‘There is no tribe called Shona in Zimbabwe’ Hopewell Chin’ono says

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Zimbabwean journalist and commentator Hopewell Rugoho-Chin’ono, widely known as Chin’ono, recently took to social media to challenge the common perception of a unified “Shona” tribe in Zimbabwe. In a tweet, Chin’ono shed light on the historical roots of this term, highlighting that “Shona” is, in fact, a language group, not a singular tribe.

The journalist began by reminiscing about the wisdom he gained from revered Zimbabwean historians, such as the late Prof George Kahari and Dr. Ibbo Mandaza. In his tweet, Chin’ono emphasized that these scholars played a crucial role in shaping his understanding of Zimbabwe’s history.

According to Dr. Mandaza, “Shona” represents a synthesis of various dialects, including the “Shawasha” or Zezuru, “Morgenster” or Karanga, Manyika, and Ndau. Astonishingly, it was white missionaries who convened at the Chishawasha Mission in 1930, under the guidance of South African linguist Professor Clement Doke, to bring these dialects together.

Chin’ono said historical records reveal that the Rhodesian administration faced significant challenges in producing school textbooks in multiple languages and dialects. To address this issue, they enlisted the expertise of Professor Doke, who, in 1931, presented a groundbreaking report that culminated in the creation of “Standard Shona.”

This “Standard Shona” serves as the modern-day basis for the term “Shona,” despite the suggestions by Prof George Kahari that it was also linked to the Munhumutapa Kingdom, he added. According to Chin’ono, Shona people are better described by their specific ethnic identities, such as Zezuru, Karanga, Ndau, Manyika, Korekore, Barwe, and more.

Furthermore, to simplify the complexities of these different dialects, the white colonialists categorized them under the umbrella term “Shona.” This made it easier for the colonial administration to refer to anyone who wasn’t Ndebele as “Shona,” labeling their language as such.

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In 1931, Professor Doke coined the term “ChiShona” to encompass all five languages or dialects.

Chin’ono’s tweets have sparked a reevaluation of the conventional understanding of “Shona” identity, encouraging Shonas to embrace their true, distinct ethnic backgrounds.


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