History

Updated: September 27, 2013

Overview

The people now called Kalanga or Bakalanga have been in Western Zimbabwe and Eastern Botswana for over a thousand years. For most of that time, they herded cattle, mined gold and copper and had extensive trade with states to the east.

For the period before the mid-1800s, the major source is archaeological evidence, combined with recent oral history and occasional references in Portuguese documents. These sources are often incomplete and much more research needs to be done to answer the many questions we have about this long period.

The ancestors of the Bakalanga are linked archaeologically with farmers who lived throughout the Shashe-Limpopo valley around 1000 AD, under a small chiefdom (or several) that controlled trade in the area.

Between AD 1450 and 1685, the Mambos, who were probably part of the royal family from Great Zimbabwe, built a stone capital at Khami (west of modern Bulawayo) and ruled the region from there. About 1685, a new dynasty of outsiders, the Rozvi/Lozvi, led by Mambo Chingamire took power and moved their capital east to Danang’ombe and Naletale.  Meanwhile, the old Chibundule rulers appear to have fled to the western area (now in Botswana), giving rise to a number of local Kalanga chiefdoms.

In the 1830s, the Ndebele coming up from the south invaded the Rozvi/Lozvi kingdom and incorporated the various Kalanga chiefs into their power structures or made them pay tribute.  Under Ndebele, British, and even independent Zimbabwean rule, Kalanga identity has tended to suffer with assimilation to Ndebele surnames and language. But recently there has been a resurgence in Kalanga cultural activities and Kalanga is now taught in the local schools in Zimbabwe.

For more on Kalanga history, see: