his body in order to get the liver and heart, which were held to be powerful 'medicines,' went on to Chitungwiza, in order to exterminate Chaminuka's whole clan, as Lobengula had commanded. But Bute, the son who had been sent away, was fleet of foot, and reached the village in time, and when the warriors arrived they found only empty huts and such stores and cattle as the people had been unable to take with them. Bavea was taken back to Bulawayo, but escaped, and in 1887 told the story to Selous, who saw her in Lomagundi's country (North Mashonaland).

Nhetembo Dzemadzinza

Shona praise poetry is referred to in Shona as nhetembo dzemadzinza, which means clan praise poetry. In the Shona traditional context, it was the medium for expressing genuine and heartfelt sentiments of appreciation, homage and gratitude for any commendable action done by someone to his relatives or even non-relatives. Generosity and concern for others are celebrated virtues at the core of the Shona philosophy of life.

However, generous deeds always required sincere appreciation and thanks. Such a belief is expressed in the Shona prover, kusatenda uroyi. Clan praise poetry derived its praises from the attributes of an animal, object or organ of an animal that is taken as totem by members of a particular clan as well as from the attributes of the clan's ancestors. It is for this reason why totemism is the basis of praise poetry in Shona culture rather than the attributes of an individual as in Nguni royal praises (izibongo).
While in some Nguni cultures, praise poetry was more formalised and recited to chiefs and kings at public gatherings, in Shona culture its recitation was informal. Every member of the clan across age and sex deserved praise from the clan's poetic praises upon rendering some good service.
However, the praises of chiefs were done by close relatives and friends particularly, the chief's nephew (dunzvi) or the chief's funeral friend (sahwira).

The Historical and Socio-cultural Context of
The belief in totemism and recitation of clan praise poetry is a tradition whose history dates back to the initial stages of Shona culture. Shona verbal artistry evolved in tandem with the culture that gave rise to it. With particular reference to Shona praise poetry, its rhythm echoes from the apex of Shona civilisation particularly in the socio-cultural history of the ruling dynasties associated with the Great Zimbabwe state (1250 - 1450), the Mutapa state (1450 - 1870s), the Torwa state (1450 - 1690s) and the Rozvi state (1690s - 1830s). On the bottom, it reverberated in every homestead, village and chiefdom, making the entire Shona socio-cultural life a rhythm of laudatory remarks. Praise poetry was part and parcel of the belief in and celebration of totemism. In a typical traditional Shona life, praise poetry graced daily life. No day would pass without it being recited. It is not known exactly when totemism began in Shona society. What is clear is that it was adopted in the mythological times of Shona culture.

According to Shona oral traditions, the adoption of totemism is associated with the earliest known ancestor of the Shona people, Mambiri. He chose the Soko (Monkey) totem to guard against incestuous behaviour and also for the social identity of his followers. This took place in a mythical place called Guruuswa, which was located somewhere north of the Zambezi River in southern Tanganyika. As the early Shona grew in number and marriage became difficult (due to the fact that they practiced the custom of marrying only outside one's clan) there was need to adopt a second totem. The Shava/Mhofu (Eland) totem was therefore adopted so as to enable intermarriage between members of the two totems to take place. In contemporary Shona society there are at least 25 identifiable totems (mitupo) with at least 60 principal names (zvidawo).

Types of Clan Praise Poetry
There are mainly three kinds of Shona praise poetry namely, clan praises (madetembedzo edzinza), personal praises (madetembedzo ekurumbidza munhu) and boasts (madetembedzo ekuzvirumbidza). However, there are more sub-genres which include madetembedzo evasikana verudzi (praises of unmarried girls of the clan), madanha nemarevereve (praises for love-making), madetembedzo ekutenda vana, madetembedzo emamiriro erudzi (boasts uttered in the name of the clan to warn its detractors or enemies of the consequences they may if provoked), nhetembo dzehondo, nhetembo dzemhuka yemutupo, nhetembo dzekunyaradza mwana and nhetembo dzevari pasi (praises in honour of the clan's spirits) However, here we will only refer to the main genre of Shona praise poetry, that is, clan praises.

Important features of Clan Praise Poetry
(a) The Clan - It is the core of every Shona chiefdom. It is a group of agnatically related kinsmen (that is, pertaining to descent by the male line of ancestors) and women who trace their descent from a common founding ancestor. The founding ancestor is called sikarudzi. In most clan praises the name of the sikarudzi is constantly made reference to. For example, in the praises of the people of the Soko totem, the names Tovela/Tobela and Mbire are mentioned. The first was a name for the second known earliest ancestor of the Shona people and the second is a name for the early Shona people that is derived from Mambiri, the earliest known ancestor of the same people.

(b) The Totem - Every Shona clan is identified by a particular mutupo (totem) and chidawo (principal praise name). The totem of each clan was adopted by the founder of the clan and is therefore supposed to be inherited by all his descendants, male and female alike. The principal praise name is used in addition to the totem if there is need to distinguish people who have the same totem but belong to different clans. For instance, there are many Shona clans whose totem is Shava and these clans are differentiated by citing the totem together with the praise name. For instance, Shava - Museyamwa, Soko - Murehwa, Shumba - Nyamuziwa and so on.

(c) The Chief - He is referred to as ishe or mambo and he is a living senior member of the clan. He is the guardian of the clan's traditions and customs. The founding fathers and other ancestors of the clan communicated with him and other living descendants through spirit possession, dreams, events such as natural catastrophes, voices from shrines and other oracular messages.

The Reference of Clan Praise Poetry

First and foremost the praises of the clan are phrases in terms of the totem. For instance, the praises of the clans whose totems are Soko, Tembo (Zebra) and Nzou are characterised by imagery that is directly implied by these animals. Thus we have such praises as 'soko makwiramiti', 'mbizi njuma yerenje' (zebra, the hornless beast) and 'nzou samanyanga'. However, the praises of other clans whose totems are not animals but organs of human beings or animals, such as Moyo and Tsiwo (male genitalia) are differently inspired. The imagery of the Moyo totem is derived from the heart while that of the Tsiwo is allusive of the male genitalia and its domain as well as its field of operation, the female genitalia.
Secondly, clan praises are based on ancestral references; names of forefathers of the clan, their sisters including the names of placed they once lived in and were buried. Such places record milestones in the history of the clan and remain culturally and historically symbolic to the clan. In short they were part of the clan's non-tangible heritage. Reference to ancestors when thanking someone meant that actually it was his/her lineage that was thanked. The person only represented the clan in extending its good deeds.