Kalanga people

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Kalanga group.jpg
Kalanga woman doing a peace sign.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Zimbabwe 700,000[1]
 Botswana 150,000[1]
African Traditional Religion, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Other Bantu peoples

The Kalanga[pronunciation?], also known as the Bakalanga[pronunciation?], Bakalaka[pronunciation?], mainly inhabit far western Zimbabwe and northeastern Botswana. They have been estimated to number around 850,000 today, but probably now much fewer.[citation needed] In Zimbabwe, Kalanga-speaking areas are now much reduced and many of Kalanga heritage now identify themselves as Ndebele or mixed, especially in the urban areas of Bulawayo.

The Kalangas are one of the largest minority groups in Botswana. The 1946 census indicated that there were 22,777 (40% of the numerically largest district) Kalanga in the Bamangwato (Central) District.[2]

The Kalanga are the westernmost of the Shona groups, and were once probably in the same group with the Karanga, the adjacent group of the (Eastern) Shona. In historical tradition, the groups are sometimes confused; as the Shona sound r generally represents an l-sound of other languages, "Kalanga" and "Karanga" etymologically are merely phonetic variants of the same name.


Kalanga knives with wooden sheaths; wooden pillows. From a 1910 ethnographical work.

According to Huffman (2008), the original Bakalanga people descended from Leopards Kopje farmers. These people occupied areas covering parts of north eastern Botswana, western and southern Zimbabwe, adjacent parts of South Africa and Mozambique by around AD 1000. Van Waarden (1998) demonstrated that they traded in ivory, furs and feathers with the Indian Ocean coast for goods such as glass beads and cotton clothes. The majority of these prehistoric Bakalanga villages have been discovered in Botswana in areas close to major rivers and were usually built on terraced hilltops with stone walls built around them.

The Kalanga and/or Karanga are linked to such early African states as Mapungubwe, Khami, and the Rozvi empire. The early Bakalanga people living in the Shashe-Limpopo basin monopolised trade due to their access to the Indian Ocean coast. By around AD 1220 a new and more powerful kingdom developed around Mapungubwe Hill, near Botswana’s border with South Africa. Some of the early Bakalanga people living in the lower Shashe-Limpopo valley probably moved towards or became part of this newly formed kingdom. But studies of climatic data from the area suggest that a disastrous drought soon struck Mapungubwe, and the Shashe -Limpopo region was uninhabited between A.D 1300 and 1420, forcing the ordinary population to scatter. Mapungubwe had become a ghost town by AD 1290. Its golden era lasted no more than 50 years culminating in the rise of Great Zimbabwe.

Later, in the 15th century, the centre of power moved back west, from Great Zimbabwe to Khami, and in the 17th century to Danangombe (Dhlodhlo). The moves were accompanied by changes of the dominance from one clan to another. In the 17th century, the Rozvi state under Mwenemutapa became a powerful competitor, controlling most of the mining areas. The Rozwi even repelled Portuguese colonists from some of their inland posts.

In south-western Zimbabwe (now Matabeleland) and adjacent parts of present-day Botswana, Karanga/Kalanga states survived for more than another century. The fall of the Kingdom of Butua came as a result of a series of invasions, beginning with the Bangwato Kgosi Kgari's ill-fated incursion of around 1828 and culminating in the onslaught of Mzilikazi's Amandebele.

Finally, the Zimbabwe plateau and Lowveld as well as Botswana basin were subdued to British rule by Cecil Rhodes.

Bakalanga villages and towns[edit]

-Mulambakwena -Tutume -Maitengwe -Nswazwi -Nshakazhogwe -Matenge -Makaleng -Tjizwina -Hulela -Mpatane -Mathangwane -Masunga -Gambule -Sesakakangwe -Vhukwi -Zwenshambe -Kalakamati -Matobo -Semitwe -Marapong -Sebina -Ramokgwebana -Mapoka -Kezi -Tokwana -Masendu -Nopemano -Makumbi -Mbimba -Tjolotjo -Masingwaneng -Tsamaya -Mosetse -Dagwi -Nkange -Senete -Gulubane -Themashanga -Ntoli -Nlapkhwane -Gampo -Khame -Kgari -Moroka -Sechele -Letsholathebe -Kalakamati -Goshwe -Plumtree↵--Francistown↵-Palapye↵-Madlambudzi↵-Ndolwane↵-Masendu↵-Bhagani-Makhekhe↵-Gala↵-Bilingoma↵-Sihore↵-Malalume↵-Malopa↵-Bambadzi ↵-Hingwe- -Jutjume -Makhulela -Tjehanga -Mbalambi.Lemu. Ngwana- Butshe - Nswazwi


  1. ^ a b Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Kalanga 'The cultural people'". Ethnologue. SIL International. Retrieved October 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ Mpho, 1987: This excluded those in the North-east District


  • David N. Beach: The Shona and Zimbabwe 900–1850. Heinemann, London 1980 und Mambo Press, Gwelo 1980, ISBN 0-435-94505-X
  • Catharina Van Waarden: Butua and the end of an era: The effect of the collapse of the Kalanga State on ordinary citizens. An analysis of behaviour under stress.  2012. Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology 82. Oxford: Archaeopress.

External links[edit]