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Hosana Dancers at Domboshaba - The twelfth celebration of the annual Domboshaba cultural festival next Saturday promises to be bigger and better than ever before.

The twelfth celebration of the annual Domboshaba cultural festival next Saturday (October 1, 2011) promises to be bigger and better than ever before.

After months of planning the organisers, in association with sponsors Botswana Tourism and the Department of Arts and Culture, are set to take the popular Bakalanga showcase to new heights with an exciting programme of events that begins with the newly introduced Nswazwi Marathon on Friday morning.

The main festival on Saturday has been divided into two sections with the morning and afternoon devoted to a packed programme of speeches, music and dance. In the evening a Night of Music sees the ever-popular singing legend Ndingo Johwa and a variety of other artists in performance.

The festival has a colourful history that began in 2000 when the Mukani Action Campaign (MAC) and the Balumbidzi be iKalanga (The Society for the Promotion of iKalanga Language (SPIL)), taking a cue from the Kamanakao Association of the Bayeyi, embarked on a search of ways to tangibly promote and commemorate the Kalanga people’s culture and history.

Mukani Action Campaign workers, among them Rev, M. Mothibi, Rev. P. Mothetho, Mr S. Marumo, Dr. M. Rodewald, and others, visited many Kalanga villages and inquired from the people how the celebration of Kalanga language and history could be made. The general feeling was that there should be an annual celebration, at a symbolic place that depicted Kalanga history.

It was unanimously agreed that the Domboshaba ancient ruins, between the villages of Kalakamati and Vukwi should be used as a banner to rally all Bakalanga to celebrate their language and history. All BaKalanga leaders (Boshe)from Botswana and Zimbabwe and all Kalanga Language Promotion groups from these two countries were invited to grace the occasion. Permission was also sought and obtained from the Botswana Museum to use the place for the celebration.

The significance of Domboshaba, which when translated means, Red Hill, is that these ancient ruins are the remnant of what was once a great and prosperous kingdom of the Bakalanga people. The redness of the hill comes from the way the stonewalls were plastered with clay which was then burnt to make it resistant to rain.

Traditional dancers entertaining guests

During its years of glory, Domboshaba could be seen from afar as a red hill. This place, Domboshaba, was a residence, possibly of a representative of the Mambo (or She), who looked after the western most part of the Kingdom. Critically, during those years, the importance of this post was the salt trade. Evidence of this is a small stone structure that can still be seen in the Makgakgadi Pan (Shango ye Mwenyu). Before that, Bakalanga and many people to the east relied on barter trade of salt and biltong with the Bakhwa (Kua and Cua San groups, now found situated from Shua (Sowa) to Lephepe Pans)) who brought salt to them in exchange for beads, iron, grain, and other clothing items.

The name of Makuta Hills at Nswazwi village indicates the barter trade exchanges that used to occur between the Bakalanga and the Bakhwa. In a barter system, the kukuta, a trader would put down his goods, withdraw and stay with their head bowed and not saying anything (akakuta). If an acceptable match to his goods was made, he would collect the exchange items and leave the place without another word.

The Domboshaba also served as a Njelele (a shrine) at which the great creator and fearful and only God Mwali was worshipped. As a Njelele, the She in charge had also Batumwa ba Mwali (Mwali’s messengers or priests) who performed regular worship activities with the Hosana, a designated worship party which sings and dances in honour of Mwali. The Mazenge dances and prayers were performed there, and special offering for rain and worship were performed. The Domboshaba, which is now a historical site under the Botswana Museum Management exists as a monument in memory of the once great and prosperous Kingdoms (Mwenemutapa, and Rozwi) of Bakalanga people whose kingdoms was governed from Danang’ombe (Danamombe, meaning, call the cattle) east of the Matopo (Matobe near Bulawayo and earlier from Mwenemutapa in Masvingo, in Zimbabwe.

CHAIRMAN JT Mokokomani


Domboshaba Cultural Trust (DCT) is pleased to present the twelfth Domboshaba Festival of Culture and History. The festival is named after Domboshaba Ruins, a pre-colonial Kalanga trading centre (~ 2 km north-eats of the festival site, Sijume Hill) built around 1450. Over the years the festival has sensitised Bakalanga on the state of their culture and in turn inspired other communities across to country to start their own festival thus adding a new and fresh feel to Botswana’s cultural calender.

Domboshaba Festival of Culture and History continues to grow not only in attendance but range of activities. This year the festival site has been expanded to three times the size, to relieve over-crowding and allow more small businesses to operate inside the premises. In addition catering will be facilitated by the use of coupons that can be purchased from the tickets kiosk’s east of the main gate. The range of activities has also been expanded to include the following:

Nswazwi half marathon (Sebina – Makuta) Morning, 30 Sep 2011

Road Show (Makuta – Tutume – Nswazwi) Afternoon, 30 Sep 2011

Maedziso ka Nswazwi (Fire side entertainment) Evening, 30 Sep 2011

Main Festival at Domboshaba Day, 01 Oct 2011

Night of music (till the morning of 02 Oct 2011) Evening, 01 Oct 2011

This year’s festival theme is ‘My Language, My Pride’ reaffirming DCT’s unwavering commitment to see Ikalanga, take its rightful place in a plural linguistic space. The trust wishes the thousands that attend our festival (from here and from across borders) a blissful time. The festival remains unique because of the rich history of the Bakalanga people, the natural beauty of Bukalanga and the colourfulness of the peoples’ culture.

DCT wishes to sincerely thank its sponsors, Botswana Tourism, Department of Arts and Culture, The Voice and many individual Bakalanga who continue to contribute towards the its growth.

Ne Mang’wana!


Ndazula music is normally performed when there is good harvest. This is happy music also performed on occasions such as bukwe (engagements), ndobolo (marriages), ndale (beer drinking sessions) and other feasts that are meant to praise the Bakalanga people. The most effective occasion on which ndazula music is performed is after a good harvest. ndazula music is performed is after a good harvest.

In the past there was a short growing crop called lukwezha (finger millet) in the Ikalanga language, specially grown for traditional beer brewing. When there was a good harvest ndale (traditional beer) would be brewed from the lukwezha crop. The purpose of this was for elderly people to rejoice and show appreciation tot he ancestors for this good harvest. During the day, these people would be drinking traditional beer without much singing. Ndazula songs were meant to be sung after supper. This was done at this time to allow children to go to bed so that adults could sing these songs, some of which are metaphorically vulgar, with freedom. It is permissible to sing abusive songs about named members of the group, whose conduct is deemed unsatisfactory.

These songs also have a high degree of sexual jargon referring to both men and women. This jargon does not imply that there is a fight or some form of misunderstanding. This is carried out in a happy, descriptive, provocative mood between men and women. None of the two parties would be offended since they know the intention of the songs. It is from these types of musical sessions that creative singers and dancers would be identified.

Ndazula songs also carry important messages in addition to the vulgar jargon. When ndale (traditional beer) was tasty, ndazula songs were performed to express happiness and appreciation to the brewer who is always a woman. In the Ikalanga culture, traditional beer brewing is a woman’s job.


Tshekedi Khama v Baka-Nswazwi

by Kangang’wani Phatshwane

The conflict between Tshekedi Khama and She Nswazwi VIII was caused by trying to create a vassal – master relationship where none had ever existed.

Tshekedi had his own insecurities at Serowe (Bhawa in Kalanga) kgotla. He salivated at the prosperity of Baka Nswazwi and had hoped he could grab their resources to deploy them against his nemesis, the Ratshosa’s (ironically his cousins as well as his in-laws, having married Khama III’s daughter). He imposed an unlawful tax on Baka Nswazwi to pay for his trip to London to fight his battles. Baka Nswazwi treated him with the contempt they reserve even to this day for despots.

Tshekedi, with the tacit approval of the colonial administration, wreaked havoc in Bukalanga. He moved large numbers of Ngwato settlers to Goshwe, where he confiscated wells and ploughing fields which quickly fell fallow, as the Ngwato had never really been good tillers of land. Thankfully, most that had been settled in Goshwe realised what was good for them and left for Nata, where they are more at home among the Xhaitya (Bushmen to the English), with whom they are genetically closer.

Tshekedi disrupted the ploughing season in Bukalanga by ordering nonsensical meetings, which he brutally enforced with the backing of the colonial administration. Through these activities he contributed in 1947 to the worst food shortage Bukalanga had ever experienced. Tshekedi, by exiling She Nshakazhogwe, destroyed the chieftaincy of Baka Nshakazhogwe which to this day has not been fully restored.

REST IN PEACE She Nswazwi’s grave

Tshekedi imposed a Ngwato ruler at Tjizwina (Sebina) who had neither the knowledge of Kalanga language nor customs, the only law he knew was brutality. The biggest atrocity that Tshekedi inflicted on Bukalanga was the wanton destruction of Nswazwi village, one of the most liberal and progressive village in the country at the time. In October 1947, Tshekedi sent a regiment (led by Oteng Mphoeng, Keaboka Kgamane and Rakoosha Serogola) which caused wanton destruction of property, confiscated large numbers of livestock, committed rape and the murder of Livuna Mpapho. In doing this Tshekedi counted on armoured cars from South Africa and planes from Southern Rhodesia. These are hardly the actions of a ‘great statesman’.

The Ngwato have often portrayed their attack of Baka Nswazwi, in their praise poems as war, hardly convincing given the villagers (mostly women and children) were not armed.

In Botswana, the language of Bakalanga (Vakalanga), unlike in Zimbabwe, has currently no official status. All its development efforts have been undertaken by missionaries and community associations.

SITE OF LEARNING The ruins of the old school in Nswazwi village

Presently literacy efforts and the Bible translation are based on the Ngatikwaleni Ikalanga – Manual for Writing iKalanga as Spoken in Botswana which was published in 1995 through the initiative of the Society for the Promotion of Ikalanga Language (SPIL) and the Kalanga Bible Translation Project (KBTP) under the auspices of the Botswana Bible Society. When this orthographic manual was published it was an outcome of many years of efforts to write the Kalanga language in Botswana. The most significant effort before that was the orthographic conference of 1989, which resulted in the First iKalanga Orthography conference, as recorded in Kalanga: Retrospect and Prospect (van Warden, edit.1990). Immediately after this conference it became clear that the recommendations of the First Conference of 1989 did not address all the issues that were required for a practical orthography, especially as demonstrated by the KBTP work. There were inconsistencies of word divisions and use of symbols (Chebanne, 1994).

Efforts to promote the Language of Bakalanga

Prior to the SPIL and KBTP orthography efforts Bakalanga wrote their language on the basis of the orthography that was used since the publication of Ndebo Mbuya yoBuhe gwe Ndzimu (LMS, Dombodema, 1921). This was the orthography that was developed by the London Missionary Society in Dombodema and Kuruman towards the end of the 19th century, and published in 1910. This orthography was used for the publication of Maswiswina Gonde (LMS, Dombodema, 1930) and Zwidiyo zo Kutanga: A Kalanga Primer (LMS, 1957) and also Tjipeletana Tjebana: a tjiKalanga Reader LMS, 1964). The missionaries, it is evident, were and are still very much involved in the development and practice of the IKalanga orthography (Mgadla, 1986).

However, in the course of years the iKalanga (ChiKalanga) orthography of 1910 of Ndebo Mbuya yobuhe gwe Ndzimu was deemed not suitable for modern literacy and publication challenges. The reasons are many, but essentially, this was because of monumental and pervading inconsistencies within publications (Cf. Ndebo Mbuya, 1921, and Tjipeletana tje bana, 1964), and the fact that it was not consistently practiced by speakers, either because of lack of formal literacy or the lack of linguistic standard or harmonized ChiKalanga. It was in this context that the Second iKalanga Orthography Conference which is the basis of Ngatikwaleni Ikalanga was organised in 1993.

By Chenjelani Baraedi

Mantenge well

Mantenge well has been a source of water for the people of Kalakamati and surrounding areas from time immemorial. During drought period when all rivers and well in the area had dried up, Mantenge watered both animals and people in area.

Evidence found indicates that the site was used during the later Stone Age period thousands of years ago. This is shown by the rock painting, perched upon the two rocks panels a few metres from the well. The painting like others paintings in the region are associated with the san people who used to roam the area and evidence of their existence is further supported by artefacts like arrow points, scraps, ostrich egg shells, which were picked through excavation.

Kalakamati residents fenced and now administers, the site in partnership with Botswana National museum and is protected by monuments and relics act.

Rock paintings

Chairman of the Kakalamati community Trust, Israel Samu said residents decided to fence to ensure the continued protection of the unique heritage site. He points that the trust fenced the site after it became evident that churches and traditional healers were now using the well for a different purpose which was likely jeopardize its continued existence.

Mantenge lays a stone from Domboshaba hills and people who want to see the area can always found help at the village Kgotla.

Profile of the High Commissioner of the Republic of Namibia to Botswana, H.E. Hadino T. Hishongwa


H.E. Hadino T. Hishongwa is a Namibian citizen born at Odibo on 10 April 1943. His permanent home is currently at Onekwaya West in the Ohangwena Region. A founding member of the ruling SWAPO, he did his secondary school and teacher training at Odibo. In 1962 he taught for six months before he was banned from teaching by the then South African government.

H.E. Hadino T. Hishongwa went into exile in 1964 where he was elected as SWAPO Student Leader in 1965 and also completed military training in Tanzania as a member of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). After school, he was appointed as SWAPO’s Deputy Chief Representative for East Africa (in 1969). From 1969-1972 he read for his first degree at Dar-Es-Salaam University.

In 1973 he was appointed SWAPO’s Chief Representative for West Africa and opened an office in Dakar, Senegal. He stayed there till 1976. After that, he was appointed SWAPO’s Chief Representative for the Nordic countries (Austria, Switzerland, East Germany and West Germany) based in Stockholm, Sweden. From 1976-1982 he studied economics at Stockholm University.

From 1982 to 1984, he was based at the SWAPO Headquarters in Luanda, Angola under the SWAPO Directorate of Foreign Affairs. He was then also acting as Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Namibia National Workers Union (NUNW).

Between 1984 and 1986, he was assigned to open a SWAPO office in Melbourne, Australia as SWAPO’s Chief Representative for Austral-Asia and Pacific Region. In 1986, he was elected to the SWAPO Central Committee and appointed SWAPO’s Youth League Secretary General, a position he held till 1992.

Following the implementation of the United Nations (UN) resolution 435, and after the 1st April 1989 war, he volunteered to lead the SWAPO delegation back home to the former Ovamboland where he established the SWAPO electoral office and ran it until November 1989 when SWAPO won the elections. After the elections he was appointed as Commissioner General for the South of Namibia while he was at the same time a member of the Constituent Assembly (until 21 March 1990, when Namibia gained independence) which drafted the Namibian Constitution.

On 21 March 1990, he became a Member of Parliament (MP) and Deputy Minister of Labour, Public Service and Human Resources Development, a position he held until 1995. In 1992 while he was the Secretary General of SWAPO’s Youth League he was awarded a Senatorship of International Junior Chambers. In 1995, in the second Republic, he became an MP and was appointed Deputy Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, a position he held until 1998.

In 1998 as while still an MP, he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, a position he held until 2002. In 2002, again still an MP, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology and I was also asked by the Namibian Cabinet to establish the National Youth Service of Namibia.

He retired as an MP and Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology in 2005. In 2007, H.E Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia appointed him as High Commissioner of the Republic of Namibia to Botswana and Namibia’s Representative to the SADC Secretariat.


Noting the disappearance of Kalanga culture and lack of awareness among Bakalanga of their historical heritage, Mukani Action Campaign (MAC), a society of writers (based in Francistown) that publishes Kalanga literary works initiated the festival in 2000. MAC was later joined by Society for the Promotion of Ikalanga Language (SPIL).

The festival has been held every year ever since and continues to grow in popularity. It is held near Domboshaba Ruins, one of the many architectural remains of the proto-Kalanga who inhabited much of the valleys of the Limpopo and its tributaries from about 1000 years ago. The architectural signature of this medieval Kalanga civilisation stretches from the Khami Ruins in present day Zimbabwe, through Domboshaba to Kubu Island and Mosu on the southern edges of Makgadikgadi Pans, and as far south as Lotsane river. Archaeological studies have shown that Domboshaba was a significant trading centre beginning around 1400 facilitating the exchange of salt, tobacco, game trophies, copper and gold for glass beads and textiles. The Banyai – Bakalanga Empire fell into decline by the early 1800, was defeated by a splinter group of the Swazi around 1840 and supplanted by the Ndebele shortly thereafter.

Many Bakalanga today do not know their glorious history and some have even bought into the idea by some that Bakalanga are recent settlers in Botswana. Domboshaba allows all the opportunity to appreciate the heritage of Bakalanga and perhaps draw lessons on social systems, environmental management, metallurgy and architectural technology from this period of Kalanga history.
Ikalanga Language

One other example of Bakalanga’s heritage that has survived from the time of the last Mambo (King), around 170 years ago is the Kalanga language (Ikalanga).

Although Kalanga language was first written by Portuguese traders in the 16th century, the limited literature was lost during the political upheavals caused by the mfecane which precipitated the collapse of the Banyai – Bakalanga Empire around 1840, under pressure from Nguni settlers from the south.
By the time lands previously occupied by this empire saw relative peace, new borders were imposed by the British effectively dividing the land into what is today western Zimbabwe and eastern Botswana. By 1900, literature in Kalanga reappeared mostly through the efforts of Christian missionaries. From 1900 to 1972 Kalanga was used as a medium of instruction in Kalanga schools in both Botswana and Zimbabwe. Some of the literature generated during this period is still available. However, in 1972, the government of Botswana, citing financial constraints, directed that the use of Kalanga as a medium of instruction in schools should cease.

A Kalanga community newsletter in Tutume was also stopped. This decision was to have far reaching consequences, such as a sharp decline in the volume of literary works in Kalanga and alienation of the language from the public space.

Today some Bakalanga cannot speak Ikalanga. This is a sign that the language is beginning to die and with it the unique wisdom and knowledge it has accumulated over the centuries.

However, this eventuality can be avoided if Bakalanga decide to use their language at their homes, their schools and other public institutions. The population of Bakalanga is large enough to make the publication of Kalanga literary works commercially viable. From history no community has ever achieved meaningful development without decoding the instruments of development into their own language. It is through our language that we learn and understand the world around us better!