Title Page

Title: Soldier's handbook on Shona customs
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00103228/00001
 Material Information
Title: Soldier's handbook on Shona customs
Alternate Title: Soldiers book of Shona customs
Physical Description: 69 p. : ; 18 cm .
Language: English
Creator: Berlyn, Phillippa
Berlyn, Phillippa
Southern Rhodesia -- Military Intelligence Directorate
Publisher: Military Intelligence Directorate
Place of Publication: Causeway Southern Rhodesia
Causeway Southern Rhodesia
Subject: Shona (African people) -- Social life and customs -- Zimbabwe   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Zimbabwe
Statement of Responsibility: issued by Military Intelligence Directorate.
General Note: Rev. and expanded version of a booklet prepared by Phillipa Berlyn.
General Note: Cover dated 1 January 1975.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00103228
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 639175146

Table of Contents
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Full Text

Rh Code No 0148



Issued By G Branch
Army Headquarters
1 January 1975

G.P. t L 12931--50-B.

Special Collections


1. This handbook is a follow-up
to the booklet very kindly prepared
by Phillipa Berlyn and issued by
this Directorate on 5 August 1974.
However, as a result of discussions,
in particular with Mr. Roger Howman,
a former Deputy Secretary for Inter-
nal Affairs, it became apparent that
certain revisions and additions were
necessary. Particular thanks must
be given to Mr Roger Howman for his
advise and assistance in this regard.

2. The importance of a knowledge
and understanding of African customs,
folk lore and ettiquete cannot be
stressed enough and it is for that
reason that this handbook has been

Issued by:

Military Intelligence Directorate,
P.O. Box 8266,

17 October 1974.





Appendix A : Kinship



1. In the tribal areas, meals are
eaten twice daily, at midday and at
sundown. In the early morning,
maheu (a non-alcoholic grain beer)
is often drunk before work is beguh.

2. Before eating, the hands must be
washed and shaken dry, unless a clean
towel is offered. It is unlikely
that a towel is offered in the TTLs.
Before eating, it is customary to
hombera to clap the hands lightly
together, fingertips touching. This
is one way of indicating thanks. By
custom, people do not hold a conver-
sation whilst eating. This custom
is not in use amongst /younger ....
younger .....*

younger people. If you are not
offered food, you must not take it
by yourself without waiting to be
invited to do so.

3. In a family, children are fed
first, so that they may play outside
when the adults are eating. The
children eat from their own dishes.
The men are then given food, usually
in the dare (men's meeting place).
The women eat indoors. Strict rules
of etiquette are observed, the eldest
helping themselves first.

4. The actual method of eating is
to roll, in the right hand, a ball of
sadza the stiff porridge made either
of mealie meal, rapoko or millet.
The ball of sadza is then dipped into
the dish of relish. In some clans
the sadza ball is dented with the
thumb to hold gravy. In others,
this is bad manners. The sadza will
be taken from a communal dish and the
relish from a separate communal dish.
The relish may be made of various
meats either beef, mutton, goat or
game animals, /but .....
ut ..... **

but more usually, when available, of
mbeva (field mice), ishwa (flying
Smauru (white ants), hove
(fish), dhovi (a tasty peanut sauce);
also various types of pumpkin -
chipudzi (small pumpkins), manhanga
(pumpkin proper), nhopi (pumpkin
mashed with peanut sauce). The
following green vegetables are eaten:
dherere renyenje yesango (bush okra),
nyemba (beans), jakari, mhowa, mun-
henzva, rhuni, nyimo and musungusungu
(all green leaf vegetables). Various
fungi are eaten, amongst them nhedi,
a large plate sized mushroom, and
huve, which grows on long stems
inside anthills, looks like a toad-
stool but has an excellent flavour.
Amongst other insects eaten are
tsandu refuta, an insect with a fat
body that tastes like salt peanuts,
worth the risk; madora, musasa
caterpillars and beetles called man-
devere very offputting marapa, an
edible stink bug mostly found in the
Bikita/Gutu districts and certain
types of locust, and birds. Mukaka
wakakora, sour milk, is used as a
side dish with sadza. Honey is, of
course, a special favourite.
5. Meat.....

5. Meat is usually cooked on the
fire but can, of course, be put in
a pot and provides muto (gravy).
The relish (usavi) can be made of any
of the items mentioned if available
and is an essential part of the meal
(like butter with bread) and makes
the variety in their diet. The verb
ku dya (to eat) means eating sadza-
with-relish. If the relish is
finished first, then to eat the sadza
alone is ku temura, i.e. not worthy
to be called eating, so it is most
important to ensure both. There are
a host of words used to describe dif-
ferent modes of eating or combination
of ingredients and to show an interest
in food is, like our weather, a useful
introduction to further topics.

6. Certain foods are never eaten.
These include snake, particularly
python (which is in fact good eating),
crocodile, leguaan, crustaceans
(orabs, fresh water mussels and sea-
food, although this applies only to
landlocked tribes). The pangolin
or scaly anteater (haka) is regarded
as being exclusively the food of
/chiefs, .....

chiefs, and is not eaten by ordinary

7. In addition, every clan and sub-
olan has a mutupo or totem, usually
related to some animal. It is ta-
boo-ed to kill, to eat the flesh of
your totem animal, or to wear its
skin. You should learn something
about your men's totems, since it is
inconsiderate to expect them to eat
forbidden food, which will shake
their self-confidence and later in-
volve them in a ritual cleansing
ceremony. In every case ask about
it as sometimes there are exceptions,
even diversions, and sometimes only
parts of the animal, e.g. the heart


8. There are several types of strong
alcoholic drink; doro or musungwa
made from dry millet; mhamba, which
is not traditional, is the drink of
shebeens and is very strong; hwahwa,
made from mealie meal and millet to-
gether; maheu made similarly, but is
/non .....

non or mildly alcoholic; and finally
hwahwa hwemurungu hunopisa European
spirits, and kachazo, made from the
macao berry. Bumhe is the mild beer
for women and children.

9. When drinking, people should
share equally more or less. The men
should drink from their own communal
hari or pot, and the women from their
and they drink separately. The un-
married men majaya have also their
own hari and the young married men,
too, may have separate hari.


10. Personal washing is done in the
river, if available. The women and
mhandara, or girls past puberty, have
their own place for bathing in the
river. The little girls wash sepa-
rately under the supervision of an
older girl.

11. Similarly, boys younger than
fourteen wash separately from the
older men. Each has his own portion
of river.

/12. People .....

12. People are inhibited and will
strip and wash with embarrassment.
They have strong taboos and eti-
quette on these matters.


13. Routine and duties in the
villages are divided in clear demar-
oation between men and women.

14. Women's Work. (Never done)
Cooking; sweeping within the house
and outside it; looking after the
small children and washing them and
their clothes; fetching wood; wash-
ing pots and plates; searching in
the bush for miriwo (vegetables);
searching for domestic animals if
these have been allowed to escape by
small children; sewing for the
family; teaching the children good
habits; grinding the grain, mealie
meal, millet, rapoko and peanuts;
looking after visitors who may turn
up; digging in the fields, planting
and weeding; plastering the house
/and .....

and digging their foundations .....
you name it, they do it.

15. Men's Work. The cutting of
poles, making of bark lathes and
putting up the framework of the hut,
also the thatching; all building work
is done by the men, and includes the
building of cattle pens and pens for
pigs, sheep and goats, as well as
chicken runs and fencing. The men
also weave baskets, sleeping mats and
nests for pigeons or chickens, and
build small granaries for holding
mealie cobs. The young boys herd
the goats and later qualify for battle
and dig and set traps for field mice
(mbeva). The men carve yokes for
oxen and do the ploughing; they make
the axes and badzas, and carve handles
for these. They also carve chairs
and any other domestic utensil and
items of furniture found in the hut
and its environs. They are in
charge of hunting, fishing, skinning,
and the making of biltong. Threshing
of grain is a shared work.

/THE .....


16. The family, as the Shona under-
stand it, differs considerably from
that of the European concept. With-
in European custom, two men both with
the same surname are not necessarily
related. Within Shona custom, the
sharing of the same mutupo, or totem,
implies a clan relationship which is
deamed to be as close as blood rela-
tionship. Sharing of the same
ohidawo (surname or subdivision of a
mutupo, which would almost automati-
cally include sharing of mutupo),
implies blood relationship, although
in tribal eyes both are 'ropa rimwe
ohete' (one blood only).

17. The Shona family consists of
two definite components the dead
(non-living) ancestors (midzimu =
ancestral spirits) and living people.
Those not yet born are a vital expec-

18. The European is invariably
misled and annoyed by the number of
/"fathers", 00060

"fathers", "mothers" and "brothers"
an African produces. Appendix A
shows how, in the kinship system, a
man calls all the brothers of his
biological father, "father"; all
his aunts "female father" and classi-
fies them as "big" or "little"
according to whether they are older
or younger than his own father; how
all the children, of that generation
of "fathers", he calls "big" or
"little brother" or "sister", and how
his children and those of his genera-
tion are all called "my children".

19. The son of the chief or head-
man or kraalhead's sister (the
muzukuru) are very important and the
muzukuru is often the most knowledge-
able and unbiased person in the kraal.
The chief headman's or kraalhead's
mother is also a very powerful figure.

20. The most important person de-
pends on the nature and importance
of the matter. Sometimes it is a
man's sister, sometimes his mother-
in-law. Generally, it is the oldest
living male or in respect the eldest
/living *...

living female. Thus:

sekuru = grandfather

ambuya = grandmother

baba = father

amai = mother

21. Members of the family who have
died are regarded rather as being in
a different sphere than on a com-
pletely separate plane. They are
shown respect, and beer and meat are
offered to them; they are prayed to
as intermediaries, with the prayers
always being made by the eldest male
in the family to his deceased father
as representing the collectivity of
prior spirits, if a paternal matter.
But if it is a maternal matter, he
cannot do so as that is for the wif's
family. The social structure of the
family, and this encompasses the
tribe also, should be geared to res-
pect for seniority.



22. Decisions are usually made by
the man of the family. The wife
never descusses her husband's affairs
outside their hut, although this
varies with the individual, and women
certainly try to influence their
husband's decisions.

23. Intercession through the ances-
tors is the responsibility of the
eldest male of the family unit. He
is also the provider, though to a
limited extent. It is the woman who
must provide the day to day food, and
must administer the stocks of food.
If the family unit runs short, it is
the fault of the wife, i.e. she is
the planner, the calculator and sole
guardian of the grain bin so it is
necessary to ask her permission to
look inside it. In the event of her
husband's death, a woman still does
not make her own decisions. She is
a widow and is inherited by any such
male relative (on her husband's side)
she may choose, and she may refuse all.
She need not necessarily sleep with
/him .....

him, should she wish not to do so.
The blood line is considered to go
down through the male only. Thus
a man is permitted in theory to marry
his niece by his sister, but should
he marry his brother's child this
would be incestuous.

24. The man should have (as a
general rule) the final say in any
family decisions. In the event of
divorce, the woman's interests are
looked after by the nearest male
relative in her direct family. A
woman's duty is usually geared en-
tirely to the comfort of her man and
to the rearing of her children.

25. Within the village there is a
communal duty of respect to the
village headman and the elders.
Usually most persons within a village
are related, if not by direct blood
line then with the clan relationships
which is equally strong. However,
there are vatorwa, i.e. one who is
not related.

/26. Similarly..

26. Similarly, the village headman
and elders owe duty and pay respect
to the clan chief of their area, with
whom there is also, occasionally, a
clan relationship. There are, how-
ever, almost always vatorwa in any


27. There are certain fundamental
conventions; speaking pleasantly
always with others; helping those in
trouble (with particular reference to
direct or clan relations); to horm-
bera (clap hands) when talking with
elders; young women should bob (bend
the knees) curtsey when talking
with elders; young men should squat
down. It is exceedingly impolite
not to sit down before a superior,
i.e. to stand and look down on an
older or respected person. In
traditional families the eyes are
lowered. It is impolite to look
directly in the eye. Nothing is
ever given with the left hand, which
is used only for personal matters.
For example, one may not eat with
/the .....

the left hand, although it is per-
missible to hold a bone in the left
hand while eating sadza with the
right; a person should hombera when
entering a village. When passing
anyone else (pass in front), permis-
sion should be requested with the
word "Tipindewo?" A person should
make a polite request for help or
information without simply taking
what he wants. Not only is this
very bad manners, but in the event of
people looking for information, suoh
bad manners would cause an adverse
reaction, and information would be
less likely to be forthcoming.

28. When accepting anything, both
hands should be used, or the left
hand should touch the right arm; the
woman should curtsey; the man should
hombera. If he has only one hand
free, he brings his left hand up to
his left shoulder in a gesture of

29. Great emphasis certainly is
placed on manners, on respect to
elders, and on a smiling face.


30. On entering a village, not
your own, permission (nowadays often
ignored and necessarily so) should be
requested thus:

"Ti-pindewo?" or, more pro-
bably, "Ti-svikewo?"

The answer to which is:


Basically, this means; "May we
arrive?" with the affirmative reply.
If about to enter a hut, say "Go Go
Go?" a verbal equivalent of knocking.

31. Greetings are important. No
MuShona will begin the day without
making the correct morning greeting.
There are similar greetings for
midday and late afternoon, and a
greeting when meeting after some time.

Note: A and B are greetings between
two people:

/a. The .....

a. The morning greeting is:

A. "Mangwanani" .....
"Good morning"

B. "Mangwanani" .....
"Good morning"

A. "Marara here?"..
"Did you sleep?"

B. "Ndarara kana marara-
wo" .............
"I slept if you
slept also".

A. "Ndarara" ........
"I slept".

bo There are variations on
this. Try the Karanga
one, for instance:

A. "Mangwanani"

B. "Mangwanani"

/A. "Mamuka ...

A. "Mamuka here?" .....
"Have you arisen -
woken up?"

B. "Ndamuka kana mamu-
kawo" .... ........

"I have if you have,

c. The midday greeting is:

A. "Masikati" ........
"Good day"

B. "Masikati" ........
"Good day"

A. "Maswera here?" ....
"Have you spent (the
day) well?"

B. "Ndaswera kana
maswerawo" .......
"I have spent (the
day) well if you have

A. "Ndaswera" .........
"I have spent (the day)"
/d. The .....

d. The evening greeting is
similar, except for the
word manheru-maure -
"Good evening" which
replaces masikati.

32. A greeting commonly in use is:

A. "Kwaziwayi"/"Kaziwayf'
........ "Greetings"

BO "Kwaziwayo" ........

A. "Makadiiko?" or
"Makadini?" .......
"How are you"

B. "Ndiripo makadiiwo"..
"I'm O.K. if you're

A. "Ndiripo" ..........
"I'm O.K."

Note the use of the plural, like the
courtesy of the French. The last
two would be even better as 'Ti-ripo'
and, if a woman, the plural of 'a-
mayi' should be used. m
Th) k~

/ J

e.J.l.W.- *

33. There are variations on this
theme, but the general idea is the
same. It is customary, and polite,
if you are proficient in Shona, to
enquire after individual members of
the family, the rains, the condition
of crops and any other sort of topical
chat. Do not ask a woman what her
name is; ask the name of the child
and then refer to her as "mother
(plural) of the child". The mode of
initial greeting, as set out, is
highly important but thereafter the
minutae of customs is not so impor-
tant as acting in a patient, reason-
able, considerate and friendly manner
to men, women and children. And
above all, why should not the teacher,
businessman, etc, be accorded similar
respect even if he does not fit into
the stereotype of "African Custom"!
Remember Advocate Chitepo was made to
sit on the floor by a certain official
who had a compulsion towards tradi-
tional behaviour.


34. If there is time available,
/never .....

never make the mistake of asking a
direct question. The greetings
shown in the previous paragraph will
go some way towards encouraging
people to talk. Also, never ask a
leading question. Ask: "Where does
this road go to?" not "Does this road
go to Bindura?".

35. On entering a village, the
request should be made to see the
senior man in the village, i.e.,
"owner of kraal" (muridzi we musha
or equivalent). If he is not there,
then the next in seniority should be
approached, and so on.

36. Beyond polite greeting, try to
avoid questioning women. You are
unlikely to get anything out of her
because it is against old custom for
her to:

a. discuss business with any-
one except her man, or

b. speak to a strange man.

This is obviously the ideal but very
/often .....

often men will not be found in the

37. You must also remember that the
chances are that you will be asking
for information regarding direct
members of her family, or clan members
Where possible, then, avoid asking
women any questions.

38. In approaching an older man,
the hands are clapped together or one
is clapped against chest or thigh for
respect and he is addressed in the
plural. If there is time, the
conversation should be on general
topics. If he is a man of some
importance or standing, he may speak
to you through the medium of a third
party. This is correct, and has the
advantage of giving you ... and him,
too, of course ... time to think be-
fore answering. After making the
general friendly enquiries about
crops and rains, turn to the subject
about which you wish to question him.


a. Make .....

a. Make the correct greetings.

b. Show respect even if you
do not feel it.

c. Avoid being over-assertive.

d. Avoid hurry if possible.

40. There may be little point in
attempting to obtain information
from the women. This is also true
with regard to the young children,
who will tend to be very afraid of
you and will be speechless as a re-
sult, although kindness may have some
effect. However, this all depends
on the individuals concerned and the

41. If the impression has been
given that here is a system which is
ingrained, rigid and unchangeable,
then it would be well to recognize
that all these customs, beliefs and
attitudes are only there by a process
of education, like the language it-
self, and are greatly susceptible to
changing conditions in that "educa-
tion ./The
/The .....

The African you interrogate is very
likely to answer you in English or
Chiraparapa, the youngster may be
proud to show he has been to school
and can answer questions, the woman
... well, a good argument could be
made that most decisions are in fact
made by her and her tongue is the most
powerful influence in the village.
Face the fact that things are not
what the elders would like them to
be, that there is an enormous "gene-
ration gap" and that there is bewil-
derment and confusion accompanied by
regret among the old that so much
"disrespect" is prevalent. Tradi-
tional views have been unable to
keep up with changes.


42. Attitudes towards the following
are generally (extremely so!):

a. Military Authority:
Fear and curiosity re

/b. Europeans:....

b. Europeans:

Tolerant, in general, but
they do not understand why
we-are always in a hurry,
why we do not smile, why
we often look irritable,
nor have they any great
understanding of our cus-
toms, although sometimes
this is more than we have
of theirs.

c. Education:

A passionate desire for it,
because they see it as a
means to an end, and some-
times as an end in itself.

do Work:

Like anyone else, some-
thing to be avoided if
possible; a necessary

/e. Modern .....

e. Modern Living:

The older generation see
it as something of which
they do not approve. It
breaks all traditions.
The younger generation
naturally hanker after it.

f. Teachers and Educated

People to be respected;
people to whom the world
owes a living, if they are

43. In general, the Shona people
are by tradition shrewd, often cun-
ning experts at litigation. They
are pastoral people whose lives, by
and large, are governed by the ele-
ments and the seasons.

44. Basically, he is a happy person,
but very socially conscious within
his own community. This involves
respect for the older people, and the
awareness that he must not let the
community down.
/It is .....

It is a greater crime to be caught
than to commit a crime.


45. As an ancestor worshipper
("Spiritualism"), religion therefore
is the most important single factor
in Shona life. The Shona recognize o
one god with several names: Mwari,
Wokumusoro (the one at the top);
Dzivaguru (the big pool related to
rainmaking and its importance) and
Musikavanhu (the creator of people)
being the mostoommon names. The
Shona can be said to believe in a
hierarchy of spirits, Mwari being the
one above all others. Immediately
second to him are the important tri-
bal spirits Mutota, Dzivaguru,
Nehanda, followed by, say, Chingoo
Nehoreka. Chaminuka is regarded as
important because of the historical
protrayal as prophet. However, else-
where in the country the majority of
Shona tribes have tribal spirits
(apart from family spirits); these
spirits are those of the original
founders of the tribe in question,
or were there before the tribe moved
in. /Lower .....

Lower in the hierarchy are the mid-
zimu, the ancestral family spirits.
Next in line are the living people.
It is important to remember that they
are part of the whole spectrum, as
are the unborn people of the future.

46. It is too easy to exaggerate
the "power of the spirits". Of
course their power is important but
there have been many instances of
people ignoring the spirits, even
repudiating them, and one historical
tradition relates an attempt to burn
Mwari. So spirits too have to be
careful how they respond to public
sentiment, and there are many bogus
spirits nowadays out to further spe-
cial interests.


47. Burial custom, as with all
custom, varies from clan to clan
and almost from village to village,
but, in general, the corpse is placed
on a roughly built platform in a hut,
having first been washed and covered
by a blanket which, in traditional
/times, .....

times, was made of bark. Sometimes
the body is placed on a reed mat
(rukukwe). There is a hole cut in
the wall of the hut amongst some clans
red peppers ground to powder are
sprinkled either round the corpse,
or across all openings in the hut to
ward off witches.

48. If a person dies during the
night, the body will stay in the hut
for the next day and following night,
and be buried in the morning. If
death occuts during the hours of day-
light, the body is kept for that
night, the following day and a second
night before burial. Ceremonials
involved are the burial (kuviga),
about a month after death is the
ceremony of departure, the parting
of the ways (mharadzo), then between
six months and a year later, the
ceremony of kurova gura (releasing
the spirit and settling it) and
finally nhaka, the disposal of the
inheritance, including the widow.

/jH ...


49. Svikiro's. The spirit of each
clan requires a medium or host who is
called a svikiro. An unexplained
illness is usually the first sign
that a person has within him (or her,
for this is the only area of equality
between male and female in Shona
society) a spirit which wishes to
come out. Once this is confirmed by
a diviner, the potential medium must
make certain sacrifices to the spirits,
and will in due course fall into a
trance. During this trance, the
potential medium will be subjected to
intensive questioning by tribal elders
and particularly by the tribe's his-
torian, sometimes known as the dunzui,
and it will be incumbent upon the
person for him to answer questions, in
particular about the family tree of
the houses of the clan and tribe. If
the answers are correct, the elders
and tribal authorities recognize that
person as a medium for one of the
tribal spirits; if not, he is seen
to be a fraud. Very occasionally a
fraudulent claimant gets away with


Once ....

50. Once the medium is recognized,
he holds a special place in his
society and is second only in power
to the Chief. When a chief dies, it
is the tribal spirit who is consulted,
through the medium, as to who is
acceptable as the chief's successor.
The two are, to a certain extent,
interdependent. In some areas the
tribal spirit is more powerful than
the chief; he is the intercessor
with God for rain; he will advise on
drought, crop failure, disease. And
since all disaster is seen by the
Shona as activated either by human
failure or deliberate human malice,
it is the tribal spirit who can advise
on how to put matters right.

51. Recognition of a svikuro is
only possible if he wears his cere-
monial clothes. Common dress is a
black ankle length skirt, .black beads
around his neck and a hat of some
difference and character. In most
cases he will carry some sort of
staff known as a mubada.

52. Midzimu. The family spirits
/spirits .....

(spirits of deceased members of the
family) are known as the midzimu
or vadzimu (mudzimu singular).
These spirits are responsible for the
wellbeing of the family and if
annoyed or neglected may cause trouble.
The midzimu are consulted and appeased
by the eldest male member of the
family who usually does this in front
of the rukuva (pot shelf) inside the


53. The nganga is of considerable
importance in his community. He
fulfils the role of diviner, herbal
doctor and psychologist. Like the
other svikiros he/she is usually the
victim of an illness which culminates
in the announcement by another nganga
that the person is endowed with the
spirit of an ancestor who was himself
an nganga, and wishes his successor
to carry on the tradition. An
alternative sign that a person is
destined to become an nganga is that
he/she dreams continually of medical
matters. Sometimes a young man or
woman /undertakes .....

undertakes to follow in the footsteps
of a parent nganga. Whatever the
fashion in which the vocation is made
known to the future nganga, it is
usual for him/her to undertake in-
struction from an established nganga,
to learn about the use of the dif-
ferent herbs. This instruction
varies in time between a year and two
or three years, although-where the
vocation is inherited, the young
nganga will have been learning his
skills from his parent for many years

54. The nganga charges a fee in
accordance with the severity of the
illness to be cured. He may use
either herbal methods to cure or he
may divine the cause of the illness
by means of throwing the divining
bones, the hakata. He may use both
methods. It is usual for an nganga
to have both skills, although as his
skills develop more strongly in one
direction, he will tend to have a
bias in that particular direction.
Many of the mediums possessed of the
healing spirit conferred by a shave
are respected nganga.


The .....

55. The nganga falls into two
categories, though there is nothing
to preclude one person operating both

a. The nganga proper, or
murapi, the healer/herba-

b. Mufemberi or mushoperi,
the diviners. The mufem-
beri prophesies, either
through dreams and their
interpretation or by means
of using hakata. The
mushoperi uses a stick to
shopera to foretell the

56. The people place strong faith
in the abilities of their nganga. It
is easy to see why he/she is respected
in any community, and held in awe,
even, to a certain extent, feared
because of the ability to summon

57. The medicines of the nganga are
in the main herbal, and it has been
/confirmed .....

confirmed by Gelfand that these are
often effective, since the nganga has
learned quite a lot about his plants.
It depends on the calibre of the
nganga. The old style man of the
bush is more to be relied on than the
town gentleman, whose 'cures' often
appear in bottles ex-Gillingham cliic.
He can offer herbal cures for any
disease from a bad cough to impotence
and leprosy. But a person who has
a disease is also to be blamed for
having caused the ancestral spirits
to be angry enough to visit this
trouble upon them. The spirits must
be propitiated at the same time as
the medicines are taken, or the cure
will not work.

58. The nganga is a clever psycho-
logist. The medicines do not
always work unless you have absolute
faith in their ability to do so. To
a certain extent the medicines are
placebos. But then many European
medicines are, too.

59. The hakata, the divining bones,
have a definite pattern, and are read
/somewhat .....

somewhat similarly to tarot cards.
The hakata are made from either ivory,
mugomo seeds halved (about the size
of a peach pip) and the wooden carved
set of four hakata. Six mugomo pips
are used, and four wooden hakata.
There are no doubt variations on this.
Each has to be prepared by the nganga.
The mugomo nuts are read by the com-
bination of those falling face up or
face down; likewise the wooden hakata
depending on whether they fall plain
or carved side up.

60. The importance of the man who
can kandira hakata, throwing the bones
cannot be underestimated. People wil
consult the nganga not only for ill-
nesses or misfortunes, but in search
of luck in love, at cards, in business
or at the races.

61. To sum up, the power of his
religion over the rural African is
great, and over the urban people
perhaps the details are being phased
out, but the nganga still has power to
frighten the urban man and to remind
him of his duty to his ancestral
spitits. /It
It .....**

It should be stressed that the one
factor remains constant and as strong
as ever the MaShona believes that
disease and disaster are caused by
human failure or human malice, and
the only persons who can help him to
appease his ancestral spirits are his
immediate family spirits or, failing
this, the nganga.


62. These are often difficult to
recognise and their locations are
best obtained from the local District
Commissioner. They may be graves;
they may be caves where there will be
found pots and old spears, rolls of
black and white cloth, perhaps; they
may also be found in the boles of
hollow baobab trees, or within the
small rushanga or split pole fence
that surrounds a muhacha tree or, in
some places the tree itself is regar-
ded as sacred. Certain hills are
taboo and may not be climbed by people
but this is becoming less the case to-
day, as people are seen to climb these
hills without anything happening to
them. In most cases, these sacred
/places .....

places are recognized by the type of
clay pots around or within the area.
The sacred caves house the ritual
equipment of the vakuru, the senior
members of the tribe who attend rain-
making ceremonies.

63. The baobab trees are sacred
when used as burial places. They
can be recognized by the pots and
funeral gifts placed on the grave
covering, which is usually inside the
hollow of the tree. Unless these
trees are used as burial places, or,
as in the Mtoko area, where they are
in a circle of eight and so used as a
ritual place for the induction of
Chieftainess Charewa, they are not

64. Their significance to the
African people is great, and these
places should be treated with respect
by everyone. African custom should
be respected. Desecration of the
small rushing or fences around
muhacha trees, and desecration of the
shelves carrying the family household
gods, hari (pots), should be avoided
at all costs.
/65. Spiritual...

65. Spiritual Equipment. Items
such as a ganhu or spiritual axe, a
gona or horn, filled with oil, a fly
whisk, duiker horns, bits of hyena
skin, porcupine and hedgehog quills,
vulture skulls, denote the presence
of an nganga in the vicinity. Unless
these are in a terrorist camp, they
should be left untouched. Their
significance has been discussed
earlier under the heading of 'Nganga'.
Herbal medicines are also easy to
spot, and should likewise be left
alone if circumstances permit.


66. You will.find that almost every
African wears a charm, either round
the neck, round the wrist, or some-
thing to be kept in the pocket.
These are usually small, wrapped in
cloth, worn on a string. Tiny beads
are also worn, again round neck,
waist or arm. One such charm or
'medicine' is "mangoromera".

67. Mangoromera is the skin or
leather wrist or armband which has
python skin or

crocodile gall, etc, stitched into it.
It is a charm vesting super human
strength, courage or audacity in the
wearer. It was, and may be even
still, the prized magic of the boxer,
criminal and tough guy of the urban
areas and would be ideal for the


68. In order to understand the
behaviour of the Shona, it is neces-
sary to consider the society in which
he lives. In this paper the tradi-
tional tribal structure will be
examined briefly and the effects of
urbanisation on the African persona-
lity will be illustrated.

69. The main tribal groupings in
Rhodesia, based on the territory they
now occupy, is as follows:

a. Korekore Group:
Found in the Darwin,
Urungwe and Lomagundi
districts. Zezuru
/b. Zezuru ....

b. Zezuru Group: This com-
prises the "Central Shona"
with Salisbury as centre
and found throughout the
districts of Mrewa, Mazoe,
Salisbury, Charter, Hartley
and part of Lomagundi.

c. Karanga Group: This is
the largest group of Shona
found mainly in the Vic-
toria, Bikita, Ndanga,
Chibi, Belingwe, Gutu and
Chilimanzi areas. It may
be considered the "Southern
Group" of Shona.

d. Manyika Group: They are
located in Inyanga, Makoni,
Umtali and part of Portu-
guese territory.

e. Ndau Group: Found in
Melsetter district and the
adjacent areas of Portu-
guese East Africa (PEA).
About one-third of the
group is in Rhodesia and
the rest are in PEA.
/f. Two ....

f. Two other groups to be
considered in Rhodesia

i. Kalanga Group ; This
is the Western group
of people in Rhodesia.
Although part of the
original 'Shona', the
course of time has
created a divergence
which makes it imprac-
ticable to include
this group as an
effective part of
Shona language group.

ii. Ndebele Group: Ndebele
is a dialect of Zulu.
The conquest of Mata-
beleland took place
in 1857 when Mzili-
kazi invaded the area.
The effect of this
invasion was to cut
off the people in the
West from the main
body of Shona speaker

From .....


70. From the foregoing it will be
seen that the term 'Shona' is used
to embrace a number of main dialects
which are further sub-divided into
many other dialects. These are
grouped together in clusters in de-
finite groups of close affinity.

71. Who were the earliest people
whom we now call the 'Mashona'? Oral
tradition, archival evidence and the
findings of archaeology suggest that
the hard core were 'Karanga' who
arrived South of the Zambezi from
Lake Tanganyika. Authorities give
dates for their time of arrival as
between the 11th and 14th Century.
One historian has fixed the date as
about 1325 AD. There are said to be
people living in the Rufiji basin to-
day who speak a language not unlike
Chikaranga. Over the centuries
people were constantly on the move as
a result of power struggles between
the various groups. This would
account for the present distribution
of the tribal clans throughout the

72. What is the origin of the term
/'Shona' .....

'Shona'. Unlike recent times the
"Mashona" did not exist as an ethnic
group. It is thought that the an-
swer is to be found in the word -
EMTSHONALANGA. In the early days
the Zulus accompanying the transport
riders were asked when they passed
through kraals where they were going.
Their answer was Emtshonalanga -
Europeans took this to mean their
destination and distorted it to mean
Mashonaland. The literal translation
of the term means "towards the setting
of the sun".


73. When an individual is exposed
to a particular culture, a process
occurs which can be defined as socia-
lization. The effect of this process
tends to make an individual conform to
certain group standards in order to
help him get along with the group and
become an accepted member of it.

74- In order to be socially accep-
table, the individual is required to
conform to certain recognized social
values and
/modes .....

modes of living. Failure to conform
in this way can result in social
pressures of ostracism or social dis-
grace being brought to bear on the

75. The fundamental difference be-
tween European and African society
is that the life of an African is
communal in his traditional setting.
Whilst as Europeans, we recognize
family obligations, the individual is
still free to make his own decisions
in a highly competitive world. Thus
both the men and women in European
society can enter into a large number
of relationships and pursue their own
self interests.

76. For the Shona living within the
traditional way of life, the European
way of life is meaningless and in-
comprehensible. His personality,
his whole attitude to life is bound
up with the identification of 'fa-
mily'. His family is extensive, far
more so than that of a European. The
extended family system among the
Shona is in fact more of a kinship
/system .....

system. A man is born into this
system and throughout his life he will
be bound by the influences of the ties
which bind him within the system of
kinship. How he relates to everyone
else will be affected by his standing
within the community. The position
will be further reinforced when he

77. With his kin he holds lands,
property and cattle. He will look
for security within the group against
hunger, illness and old age. From
the kin he will seek spiritual and
religious safety. This same system
will punish him if he fails to observe
the norms and legal ties which are
inherent to the society in which he

78. The essential difference between
the European and an African is the
way in which their individual socie-
ties permit them to live. In the
past, life was highly insecure, but
as has been pointed out by Carothers,
the individual in African society did
achieve some inner sense of personal
security by adherence and only by
/adherence, .....

adherence, to the traditional rules -
rules which received their sanction
and most of their force from the
"will" of ancestors whose spirits
were conceived as powerful and as
maintaining their attachment to the
land. There were fears of course,
and misfortunes were almost the order
of the day, but even these were sel-
dom without precedent and for each of
these there were prescribed behaviour
patterns which satisfied the urge to
action. So that the African achieved
a measure of stability and, within
his group and while at home, was
courteous, socially self-confident
and, in effect, a social being. But
this stability was maintained solely
by the continuing support afforded
by his culture and by the prompt
suppression of initiative.

79. In the rural areas the Shona
live within an intricate network of
kinship bonds, of rights and duties
assigned to him. He does,not,
therefore, exercise his freedom of
choice as an individual to make his
own self interest judgements and
choices. /For .....
For .....

For him, his kinship bonds are the
most valued thing in his life.
Everything else is subordinated to
this value. Status within his kin-
ship group dominates him, not the
pursuit of gain and contract. Thus
it is unrealistic to approach an
African in the same way in which one
would approach a highly individualised

80. A European is conscious of
personal responsibility for most of
his actions and glories in it. The
Shona are first responsible to the
group, because the life of the indi-
vidual is rooted in the group. When
an individual goes beyond the limits
of what his community deems proper
and responsible, he runs the risk of
less social acceptance. He may aren
be considered anti-social and social
sanctions will be applied which will
include witchcraft.

81. It must be remembered that in
the first place traditional African
society has never emphasized the free
individual. It has comprehended
/individuals ...**

individuals only in the light and
context of the community, protecting
them within a cocoon of fine spun
relationships, relating them to the
ancestors of the tribe and to its
posterity. How different this is
from the Western concept of the in-
dividual. Western man is free to
develop his capabilities as he wishes
to insulate himself against the de-
mands from his less successful
neighbours or relatives. BUT he is
also free to fail and to find little
but the impersonal support of state
charity if he does. Given the un-
certainties of a subsistence economy,
it is not surprising that Africans
choose to invest in the security of
personal relationships.

82. This should not be taken to mean
that all Africans think in the same
way. The influences of changes is
widespread and deep. There are
Africans who because of their edu-
cation and experience have adopted
a variety of views as has the Euro-
pean. It is difficult to make an
accurate assessment of how many have
moved away from the /matrix .....
matrix .....

matrix of the tribal mind, or how far
they have moved, how genuine this is
or how expedient and in what aspects
of life.

83. Every group organised for action
has a structure of functions. For a
group such as a state or a tribe there
exists a framework of society embrac-
ing all the minor structures. This
deep-seated structure of political,
legal, social and economic nature
furnishes the foundations of life and
action. It is remarkably strong in
resisting change, indeed research has
shoen that while immense changes in
religion, in economic affairs, in
material aspects of life can occur,
the bedrock of social structure per-
sists unless a veritable upheaval and
disintegration of the people takes

84. In general it can be said that
the minds of men (unlike their bodies)
are mainly the products of their cul-

85. From this theoretical description
/of the .....

of the social structure of the rural
African we can now move to consider
the general outline of the structure
of urban African society as we now
find it in many of our large town-


86. From the findings of investi-
gations into the life of the urban
African the following trends have
been observed:

a. The Urban African Persona-
lity is Characterised by
Strong Feelings of Anxiety
and Insecurity. That
many Africans are living
below the poverty datum
line is now an acknowledged
statistical fact. This
has resulted in the ever
increasing concern over
financial matters.

b. The Quest for Money has
Become one of the Urban
African's Basic Motifioa-
/This .....

This constant quest for
money drives the urban
African from job to job in
search of higher wages.
This trend does not lead to
a stable labour force.
Thus it happens that the
individual with little so-
cial conscience turns to
crime; and the social con-
ditions within urban society
are very conducive to the
promotion of crime. The
position is further aggra-
vated by illegitimacy, lack
of parental guidance and
control, high unemployment
and low wages.

o. The Urban African is
Tribally Biased. The
survival of tribal belief
has ensured the importance
in the urban areas of
African magic and the witch-
doctor, in various forms,
plays an important role.
Witchdoctors are consulted
regularly by many Africans,
/thus .....

thus witchcraft and sorcery
are powerful urban insti-
tutions. Shona society is
based on ancestor worship
and it is to be expected
that the Shona should con-
tinue to be strongly influ-
enced by religious beliefs
and practices which have
formed part of their so-
ciety for centuries. This
explains the tendency to-
wards the formation of
African ritual-type 'ohris-

d. The Effects of Urbanisation.
The typical urban African
is a person who, while he
may have dropped many of
the customs and beliefs of
his forefathers, has never-
theless retained his tribal
affiliation and a number of
tribal beliefs. Some of
these have been modified to
fit the requirements of
urban society. For instarme
'lobola' is paid in money
/and .....

and not in cattle, but
this does not make the
implications of this prae-
tice less significant. The
urban African sees himself
as a member of a particular
tribe and he recognizes his
fellows according to their
tribe. He has adopted
European dress and many
Western customs, but he has
also retained many of his
traditional beliefs, cul-
tural mores and practices
peculiar to his tribe.
Traditional African culture
is adjusting to the urban
situation with an inter-
mingling of three influ-
ences: tribal society,
the urban township environ-
ment and Western European


1. The relations are:

aunt, maternal
aunt, if older than my mother:
aunt, if younger :
aunt, paternal
brother, of a girl
younger brother of a boy
elder brother of a boy

tateguru, vadzitateguru
amai Z, mai K.M., madzimai
amaiguru, maiguru
amainini, mainini
vatete K.Z., baba mukunda M
murume M, muwani K.Z.
muroora M.Z., mwenga K
munin'ina, munun'una
/brother- .....

brother-in-law of a man
brother of wife
brother-in-law of a woman
father-in-law of a man
first-born child
last-born child
mother-in-law of a man

mukuwasha K.Z., mukwambo
baba, tezvara, mukarabwa
muramu K.Z., mwaramu M
mupwere, mwana, pwere
mukunda M, mwanasikana
baba, madzibaba
mukarabwa K, tezvara M.Z.
dangwe M.Z., nevanji
muzukutu, mwanamukati
ambuya Z, mbuya K.M.
sekuru, vasekuru Z
amai Z, mai K.M., madzimai
vambuya Z, mbuya K.M.
/mother- .....

mother-in-law of a woman
nephew of a maternal aunt
nephew of a maternal uncle
nephew of a paternal aunt
nephew of a paternal uncle
sister of a boy
younger sister of a girl
elder sister of a girl
sister-in-law of a man
sister-in-law of a woman
(sister of husband)
wife of brother)

vamwene, madzimwene
mwana (nephew or niece)
muzukuru (nephew or niece)
mwana (nephew or niece)
mwana (nephew or niece)
munin'ina, munun'una
muramu K.Z., mwaramu M.

vatete, vamwene
muroora, mainini
mukuwasha K.Z., mukwambo

uncle, maternal
uncle, paternal (elder)
uncle, paternal (younger)

sekuru, madzisekuru
baba mukur
baba munini, baba mudiki

2. Vambuya. A man addresses his wife's sister as muramu.
He calls the wives of his wife's brothers vambuya, the same
term that he uses for his mother-in-law.

3. Ambuya.

Ambuya is strictly applied by children to their

4. Baba. All my father's brothers are called baba: baba
mudiki if younger than my father and baba mukuru if older. His
sons and daughters are, therefore, my brothers and sisters. But
the same is not true of all my cousins. See Table IV.
/5. Mainini/ .....


5. Mainini/amainini and maiguru/amaiguru/maikura

a. These terms are strictly applied by children to
maternal aunts; the aunt being senior or junior
in relation to my mother.

b. But the same term can be applied by the children
of a polygamous union to describe senior or junior
wives of their father.

c. These terms can also be used by married men to describe
senior or junior sisters of their wife, adopting, when
they do so, the term used by their children.

/d. Mainini *....


d. Mainini is also used as a term for maternal female
cousins when their father is the brother of my mother.
Table IV.

6. Mukuwasha/mukwambo. These are terms strictly applied to
the son-in-law, but can be used more loosly as terms for any
male member of the bridegroom's direct family.

7. Sekuru. On the maternal side of the family, the term
Sekuru applies to three generations:

a. My grandfather.

b. His sons, who are my uncles.

c. My maternal uncle's sons, who are my cousins./8. Tezvara..


8. Tezvara. Tezvara is a term strictly applied to a father-
in-law of a man, but is, likewise, used for any male member of
the bride's direct family. If the true tezvara (father-in-law)
should die, the brother of the bride assumes all the functions
of tezvara and is known as such.




Grandmother Grandfather
Ambuya Sekuru
both address me as
muzukuru or


Grandmother Grandfather
Ambuya Sekn.ru
both address me as
muzukuru or

Baba mukurn
Baba mudiki

M a





Baba mukunda




a m
5 0

$0 M


3g 0
9 11o


Younger Brother



Elder Brother Sister
Mukoma Hanzvadzi

/T1 LE II......
















m o

1. m

m P
a )





Ci- m


g n






A. If I am a man:


- Father-in-law
Mukarabwa K

Both call me
Mukuwasha K.M.Z

ME Wife




(if older than
my wife)

C o H
m c

m C



p H


(if younger
than my wife)

P* P

11 M p
p (D CD



B. If I am a woman:

Both call me
Muroora M.A

Muramu or
Baba mukaru
(if older than
my husband)

' M

p -j p9

C 0




M 1_ m P
- :0 g
<+ I- H PO
C+ P, 0 H1
O 11)


e CD

Muramu or
Baba mudiki
(if younger than
my husband)

a M

p .


- Father-in-law

Husband ME


M a


4 cD




A. If I am a boy:

Baba mukuru
Baba mudiki

1-h m
N 0o

B p) 0 N

(- 0 F
N (i. 0 m




Father Mother

0 P, w
< 9)0


c-t r
H 0
H Ii

P(0 0


Uncle Aunt
Sekuru Maiguru

p m- p p (D CO
0 N o0

pajm m' 0 ra
o w H
C+ C

9) 9

B. If I am a girl:

Baba mukuru
Baba mudiki

N o
po P
N 0 OP
* H c+




Father Mother

w3 bi
m 0

Ct- C

m+ 0


Uncle Aunt
Sekuru Maiguru

o p p 0 o

o I p n-S- S

0 ry


/TABLE IV ....




of a girl:

1. Daughters of sister of mother
if older:
if younger:

2. Sons of sister of mother:

3. Sons of brother of mother:

4. Daughters of brother of mother:


mukoma (girl cousin)
munun'una (girl cousin)

hanzvadzi (boy cousin)

sekuru (boy cousin)

amainini (girl cousin)
mainini (girl cousin)

/of a 0....

a boy:

Sons of sister of mother
if older:
if younger:

Daughters of sister of mother:

Sons of brother of mother:

Daughters of brother of mother:

of a girl:

mukoma (boy cousin)
munun'una (boy cousin)

hanzvadzi (girl cousin)

sekuru (boy cousin)

amainini (girl cousin)
mainini (girl cousin)

/I. Daughters.....

1. Daughters of brother of father
if older:
if younger:

2. Sons of brother of father:

3. Both sons and daughters of
sister of father:

mukoma (girl cousin)
munun'una (girl cousin)

hanzvadzi (boy cousin)


of a boy:

1. Sons of brother of father
if older:
if younger:

mukoma (boy cousin)
munun'una (boy cousin)

/2. Daughters .....


2. Daughters of brother of father: hanzvadzi (girl cousin)

3. Sons of sister of father: muzukuru (boy cousin)

4. Daughters of sister of father: muzukuru (girl cousin)

In short, by Shona convention all children of my father's bro-
thers and all children of my mother's sisters are regarded as
my own brothers and sisters (Cf. each case of Nos I and 2
above). The children of my father's sisters and the children
of my mother's brothers are differently described.


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