Karanga ethnography comprises several elements such as historical background,

economy, kinship system and customs.

Historical Background

Mberengwa was originally inhabited by early Stone Age people belonging to

a Macrolithic culture.1 These were the ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’, who had extensive

knowledge of edible fruits and roots and hunting animals. Their food-gathering

economy involved a nomadic life with temporary shelters. They lived in roving

bands in groups of about 30-60 people. They had no political organization, no

inequality between sexes and had an open and flexible kinship system.2 Some of

the distinguishing marks of the Bushmen are rock paintings depicting features of

hunting and fishing as discovered at Mnene, Matibi, Buchwa and other sites in the

area. The first Bantu people displaced the Bushmen most of whom retreated to the

Kalahari desert in Botswana. The Bantu then settled in Mberengwa in the beginning

of the second millennium BC.3 The oldest Bantu group in Mberengwa is the Gove

clan under the present Chief Negove. The northern and southern parts of Mberengwa

came under the influence of the Changamire dynasty called the ‘Rozvi’ which means

destroyers or despoilers. Their totem is Moyo (heart). Centred at Great Zimbabwe,

the Rozvi ruled the entire area between the Zambezi and the Limpopo until 1830

when the Nguni invaders from the south interrupted their rule.4 Rozvi became the

standard totem adopted by chiefs who were given permission to settle in Mberengwa

by the Rozvi rulers.5 But today the Karanga groups use original totems like Shoko

(monkey), Shava (eland) Hove (fish), Shumba (lion), Shiri (bird), Gumbo (leg), etc.