The Shona Tribe


The Shona tribe inhabits Zimbabwe, Botswana and southern Mozambique in Southern Africa and bordering South Africa. They are also Zimbabwe's largest indigenous group. Their tribal language is Shona (Bantu) and their population is around 9 million. There are five main Shona language groups: Korekore, Zeseru, Manyika, Ndau, and Karanga. The Ndebele largely absorbed the last of these groups when they moved into western Zimbabwe in the 1830s.

The Shona people live in isolated settlements, usually consisting of one or more elder men and their extended families. Most decisions are made within the family, although organized political states were recognized as a source of centralized power. A principal chief who inherited his position and power in the same divine manner as a king headed them. He usually lived in a centralized location and was complemented by his court that advised him about most important decisions. The head chief often received substantial payment in the form of tributes from his constituency.

There is belief in a creator-god, Mwari, and a concern to propitiate ancestral and other spirits to ensure good health, rain, and success in enterprise. Elementary education, Christian missions, and partial urbanization have weakened traditional institutions and leadership and it said that traditional Shona culture is now in fast decline. However, magic and witchcraft continue as important means of social control and explanations for disasters.

The Shona people have a rich artistic heritage and are hailed for their stone work. Stone carving has been part of the Zimbabwean culture since 1200 AD when Great Zimbabwe, an archeological masterpiece of their early ancestors, was built. The re-emergence of this stone carving tradition came about in the 1950s, when it gained worldwide recognition to the solid forms and beautiful surfaces of Shona sculpture that expresses an extraordinary emotional power.

Drawing on ancient sculpting traditions, the Shona tribe has produced a modern art movement of dignified, exquisite works. Reminiscent of Picasso and Henry Moore, these extraordinary, intense works speak to all humanity.



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