Webnar: Unpacking the history of BaKalanga
TO suggest that Kalanga is a dialect of Shona is like suggesting that Zulu is a dialect of Ndebele, Emmanuel Moyo, the author of The Rebirth of BuKalanga said Sunday in an online presentation facilitated by Kalanga Language and Cultural Development Association.
Moyo, a Kalanga twenty-first century researcher and author was responding to key questions pertaining to the history of the Kalanga people in a WhatsApp based Webinar.
Below are excerpts of the key questions and responses compiled by the moderator and rapporteur of the session, Divine Bhango Dube.
Some questions by members of the Kalanga WhatsApp platform and responses by the guest presenter have been standardised for clarity.
Question: Is there any similarity and relationship between the Njelele in Mesina, Matopo and Gokwe and is there a common deity for all of these?
Response: Njelele/Nzhelele refers to key centers of historic worship dze BaKalanga. Historically, BaKalanga, VhaVenda ne BaNambya ibanhu ban’ompela kakale mhili dzehango yabo ndiyedzi:
Zambezi to the Makhado Mountains (north to south) and originally from the Phungwe River (somewhere in central Mozambique today, but later pushed to morden-day Gweru (Gwilo) by Arabic and Portuguese slave-trade) up to central Botswana today. This all explains the various religious and cultural practices amongst these peoples.
Question: Bakalanga banobva poni? Bamwe banoti tibanhu ba Mambo related to the Rozvi bamwe bakati early Nguni group dzakabuya mbeli kwe Matebele, bamwe bekati tozwalana nema Pedi.
Response: BaPedi banozwalana be BaKalanga ibana ba Mambo bakatihha na Queen Modjadji (babe BaLobedu) nasi nentha yomwana wake azwagwa nezila ino yila (azwalisiwa ne hama ipedlo)
BaLozwi (corrupted to Rozvi) are central Kalanga people bunji gwabo bali baka Moyo) and you cant get any more Kalanga than that. Historically there is no direct relation between BaKalanga ne Matebele (Nguni) besides geographical proximity and conquest).
And a major falsehood that we quickly need to get out of the way is the one championed by certain Shona scholars and activists (and by the way even Ndebele ones), is the one that claims that BaKalanga are a “hybrid of the Ndebele an Karanga” who came out of intermarriage.
Thats a gigantic falsehood bearing in mind that all these groups found BaKalanga already in existence for centuries in this region. If need be we can then explain the Kalanga-Karanga relationship.
Question: What’s the relationship between the Karanga and Kalanga?
Response: The Karanga are the one who are a true hybrid of the Kalanga and Shona proper groups (the Zezuru-Manyika) alliance.
The languages and surnames are self explanatory.
The Kalanga had been in occupation of this whole land and Shona groups started moving in in large hordes in the 1700s onwards and there being no L in their language, Kalanga in regions they settled inevitably became Karanga and the language got diluted.
An immediate question lots of people raise once they hear this explanation is: but how about the numbers?
Check this out: over the last 170 years, what is now called Matebeleland was transformed (through conquest and other methods) from a predominantly Kalanga speaking region to Ndebele speaking.
Hence, the majority of people speaking Ndebele, Karanga and Setswa (northen Botswana) are actually Kalanga people. If you look at it that way you’ll immediately see that the Kalangaean groups are easily the 2nd or 3rd largest population group in Southern Africa after the Nguni groups and perhaps Sotho-Tswana groups.
Our language suffered the same fate as that of Hebrew (which at one point was the language of the most powerful empire.
Our language suffered a similar fate as that of Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek which were all languages of great empires but have over the years reduced to minority languages with the breakup of the empires.
Question: Who were traditional rainmakers kuBaKalanga?I grew up knowing its the Lubimbis and Malabas.
Response: Ilebeswa kuti Kalangaean society had clear demarcations of responsibilities. Baka Lubimbi were the Priests, first baka Hhowu (Ndlovu) an later Moyo the political class, etc. This is one aspect various writers in the field have used as a pointer to Semitic world origins of these people for Mwalism, the Kalangaean religion, has striking similarities with the Semitice religions of the Ancient Near East (ANE).
Question: Bakalanga ne Balilima beku Botswana banhu banimpola kene?
Response: (Laughs). Interesting question. I always say its like asking are the English of America, England and Australia related? Of course they are.
TjiLilima is just a dialect of TjiKalanga Group which includes Nambya, Western Venda, Pfumbi, etc. To distinguish TjiLilima from the dialect spoken in Bulilima-Mangwe (besides Talawunda) I use the term TjLozwi as it is closer to the last major center of Lozwi power – Nkami, now known as Khami.
Question: Is tjikalanga a dialect of shona?
Response: TjiKalanga has been spoken in Southern Africa for at least 500 years before anything called Shona was ever heard of. To suggest that Kalanga is a dialect of Shona is like suggesting that Zulu is a dialect of Ndebele.
Question: Bakalanga nebakhwa are they related?
Response: BaKalanga ne BaTjoa (so-called abaKhwa) bakagala for a long time bali ba bakidzani. Inevitably they intermarried hence bo Nibukhwa.
Question: What is the relationship between bakalanga and the Arabs and from which part of Africa did baKalanga originate?
Response: Arabs came into the region as traders and also did intermarry (most travelers were man).
BaKalanga originate in North East Africa (now Egypt-Sudan-Ethiopia region). Religion and archeology testify to this (Mwalism and the Nzimabgwe masonry).
No other African peoples South of the Sahara are known to share these attributes with Ancient Semitic Races as the Kalanga.
Question: Banhu baka Khuphe bakhwa kene BaKalanga dumbu?
Response: Bo Khupe BaKalanga who are ‘Pedified’, originating in Sekhukhuneland in whats called Khopeng.
Question: Kulebeswa kuti zwiboko zose zwemuka ndema body parts like *Nhliziyo* baKalanga?
Response: Excellent question. This is the most distinguishing feature of BaKalanga.
Just like Jews will be easily identified as Yehudah, Stein, Berg, Meyer, etc, so are the Kalanga easily identified by their animal name and body parts surnames, whatever language they speak or region they live – from Tanzania to the Cape Coast.
Question: Can you give us the list of Kalanga kings from the first to the last one.
Response: This is an incredibly difficult task since Kalangaean Mambos predominantly used dynastic titles more: e.g, Mambo, Tjibundule, Tjangamire, etc. some of them having originally started off as a name of one Mambo.
Secondly, the Portuguese recorders tended to write names as they understood or gave their own, clouding the whole thing.
(But nonetheless, I will give a list of some of them. Need to charge a phone in which I once prepared that list and share it here).
Also, remember this dynasty existed for some 1000 years, much of the time without any record since the days at Maphungubgwe around 1000AD, not to even mention earlier Mambos dating back, as some archeologists suggest, as back as 500 AD.
Question: Why do some Moyos n Dubes collude in Mangulanenkaka totem?
*Response*: Mangulanenkaka is a common praise for almost all BaKalanga, not limited to Moyo and Dube. I am at this time not sure what the origin of that is.
Questions: Any idear why Bakalanga moved away from Khami/Nkame ruins?
Response: Khami, occupied from about 1450 to 1650, was abandoned largely due to resource depletion just like Great Zimbabwe. Maphungubgwe had been abandoned as a result of a famine and fire that broke up in sometime in 1400, archeology tells us.
Question: Maswingo ekuGreat zimbabwe akatiwa exactly nezila yeKuLuswingo, can it be that Kalangas copied or they once lived there?
Response: Luswingo is simply singular for Maswingo. Great Zimbabwe, Khami and Maphungubgwe simply happened to be the more majestic and larger cities whereas smaller ones were spread all over the place from Venda to Hwange (Dzata, Luswingo, Domboshaba, Bumbudzi, Nhalatale, so-called Dlodlo, etc).
Question: I have noted that maTebele despise and hate Bakalanga with a passion. Does this have historical connection to the way these tribes related to each other?
Response: The alleged Ndebele nation was built on conquest of BuKalanga. Any rise of the Kalanga nation is an existential threat to the alleged Ndebele nation. I cannot confirm the “hate with a passion” though.
Question:When I grew up ndandiwha badala beti timadamara takabva ku Namibia, bayapo BaKalanga kuNamibia?
Response: I am not aware of that, but neither can I dispute that kungabe ne banhu be ludzi gwe Madamara (a Namibian people) bangabe bakahha beka gala pakati kwe BaKalanga bebva bazwidana BaKalanga bo.
Question: Kulebeswa kuti baKalanga bakatongogala ku Khami Ruins?
Response: BaKalanga abazogala koga mu Khami, baka baka Khami just as they did Maphungubgwe, Great Zimbabwe and all other Nzimabgwe masonic cities spread from Venda to Victoria Falls.
Dama ilo linoti Khami is a corruption of Nkami, a praise name from zwitetembelo with the phrase “nkami wedzisina mhulu”.
Question:Kobvani kuti ‘kalanga’ according to research findings??
Response: There are two major definitions we know of:
1) People of the North.
2) Good and wise people.
The first one is recorded in 1926 by a Swedish missionary who claims to have interviewed elderly men in their 80s at that time, who would have been born about the mid-1800s.
The second one comes from a medical doctor and Kalanga enthusiast of the BaSongye people (an offshoot of the Kalanga now found in the DRC).
Closing remarks: For fuller and more detailed explanations, check out Moyo’s book, The Rebirth of BuKalanga which is freely available online. Download pdf here