Understanding Shona Culture of The Shona Tribe of Zimbabwe

The Shona people are mainly concentrated in the country of Southern Africa called Zimbabwe, but there are known pockets of these people in Mozambique, as well other parts of South Africa, especially the northern part of South Africa.

Before you understand the mindset associated with the Shona people, one has to understand their customs, their superstitions and everything that is connected with their way of life. Although their life in the towns/cities might have drastically changed from the time when Great Zimbabwe was a thriving city and in most instances certain puberty ceremonies are no longer carried out, their belief in spirit medium is just as strong as ever and in the tribal areas and especially amongst the elders the tribal customs of the tribesman have altered very little. In today’s Zimbabwe the payment of lobola, and payment of what is known as damages {defiling a girl} is now in the form of cash payment, where formally it used to in the form of cattle, goats or hoes but on the whole the actual customs have not changed much at.

From the beginning of the formation of the Shona tribe, agriculture has been the principal mode of subsistence. Maize and millet have always been the staple crops but a fair amount of sorghum, monkey nuts, beans, rice and some indigenous vegetables are also grown. There a number of methods used for tilling the land. The traditional methods of cultivation basically involved the breaking up and scratching of the soil, there after the spreading seed over an extensive acreage. The Shona agricultural lifestyle involved having a considerable number of cattle as well as smaller livestock.

Shona culture is is strongly intertwined with the way the village was structured. In terms of the village set up, a Shona village (or musha as the Shona call it) is controlled by a hereditary headman, who is the head of the principal family unit which originally founded the village. The Shona people are a patriarchal society in general. To become a member of the village, one can only have done that through kinship. A member who has been absent from the village for a considerable time does not lose his membership by default unless there is evidence beyond doubt that he will not return. Understanding this concepts builds a framework that helps in understanding Shona culture.

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