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Making history: spirit mediums and the guerilla war in the Dande area of Zimbabwe

Lan, David Mark (1983) Making history: spirit mediums and the guerilla war in the Dande area of Zimbabwe. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis deals primarily with two groups of people in the Dande region of the Zambezi Valley, the Korekore and the Tande, a sub-group of the Tavara. The ruling royal lineages of these people claim descent from ancestors, known as mhondoro, who are believed to control the fertility of 'spirit provinces' the ritual territories into which the chieftaincies are divided. The authenticity of the mediums of these ancestral spirits depends on support received indirectly from the chiefs through their headmen. As the testing procedures for a medium require the recitation of the history of the royal lineage down to the present incumbent, and as one function of the medium is the selection of the successors to a chieftaincy, the authorities of chief and medium are interdependant. As a consequence, the history of the territory is thought of as the history of the royal lineage and ownership of the territory appears to be inevitably within its control. During the colonial period (1890 to 1979), the chiefs were incorporated into the white-dominated state as low level administrators. Powerless to prevent the large-scale loss of land and forced resettlement, as well as taxation and forced labour, they were believed by the people of Dande to have betrayed their followers and to have been rejected by the ancestors. With the rise of the nationalist movements, reaching a climax with the entry of the guerillas into Dande, the insurgents were incorporated into the ritual and symbolic frameworks which had previously been occupied by the chiefs. This incorporation was effected through the agency of the spirit mediums thus allowing the perpetuation of the traditional symbolism of political authority. As the ideology of the guerillas promoted the ownership of the land and control of the political process by all categories of people irrespective of ancestry, the symbolism of the royal lineage was expanded to refer to all the people of Dande, and that of the spirit province to refer to the emergent state of Zimbabwe which was believed to have been taken under the protection of the ancestors. Mambo ndiye mugoni wepasi,
Ndiye anotaura mutauro mumwecheteyo NaChaminuka nehanzvadzi yake, Nehanda.
Asi zvlno maganzvo ababikwa kaviri nekatatu, Pasi pari gwenga, denga rikachena. (The Chief it is who is lord of the earth,
he it is who speaks in the same tongue
as Chaminuka and his sister, Nehanda.
But now the rain-offerings have been brewed twice and thrice, while the earth is yet a desert and the sky is still bare.) from Soko Rlsina Musoro by Herbert Chitepo (translated by Hazel Carter)

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1983 David Mark Lan
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Bloch, Maurice and La Fontaine, Jean

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