Its Culture and Fashion this week on Afrobloggers and I wrote about my hair because its something I can write about with authority, from my lived experience. I don’t need to look up a book about my hair only to realise it was written by someone who never grew their own locs but observed someone who did… That’s what some of the research on culture turns up…
I am a little in awe of people who can easily rattle of their identity, that they belong to this tribe of such a clan and this is their culture… Then other times I wonder if aspects of that wasn’t just a tactic to divide and conquer.. I have read allusions to how part of the colonialists’ manifesto is to first strip your subject off their identity then recreate them under a new culture, and while they are busy figuring out who they now are and where they fit in the grand scheme of things you dispossess them of their land….
Zimbabwe holds the record for having the most number of official languages namely Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa.
Its not as hectic as it sounds because Shona accounts for about 70% of the Zimbabwean population, Ndebele has about 20% and the remaining percentage has everything else; everyone practically speaks English which is the medium of instruction in educational institutions and functions as the de facto sole official language.
Sometimes I wonder what Shona is….
It counts as a language but it is in effect a grouping of dialects, ChiKaNdaMaZeKo i.e. ChiKaranga, chiNdau, chiManyika, chiZezuru, and chiKorekore; standardised into Standard language, ChiShona (one language to rule them all)
But the most curious thing about it is how the word Shona doesn’t seem to have any roots from any of the dialects that it encompasses…. very curious stuff.
Where did Shona originate from?
There’s many schools of thought as to where the name originated from:
•African Architectures: Rethinking the Architecture of the House of Stone by Prof. Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga
This historian postulated how the Shona people got their name from the Ndebele who called them amatshona(those who go under) because of their habit of fighting from and seeking refuge in caves…
Would that mean they had no name before Mzilikazi?
•Ken Mafuka – Dzimbahwe
In Dzimbahwe, a book by Ken Mafuka cites a couple of examples on possible origing
Ibu Said (1214-1286) an Arab traveller who wrote about the Soyouna (Shona) people inhabiting Zambezia
Janson a traveler and geographer whose 1639 map of Zambezia shows it inhabited by the Sajona (Shona)
Barreto de Rezende referred to Mwene Mutapa as the King Of The Matshone (Mashona) ( a 1739 map by De Lisle names the whole land of the Zambezia as Mwene Mutapa)
These dates cited predate the Mfecane(1815 -1840) which resulted in the Ndebele settling North of the Limpopo and the clashes which came after.
And an interesting exposition in The Patriot on The origins of the word Shona proposes that: Gold in Hindi is called ‘sona’. In Gujarati it is also called ‘sona’ or ‘sonu’. ‘Sonu’ means ‘handsome’ in Sanskrit. It is derived from the word ‘Sohna’ in Punjab, which means beautiful. As the land was rich in gold which they were trading, the whole land of Mutapa became known as ‘the land of sona’, or ‘Sonaland’.‘Sona’ or ‘Sohna’ were eventually corrupted to ‘Shona’. ‘Sonaland’ became ‘Shonaland’.
The people becoming collectively known as ‘Shona’
Report on The Unification of The Shona Dialects https://www.edd.uio.no/allex/ibooks/Doke/Doke.pdf
Teaching Chishona in Zimbabwe: A Curriculum Analysis Approachby Tafara Mufanechiya
Professor Clement Doke, a South African language expert is credited as the first person to produce the first Shona alphabet. An interesting theory puts it that standard Shona was invented by Professor Doke in 1931 when he used the word ChiShona to represent all five languages, unifying and making recommendations that laid the groundwork of the way we know Shona today…
Before Doke 1931 different missionary groups located had produced different writing systems of Shona using the language variety that was predominantly used in the area where the church group was founded and in the journey to have a common version of the Bible the standardization the Shona language started….
Makes me wonder exactly whose history we have been studying in schools, who has been telling our stories for us…. Are we even who we think we are…