Kalanga people

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Kalanga group.jpg
Kalanga woman performing traditional dance.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Ndebele, TjiKalanga, Shona languages
African Traditional Religion, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Northern Ndebele, Shona, and other Southern Bantu peoples

The Kalanga, or BakaLanga, are a southern Bantu ethnic group mainly inhabiting Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, with smaller numbers in northeastern Botswana, Gaza Province in Mozambique, and Limpopo Province in South Africa.


The native language of the Kalanga people is TjiKalanga, or simply Kalanga, a divergent dialect of Central Shona.[2] Kalanga-speakers number over 500,000, though are now much reduced, speaking either Ndebele or Standard/Central Shona languages in Zimbabwe, and other various local languages of the surrounding peoples of southern Africa.[2] The BakaLanga are one of the largest ethnolinguistic groups in Botswana. The 1946 census indicated that there were 22,777 (40% of the numerically largest district) BakaLanga in the Bamangwato (Central) District.[3]


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.[4] These people occupied areas covering parts of north eastern Botswana, western and southern Zimbabwe, adjacent parts of South Africa and Mozambique by around AD 100. They traded in ivory, furs and feathers with the Indian Ocean coast for goods such as glass beads and cotton clothes.[5] The majority of these prehistoric Bakalanga villages have been discovered in Botswana and Zimbabwe in areas close to major rivers and were usually built on terraced hilltops with stone walls built around them.[citation needed]

The Kalanga are linked to such early African States as Maphungubgwe, Khami, and the Lozvi 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 Maphungubgwe 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 Maphungubgwe, and the Shashe-Limpopo region was uninhabited between A.D 1300 and 1420, forcing the ordinary population to scatter. Maphungubgwe 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 (Dlodlo). The moves were accompanied by changes of the dominance from one clan to another. In the 17th century, the Lozvi established southern BaKalanga became a powerful competitor, controlling most of the mining areas. The Lozvi even repelled Portuguese colonists from some of their inland posts.

In south-western Zimbabwe (now Matabeleland) and adjacent parts of present-day Botswana, 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]

- Masukwane - Pole -Mulambakwena -Tutume -Maitengwe -Nswazwi -Nshakashongwe -Matenge -Makaleng -Tjizwina -Hulela -Mpatane -Mathangwane -Masunga -Gambule -Sesakakangwe -Vhukwi -Zwenshambe -Kalakamati -Matobo -Semitwe -Marapong -Sebina -Butale -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↵-Madlambudzi↵-Ndolwane↵-Masendu↵-Bhagani-Makhekhe↵-Gala↵-Bilingoma↵-Sihore↵-Malalume↵-Malopa↵-Bambadzi ↵-Hingwe- -Jutjume -Makhulela -Tjehanga -Mbalambi.Lemu. Ngwana- Butshe - Nswazwi Gutu -Makaleng Dombodema Hikwa


  1. ^ a b Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Kalanga 'The cultural people'". Ethnologue. SIL International. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Language". Kalanga. Kalanga Language and Cultural Development Association (KLCDA). Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  3. ^ This excluded those in the North-east District Mpho, Motsamai Keyecwe (1989). "Representation of cultural minorities in policy making". In Holm, John D.; Molutsi, Patrick P. (eds.). Democracy in Botswana: The Proceedings of a Symposium Held in Gaborone, 1-5 August 1988. Botswana Society Conference publication. Gaborone, Botswana: Macmillan. pp. 130–38. ISBN 978-0-8214-0943-5.
  4. ^ Huffman, T. N. (2008). "Zhizo and Leopard's Kopje: test excavations at Simamwe and Mtanye, Zimbabwe". In Badenhorst, Shaw; Mitchell, Peter; Driver, Jonathan C. (eds.). Animals and people: Archaeozoological papers in honour of Ina Plug. Oxford, England: Archaeopress. pp. 200–214. ISBN 978-1-4073-0336-9.  See also, Huffman, T. N. (1974). The Leopard Kopje Tradition. Doctoral dissertation,. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  5. ^ Van Waarden, Catharina (1998). "The Late Iron Age". In Lane, Paul J.; Reid, Andrew; Segobye, Alinah (eds.). Ditswa Mmung: The Archaeology of Botswana. Gaborone, Botswana: Botswana Society. pp. 115–160. ISBN 978-99912-60-39-6.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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]