Who are the Shona?

Ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a medieval city erected by the ancestral Shona.
Ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a medieval city erected by the ancestral Shona.

Shona is a tribe in Zimbabwe whose tribal language is Bantu and their population is approximately nine million. The Shona contribute highly to the population of Zimbabwe as they represent 80% of the total population. Unlike other tribes, the Shona people prefer to live in isolated settlements where a family consists of an extended family and an elder. As much as power is recognized to be made up of a political state, the family implements many decisions. Shona as a tribe has its language groups, the main ones being the Zeseru, Tonga-Korekore, Manyika, Karanga, and Ndau. There are two types of spirits that are important to the Shona people, the shave spirit, for example, makes them believe they are connected to the communities outside their walls. Vadzimu spirit, on the other hand, portrays the goodness of the Shona people.

Origin and History of the Shona

Historically, the Shona people have been highly recognized for their skillful hands in the making of art since they were involved in building Great Zimbabwe and hundreds of other stone walled buildings in Zimbabwe. The Shona people were colonized by the British for almost a century and were among the best-mixed farmers that existed in Southern Africa. Rozwi is a clan in the Shona that is known for inventing a kingdom that was named Monomotapa before 1500.

In Zimbabwe, plateau region of South-central Africa is where the Shona settled although the original inhabitants were the Hungwe who later merged into the Mbire. During the mighty Bantu expansion, the Shona moved to modern day Zimbabwe, and by 1800, a huge portion of Zimbabwe was populated with the Shona. Before the Shona migrated to Rhodesia, it is believed that they first settled in the Congo Basin area and their first achievement was coming up with the first stone building.

Way of Life of the Shona

The Shona, being an indigenous group in Zimbabwe has been known to embrace a different culture, for instance, they are known to keep cattle for currency and pride. They are also involved in growing crops like maize, beans, millet, sorghum, rice, and peanuts. A totem is a type of costume that is formed from animal body parts, and people from a common clan were entitled to use a similar totem as it differentiated them from another clan. Each clan has a different totem that was founded by their ancestor, and people of the same totem are not allowed to have relationships.

The Shona people are known to be talented in carving stone sculptures as they have rich artistic heritage. Mwari is the preeminent Shona deity in whom most Shona people have a belief to ensure them of the rains, good health, and success. While the Shona may believe in Mwari, magic and witchcraft remain crucial as they still believe in the shave spirit and Vadzimu spirits, which are important means of social control and disaster. Mbira is an instrument that is used to play music by the Shona, and it is made of a gourd and metal reeds. It is sometimes known as the finger piano.


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