The Kalanga in Historical Perspective
- Thembani DubeThembani DubeDepartment of History, Stellenbosch University
The Kalanga are one of the ethnic groups found mostly in the Bulilima and Mangwe districts, in the southwestern parts of Zimbabwe. Although the origins of the Kalanga date back to a thousand years, it is important to note that Kalanga ethnic identity is a socially constructed phenomenon, which continues to be negotiated. Therefore, it is vital to note that dynamism, flexibility, and malleable are some of the attributes of this identity. As such, Kalanga history and identity, which has been a product of various processes, such as precolonial political and social organization, colonial rule and the postcolonial Zimbabwean state, will be sought after. Central to these processes are actors such as Kalanga chiefs, missionaries, colonial administrators, Kalanga elites, women, and the ordinary people, who played a significant role in shaping and articulating Kalanga identity at different historical epochs. Moreover, markers of Kalanga identity such as language, Ngwali/Mwali religion, chieftaincy, and histories of origin have been used to (re)construct Kalanga identity. Nonetheless, the heterogeneity of Kalanga people and the complexity involved in the intricate processes of identity formation will be acknowledged.
In postcolonial Zimbabwe there has been rising interest from Kalanga elites who have lobbied the government to recognize the Kalanga. This activism is inspired by perceived marginalization of the Kalanga and other minority groups, which has been enforced through monolithic linguistic policies, orchestrated through government favoritism toward the so-called majority languages, such as Shona and IsiNdebele. However, the interaction and cordial relations among the Kalanga and other ethnic groups found in Zimbabwe will also be acknowledged. Nonetheless, there is no exhaustive account of this group as scholars continue to engage with them, hence contributing to always expand the different interpretations on these people. It is therefore hoped that the history of this particular group will be chronicled and perhaps directions for future research on the Kalanga pointed out. In order to fully explore this historical account, various sources that have been used in the study of Kalanga history will be critically engaged.