Politics of Belonging: Ethnicity and Identity of the Kalanga People of Bulilimamangwe District in Colonial Zimbabwe

Politics of Belonging: Ethnicity and Identity of the Kalanga People of Bulilimamangwe District in Colonial Zimbabwe

Thembani Dube (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0838-0.ch021
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Abstract

The Kalanga occupy the south-western parts of Zimbabwe, their larger concentration is in modern-day Bulilimamangwe district although some clusters of Kalanga people are distributed throughout Kezi, Gwanda and Tsholotsho districts, among other areas, west of Zimbabwe. The chapter acknowledges that Kalanga identities in pre-colonial Zimbabwean society were multiple, however, it mainly focusses on Kalanga religion (the Mwali/Ngwali Cult) and Kalanga language and demonstrates how these pre-colonial Kalanga forms of identities were later politicised and (re) interpreted and manipulated by colonialists, missionaries and Africans in an endeavour to construct Kalanga ethnic identity. The main purpose of the chapter is to present and reflect on selected Kalanga precolonial forms of identities and show how these were used to (re) construct the Kalanga ethnic identity in colonial Zimbabwe. The chapter further argues that identities are not fixed primordial phenomenon but are constructed and reconstructed over the longee durree using precolonial forms of identities such as language and religion.
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Background

This chapter grapples with the nature of Kalanga identities prior to the arrival of missionaries and colonial rulers. In this way, it moves beyond the contemporary scholarship that focuses on recent identities, by capturing Kalanga identities since the pre-colonial era. The investigation into the dynamics of ethnic identities among marginalised groups such as the Kalanga has a compelling significance for contemporary societies. Ethnicity has received fairly adequate scholarly attention in Zimbabwe and this demonstrates its palpable significance in the daily lives of ordinary people particularly in the context of deep-seated ethnic tensions. The chapter draws insight from scholarly work in Zimbabwe on minority histories, including Kalanga history. For more information on studies of minority and marginalised groups in Zimbabwe see (Msindo 2002 & 2012; Mujere 2012; Ndhlovu. 2010; Ndlovu; 2011Nyambara; 2002 & Nyika, 2008). Enocent Msindo’s pioneering work on Kalanga ethnicity in Zimbabwe from 1860 to 1990 has left a very visible imprint on Zimbabwean historiography and this chapter draws some insight from his work.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cult: A system of religious veneration and devotion.

Identity: What a person or thing is.

Kalanga: One of the minority groups found in the south-western parts of Zimbabwe.

Hali: Clay pots used for cooking and storage.

Mwali/Ngwali: The High god of the Matopos.

Ethnicity: A form of identity linked to a particular group.

Pre-Colonial: An era before the advent of colonial rule.

Amawosana/Iwosana: Messengers of Mwali, the high god of the Matopos.

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