SETTLEMENT HISTORY OF BUKALANGA: PAST AND PRESENT (PART 2)
by Abel A. Mabuse
The question of the diversity of Bakalanga people living in Botswana today can best be defined by appreciating some critical events leading to the rise and prosperity of Bakalanga state of Butua. Last week’s contribution on the settlement history of Bukalanga ended with the collapse of Great Zimbabwe state and the emergence of this new state predominantly made up of Bakalanga.
The events that are described in this paper result from oral tradition of Balilima and Banyayi (the descendants of populations that lived in Butua State for a longer period), archaeological information gained from excavations of ruins of these early Bakalanga and written records provided by Portuguese who visited Butua during the 16th century. To help build up a clear picture of what life was like, archaeologists have also excavated, mapped and dated some stone walled ruins associated with Bakalanga to help piece together an elaborate picture of socio political organisation of the citizens of Butua state (Tlou and Campbell 2003:98).
Compared to oral traditions of Bakalanga which do not span more than a few generations back in time (and therefore with a lesser degree of accuracy), this holistic approach provides a better understanding of the past of Bukalanga. In Botswana, this approach was tested in the late 1980s by Alec Campbell’s predevelopment archaeological impact assessment at Lower Shashe and Letsibogo dams. This work helped recover large numbers of varyingly- sized agricultural settlements.
Campbell (1991) concludes that the nature and structure of the Shashe settlements suggests the presence of fairly rich chiefdoms with a hierarchy of villages of various sizes. The economy of these villages was based on stock keeping and crop production. This is highlighted by large cattle kraals and remains of numerous granary stands at these villages. Since the only agriculturalists with a known long period of occupation in the area are Bakalanga, this evidence highly suggest that these settlements were part of early Bakalanga chiefdoms which later on developed into part of Great Zimbabwe and Butua states.
Radio carbon dates of these sites indicated a somewhat continuous history of occupation by these people stretching back to around AD 1300. This important work corroborates part of the discussion I offered in part one about early Bakalanga chiefdoms living in the Shashe Limpopo region. It also supports my argument that the rise of Mapungubwe did not necessarily hinder (although it did influence) parallel development of some early Bakalanga people in areas along the Shashe, Limpopo and its interiors.
I now turn our focus to a brief discussion of socio political and economic organisation of the Bakalanga people during the state of Great Zimbabwe. This will help facilitate our comprehension of everyday life events of Bakalanga during this period.
Dr Catrien Van Waarden, a Francistown-based archaeologist and authority on Bakalanga prehistory, has studied many Zimbabwe stone walled ruins in Bukalanga. This work has helped show that Bakalanga people living at ruins such as Tholo Hill, Mupane and Mupanipani near Francistown developed stone walling techniques which were used to build the elaborate town of Great Zimbabwe.
Van Waarden (2009) shows that during the Mapungubwe period, a small farming village of the Gumanye people lived on the hill in which Great Zimbabwe was later on built. Nonetheless, these Gumanye people did not build any stone walls on the site. In fact, the only stone walls were only found at Mapungubwe and some ancestral Bakalanga villages. The Tati River basin Bakalanga produced large quantities of gold for trade, kept cattle and lived in reasonably sized settlements that allowed sustainable utilisation of natural resources in the area. This allowed the rise of skilled manpower among Bakalanga comprising those who specialized in gold mining, stone wall architects known as stone mansons and those who traversed the area transporting goods for trading purposes.
The tradition of building stone walled settlements became fashionable in the area at around AD 1200 and was improved over time until it reached its apex at Great Zimbabwe. Within the next 200 years of its existence, Great Zimbabwe became a powerful capital controlling trade with the east coast. Van Waarden (1998) shows that Great Zimbabwe grew into a large state that extended from the Mozambican coast, northeastern Zimbabwe, the Northern Province of South Africa and as far as the Makgadikgadi Pans into Botswana.
During this period, smaller satellite sites with stone walling tradition similar to the style and layout expressed at Great Zimbabwe were built. In Bukalanga areas of that time in Botswana, atleast 13 such stone walled villages were built at places such as Soswane, Schermers Ruin near Sebina, Nkuke and Blue Jacket along the Tati River, Foley, Lentswe, Mothudi, Domboshaba, Vukwi, Mothudi, Lotsani, Lepokole, Malokojwe, Toranju, Tlapana near Mmea and Mmakgama near Mosu. These villages were built in areas that were previously occupied by the ancestral Bakalanga people discussed in part one.
Last week, I showed that Great Zimbabwe state collapsed in AD 1450 as two new competing states were formed. Munumutapa State developed around the Zambezi valley while another one known as Butua developed southwest of Great Zimbabwe. The capital of the newly formed state of Butua was built at Kame better know today as Khami, to the west of Great Zimbabwe. Between AD 1450 and 1685, Butua was ruled by a dynasty of Mambos known to Bakalanga as Sipundule or as it is commonly written, Chibundule. Van Waarden (1991) points out that the Chibundule family was originally sent by the ruler of Great Zimbabwe sometimes around AD 1400 to govern the western parts of Great Zimbabwe State.
They established Kame and soon took control of trade in gold, copper, salt and animal furs coming from the rich western parts of Butua. By the time Great Zimbabwe collapsed in AD 1450, the Chibundule family had become formidable rulers who ultimately became supreme rulers of Butua as Mambos in AD 1450. From the capital of Khami, they ruled Butua State through the assistance of several trusted councillors who advised Mambo on the accounts of the state.
In Khami, Mambo Chibundule remained somewhat hidden away from the ordinary citizens of Butua to ensure that he attained supreme status and a class above all his subjects. Mambo Chibundule surrounded himself with his immediate family who controlled the immediate areas surrounding his capital and installed governors around his state who were usually related to him.
There was also a powerful diviner tasked with protection of Mambo, ensuring that his powers remained intact throughout his reign. The diviner was also charged with the responsibility to advise Mambo on matters regarding his sacred leadership (Van Waarden 1998). Ordinary Bakalanga villages had their own chiefs and councillors usually comprising of senior members of clans living in such villages. These chiefs ensured that ordinary citizens maintained their allegiance to Mambo through collection of tribute and distribution of imported trade goods such as glass beads, clothing and chinaware brought by Asian and later on Portuguese traders.
The chiefs resolved conflicts among the general population and had localized authority on land use and distribution among the ordinary people (Tlou and Campbell 2003). For over 200 years, Butua grew in peace and prosperity and it is still recalled among the elderly Bakalanga that there was plenty of harvests in the land. Cattle herds also grew in size and some praise poems of Bawumbe mention that they were so rich that they used milk for bathing.
The Bakalanga people found in the state of Butua during the Chibundule days called themselves Balilima. Their descendants are the Bawumbe of Madandume in Tutume, the people of Nshakazhogwe, Mosojane, Mulambakwena, Letsholathebe and Tsamaya, the Mazuwa ward in Maitengwe and the BaSenete ( Van Waarden 1988) They venerate tjibelu as their totem. The males are addressed as sungwasha while the females are bamakulukusa. The Balilima people living in Botswana today trace their ancestry to Makulukusa who is a descendant of the last Chibundule mambo.
In terms of lineage, the Bawumbe of Misola, (the father of Mosojane) are the eldest, followed by Makulukusa who is also known as Wumbe (the father of Nkuse who became famously known as Madandume among his people) and lastly those of Mpengo. It is suggested that Makulukusa led the majority of the royal family of the last Chibundule mambo known as Nkalanga into modern day Botswana during the 17th century. Tlou & Campbell (2003)state that these Balilima changed their name and began to call themselves Bakalanga in recognition of the last Chibundule Mambo, Nkalanga. All people living in Butua began to be known as Bakalanga.
However, the Bamakulusa also call them Bawumbe to show allegiance to their ruler Wumbe (Makulukusa). The 17th century ruins of Balilima found in Bukalanga in areas around Tutume were probably built for this ruling class.
However, oral traditions of Bawumbe of Madandume and Mosojane do not mention if their rulers lived in stone walled villages such as that of Magapatona ruin found near Goshwe today.
The migration of the Bamakulukusa people occurred after the beginning of another dynasty of Mambos known as the Changamires. A major change in the rule of the mambos took place at Khami with the arrival of foreigners in Butua known as the Varozvi or Banyayi at around AD 1650. Their ruler ousted Mambo Chibundule sometimes around the 1690s; ushering in the rule of Mambo Nichasike I. Oral traditions of Bakalanga suggest that Changamire used trickery to attain the mamboship from Chibundule. Portuguese writings also indicate that during the 1640s, there was some form of political instability in Butua.
Nonetheless, studies of Bakalanga oral traditions and those of the Varozvi in Zimbabwe suggest that there was no major warfare involved. Changamire initially accepted Mambo Chibundule's rule and offered his daughter in marriage as a form of recognition of Chibundule's authority. This event is still remembered by elderly Bakalanga people as the manner in which the Banyayi became senior among the original Bakalanga (Balilima) people.
The Banyayi intermarried among the Bakalanga and slowly gained some form of influence in the ruling class at Khami, weakening it as time went on. The final straw was brought in when Changamire's daughter betrayed Mambo Chibundule and resulted in the loss of his Mamboship. The old era of peace and prosperity gradually came to an end in Butua. Mambo Changamire burned down Khami and moved his capital to Danangombe. Some records suggest that the majority of the Balilima people living near Khami migrated westwards into present day Botswana and changed their totem to tjibelu in fear of Changamire's powerful diviner living at Danangombe. Changamire changed his name to Nichasike and introduced military rule in the entire state of Butua. In the 1690s Mambo Nichasike sent his relative Mengwe to Domboshaba to rule the Balilima and the western parts of Butua.
To elaborate further on how Mambo Nichasike's state was governed, Tlou and Campbell (1991) point out that the immediate surroundings of the capital were controlled by other members of the royal family. Beyond this zone, royal in - laws and some other prominent, although non-royal Banyayi governed on behalf of mambo. Distant provinces of the state were ruled by carefully selected governors like Mengwe who ruled over the western - most parts of Butua known as Bulilima-Mangwe. Although there is no clear - cut evidence showing the Nichasike Dynasty rulers, one of the most elaborate Changamire / Nichasike dynasty is offered by Van Waarden (1991). This dynasty offers a succession of rulers of Banyayi from around AD 1490. The names of the rulers demonstrate one important point.
The names of the early rulers beginning with Mabhayangedungo (whose totem is moyo) are Kalanga to suggest the influence of Ikalanga language among the Banyayi as early as AD 1500. These Ikalanga names continued up until Nichasike became Mambo in AD 1696. Names of rulers such as Washaya, Sebabe and Dombo are the only few Kalanga names found in the Nichasike Dynasty that ruled Butua.
This suggests the transition stage and the early stage of the movement of the capital from Khami to Danangombe. At Danangombe and onwards, the names of the ruling class began to change into non-Ikalanga names like Nigomo Nichapingura, Nichagadzike and Rupengo who was succeeded by the regency of Mutanda Ngabate. Gumboremvura took over the leadership until he was succeeded by Chirisamhuru I, the last known Mambo.
We are also aware that during the rule of the Nichasike Mambos, very few stone walled sites were built in Bukalanga. Bulilima- Mangwe was no longer actively controlled by mambo as was the case during the rule of the Chibundule mambos. It is often argued that this loose control of Bulilima Mangwe by the Nichasike Mambos resulted in the arrival of immigrating Sotho Tswana people.
These people were fascinated by settling and becoming part of a wealthy and famous state of Butua.
Immigrating groups of the Sotho, Bapedi, Barolong, Bakaya, Bakhurutshe and others moved northwards and began interacting with Butua citizens. Bukalanga now comprised of Balilima, Banyayi and Sotho Tswana groups. In the final episode of this discussion, I will provide a discussion of Bukalanga during the rule of Mengwe and how the Mfecane affected settlement patterns of Bukalanga thereafter. For the first time, I will attempt to provide a synopsis of chieftainship in Bukalanga.
*Abel A. Mabuse is Head of Archaeological Research Laboratory at Botswana National Museum and writes in his personal capacity as an Archaeologist with Bukalanga roots.