Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

The Origin, Formation and Early History of the Chikunda of South Central Africa1

  • Allen Isaacman (a1)
Abstract

Although historians have examined the process of pre-colonial political integration, little attention has been paid to the complementary patterns of ethnic and cultural assimilation. The Chikunda, who were initially slaves on the Zambezi prazos, provide an excellent example of this phenomenon. Over the course of several generations, captives from more than twenty ethnic groups submerged their historical, linguistic, and cultural differences to develop a new set of institutions and a common identity. The decline of the prazo system during the first half of the nineteenth century generated large scale migrations of Chikunda outside of the lower Zambezi valley. They settled in Zumbo, the Luangwa valley and scattered regions of Malawi where they played an important role in the nineteenth-century political and military history of south central Africa.

Copyright
References
Hide All

2 See, Allen, Isaacman, Mozambique: The Africanization of a European Institution, the Zambesi Prazos 1750–1902 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1972);Bronislaw, Stefaniszyn and Hilary de, Santana, ‘The rise of the Chikunda Condottieri’, The Northern Rhodesian Journal, IV (1960), 361–8;Lane Poole, E. H., The Native Tribes of the East Luangwa Province (Northern Rhodesia, 1949), 68;Terence, Ranger, ‘Revolt in Portuguese East Africa–The Makombe Rising of 1917’, St. Anthony's Papers–African Affairs,' ed. Kenneth, Kirkwood, xv (London, 1963), 56;Harry, Langworthy, ‘A History of Undi to 1890’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1969), 274–81.

3 The only detailed treatment of the Chikunda is that written by Stefaniszyn and Santana. This provides valuable information about extant groups of Chikunda living in the Luangwa Valley.

4 Johnston, H. H., British Central Africa (London, 1898), 391;Duly, A. W. R., ‘The Lower Shire: Notes on Land Tenure and Individual Rights’, Nyasaland Journal I (1948), 22;Joaquim Norberto Santos, Júnior, Contribuiçāo para o Estudo da Anthropologia de Moçambique-Alguns Tribos do Distrito de Tete (Porto, 1944), 25;Rita Ferreira, A., Agrupamento e Caracterizaçāo Etnica dos Indigenas de Moçambique (Lisbon, 1958), 52–3;Mary, Tew, People of the Lake Nyasa Region (London, 1950), 31. This confusion is the logical outcome of the failure to examine adequately the complex ethnic and cultural composition of the peoples living along the Zambezi River from Tete to the Indian Ocean. There has been a tendency o designate indiscriminately peoples residing in narrowly defined geographic areas as belonging to a common tribe, without regard to their historical antecedents or to their ethnic and cultural affinity with the neighbouring peoples. The classifications of the Cheringoma, Nhungwe and Anguru as distinct ethnic groups are cases in point.

5 Interviews with Botão, Ganunga, 8 08. 1968;Jasse, Camalizene, 6 08. 1968;Sete, Marquesa, 26 07 1968;João, Alfai, 26 07 1968;Conrado Msussa, Boroma, 28 07 1968; and António, Gaviāo, 27 09. 1968. (All these interviews, as well as those subsequently cited, are to be found in the Isaacman Collection, A.S.A. Center for African Oral Data, Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana).

6 Interviews with Sete Marquesa and João Alfai; Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 362.

7 There is, however, one unsupported oral account of an earlier Chikunda-Tawara invasion of Tete which probably refers to the expansion of the Mwene Mutapa in the last part of the fifteenth century. See interview with João, Cristóstomo, 18 07 1968.

8 Arquivo Histórico Ultrarnarino, Moçambique (A.H.U., Moç.), Cx. 2: undated and unsigned but marked Avulso 27; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: Conde Luíz de Menezes to the, King, 4 11. 1730;Manuel, Barretto, ‘Informação do Estado e Conquista dos Rios de Cuama, 1667’, Records of South East Africa, ed. Theal, G. M., III (Capetown, 1899), 436–95.

9 The earliest explicit reference I have found is located in the Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo (A.N.T.T.), Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costa Africa’, 79, António Pinto de, Miranda, c. 1760 (reprinted in Relações de Moçambique Setecentista, ed. António Alberto de Andrade [Lisbon, 1955], 282). A variant of Chikunda is found in a 1752 account. The author uses the term Bazekunda to designate the warrior slaves. He indicates that the term means ‘to terrorize’. It is likely that Ba is a corruption of the plural prefix A-Chikunda. (See A.H.U., Moc., Cx 3: Fr. Fernando Jesús, M.A., 13 04. 1752.) Barretto, writing almost a century earlier, mentioned the existence of slave chiefs, or mukazambo, but did not indicate that the warrior slaves were called Chikunda.

10 A.H.U., Moç., Cx.: Fr. Fernando Jesús, M.A., 13 Apr. 1752.

11 Interviews with Conrado, Msussa Boroma, Antonio, Gavião, Calavina Couche, and Zabuca Ngombe, (jointly), 14 10. 1968;Pedro Damião, Chamualira, 17 07 1968;João, Pomba, 31 08. 1968;Gaspar, Cardosa, 15 07 1968; and Marco, Coutinho on 23 07 1968.

12 Interview with Conrado Msussa Boroma.

13 Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique (A.H.M.), Fundo do Século XVIII: José Francisco de Oliveira, undated; A.H.M., Códice 2–1167: Registo dos Libertos do Districto da Villa de Tette, Livro No. 1, fols. 1–58, unsigned, 1856.

14 In general, the Chikunda constituted between 70 and 90 per cent of the male slave population.

15 Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 362.

16 Personal correspondence with Harry, Langworthy on 26 05 1971;Rita Ferreira, A., Os Cheuas de Macanga (Lourenço Marques, 1966), 65.

17 Interviews with Renço, Cado, 13 08. 1968;Tomés, Chave and Oliveira, Sinto (jointly), I4 08. 1968;Domingo, Kunga, 28 09. 1968;Chale, Lupia, 29 09. 1968; and Niquicicafe, Presente, 29 09. 1968.

18 Barretto, , ‘Informação’, 481; A.H.U., Moç., Maço 38: Nicolão, Pascoal daCruz, c. 1810;Schapera, I., ed., Livingstone's African Journal 1853–1856 (London, 1963), 437. Interviews with Conrado Msussa Boroma; João Cristóstomo; José António de, Abreu, 16 07 1968; and José da Costa, Xavier, 22 07 1968.

19 Slave exports until the last decade of the eighteenth century rarely exceeded a few hundred per annum. See A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória da Costa da África Oriental’, fol. 17, unsigned, 21 Mar. 1762 (Reprinted in Anais da Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, 9 Tomo 1 (Lisbon, 1954), 245). After a decade of sustained commercial relations with Brazilian slavers at the turn of the century, the number of slaves legally exported barely exceeded a thousand. (See António, Norberto de Barbosa de Villas Boas Truão, Estatística da Capitania dos Rios de Sena no Anno de 1806 [Lisbon, 1889], 14.)

20 For a detailed examination of the military activities see Isaacman, , The Zambesi Prazos 1750–1902, chapter 6. M. D. D. Newitt has written several very interesting articles which examine the broad historical development of the prazos. SeeNewitt, M. D. D., ‘The Portuguese on the Zambezi from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries’, Race 9 (1968), 87105 and The Portuguese on the Zambezi: An Historical Interpretation of the Prazo System’, Journal of African History X (1969), 6785.

21 José Fernandes, Júnior (Chimpazi), Narração do Districto de Tete (unpublished manuscript), 4.

22 Interviews with Mozesse, Domingos, 6 08. 1968;Lole, Nhanticole, 26 08. 1968;Alface, Pangache, 9 08. 1968;Gimo, Tito, 9 08. 1968; and Sete Marqueza.

23 A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costa de África’, 58, António Pinto de Miranda, undated (reprinted in Relações, 268).

24 Interviews with Mozesse Domingos, Lole Nhanticole, Alface Pangache, Gimo Tito and Sete Marqueza.

25 Interviews with Gente, Renço and Quembo, Pangache (jointly). 4 09. 1968;Dau, ce Angolete Gogodo, 3 09. 1968;Chiponda, Cavumbula, 16 10. 1968;Chetamba, ra Chenungo and Wilson, John (jointly), 14 10. 1968; and Calavina Couche and Zabu ca Ngombe (jointly); A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costa de África’, 5057,António, Pinto de Miranda, undated (reprinted in Relações, 263–8);António Candido Pedroso, Gamitto, ‘Escravatura na África Oriental’, Archivo Pittoresco, II (1859), 399; A.H.U., Codice 1452: João Bonifácio Alves da, Silva to Sebastião Xavier, Botelho, 14 05 1825.

26 Gamitto, , ‘Escravatura’, 399.

27 Interview with Dauce Angolete Gogodo; Gamitto, , ‘Escravatura’, 399.

28 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 27: Diogo de Souza, D. to João de Souza e, Brito, 2 12. 1794; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 37: Francisco José de Lacerda e, Almeida, 22 03. 1798.

29 Interviews with Alface Pangache; Marco Coutinho; Chale Lupia; and Calavina Couche; Fernandes Júnior, ‘Narração’, 3; A.H.U., Códice 1469, fol. 7: António Mariano da, Cunha, 10 03. 1833; A.H.U., Códice 1451, fol. III: Joaquim d'Azévedo, Alpoim to Galdinho José Nunes, , 9 01. 1855.

30 Interviews with Mozesse Domingos; Simon, Biwi, 10 10. 1968; A.H.U., Códice 1469, fol. 7: António Mariano da, Cunha, 10 03. 1833;Henry, Rowley, The Story of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (London, 1867), 47.

31 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: António Fr. Andrade, Henrique, 7 12. 1728; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 13: Manoel Pereira da Conceição, undated; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. II: Marco António de Almeida Coutinho de Montaury, undated.

32 Barretto, , ‘Informacão’, 436–95; A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costa de África’, 36–53, António, Pinto de Miranda, undated (reprinted in Relações, 255–65).

33 Interviews with José António de Abreu; Chale Lupia; Dauce Angolete Gogodo; António, Vas, 13 09. 1968;Chale, Penga, TomÁs, Chave and Jamusse, Guede (jointly), 7 09. 1968; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: Fernando Jesús M.A., Fr., 13 04. 1752;Gamitto, , ‘Escravatura’, 369.

34 A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costa de África’, 55, António Pinto de, Miranda, undated (reprinted in Relações, 266–7);Truāo, Estatistica, 10.

35 ‘Interviews with Chale Lupia and Chetambara Chenungo and Wilson John (jointly); Femandes, Júnior, ‘Narração’, 22;Gamitto, , ‘Escravatura’, 399; A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costa de África’, 55–7,António, Pinto de Miranda, undated (reprinted in Relações, 265–8).

36 ‘Interviews with Chale Lupia and Chetambara Chenungo and Wilson John (jointly); Fernandes, Júnior, ‘Narração’, 22;Gamitto, , ‘Escravatura’, 399; A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: ‘Memória sobre a Costo de África’, 55−7, António, Pinto de Miranda, undated (reprinted in Relações, 265–8).

37 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: Fr Fernando, Jesús M.A., 13 04. 1752; Interviews with Chale Lupia; João, Vicente, 26 09. 1968; Chiponda Cavumbula; and Calavina Couche and Zabuca Ngombe (jointly). According to oral testimonies, this process of integrating Chikunda from the matrilineal belt was identical to that used to incorporate free African strangers into the dominant local population.

38 Uterine brothers and sisters could succeed to an office in the absence of a son, and the initial residence pattern was uxorilocal (Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 362).

39 Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 362.

40 Manoel Alberto, Simões, ‘Elementos para um VocabulÁrio Ethnológico e Lingúistico de Moçambique’, Memória do Instituto de Investigação Científica de Moçambique (Lourenço Marques, 1965), Serie C, VII, 142–3;Rita, Ferreira, Agrupamento, 4253;Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 362.

41 Rita, Ferreira, Agrupamento, 52–3.

42 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: Fr Fernando, Jesús M.A., 13 04. 1752.

43 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 42: João Felipe de, Carvalho, 28 05 1803; A.H.U., Códice 1452:João BonifÁcio da, to Francisco Henriques, Ferrão, 10 01. 1827; A.H.U., Moç., Maço 10: Manoel Joaquim Mendes de Vasconcelos e, Cirne to Conde de, Brito, 7 12. 1829; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 69: Joāo do RozÁrio, Tavares, 22 12. 1821.

44 For a detailed discussion of the political organization of the prazos see Isaacman, , The Zambesi Prazos 1750–1902, chapter 3.

45 Interviews with Luís Gonzaga, Cebola, 18 07 1968; João Alfai; João Vicente; Andisseni, Tessoura, 8 09 1968; Conrado Msussa Boroma; Chale Lupia and Chiponda Cavumbula; António Candido Pedroso, Gamitto, ‘Prasos da Corôa em Rios de Sena’, Archivo Piuoresco, I (1857-8), 28–9;Francisco, José de Lacerda e Almeida, Travessia da 础frica (Lisbon, 1938), 63; Biblioteca de Ajuda, 52-x-2, no. 3: José Francisco Barbosa to Cortes Geraes e Extraordinarias e Constituintes da Naçãbo Portugueza, ‘Analyze Statística, TopogrÁfica e Política da Capitania dos Rios de Senna’, 30 12. 1821.

46 Interviews with José da Costa Xavier; Niquicicafe Presente; Renço Cado; Lole Nhanticole; João Pombe; Gente Renço and Quembo Pangacha (jointly); and Calavina Couche and Zabuca Ngombe (also jointly); A.H.M., Fundo do Século XVIII, João Felipe de Carvalho to Francisco Guedes de Carvaiho e Menezes da Costa, 9 Oct. 1800; Rowly, , Universities Mission, 47.

47 A.H.U., Códice 1758, fol. 156: Custódio José da, Silva to José Maria Pereira d'Almeida, , 24 07 1859.

48 A.N.T.T., Ministério do Reino, Maço 604: InÁcio, Caetano Xavier to the Governor General, 26 12. 1758; A.H.U., Moç, Cx. 9: unsigned, undated; A.H.U., Códice 1314, fol. 36: Francisco do Mello de, Castro to Manuel, António de Almeida, 11 08. 1758; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 61: Francisco de Mello de, Castro, 11 08. 1758; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 8: Manoel de, Caetano, 5 03. 1760; A.H.M., Fundo do Secúlo XVIII: Miguel José Pereira to Balthazar Manoel Pereira do Lago, undated; A.H.M., Fundo do Secúlo XVIII: Jeronimo, Pereira, 10 01. 1800.

49 Traditions collected in such diverse regions as the Luangwa Valley, Zumbo, Tete and Fort Manning attest to their great skill both as hunters and marksmen.

50 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: Fr. Joaquim des Rita, undated; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 9: Manoel Francisco, RozÁrio, 1803.

51 Chikunda trading caravans visited both regions regularly by the end of the century. Given the availability of large numbers of elephants, it is likely that they also hunted in the adjacent forests and that the first Chikunda settlements date from this period.

52 For a discussion of the long distance trading systems in the Zambezi region, see Isaacman, , The Zambesi Prazos 1750–1902, chapter 5.

53 Interviews with Gaspar Cardoso; Chetambara Chenungo and Wilson John (jointly); Simon Biwi; Gaspar Cardoso; Capachika Chúau, 10 Oct. 1968; Gamitto, , ‘Escravatura’, 370; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 21: António Manoel de Mello e Castro to Martinho de Mello e Castro, undated.

54 António, Gamitto, King Kazembe (Lisbon, 1960), I, 112.

55 A.H.U., Códice 1755, fol. 35: Manuel de Abreu, Madeira to IgnÁcio, do RozÁrio Dias, 16 04. 1845; A.H.U., Códice 1756, fol. 57: Joaquim, d'Azévedo Alpoim to Vasco Guedes de Carvalho e, Menezes, 27 04. 1854;Rowley, , Universities Mission, 66.

56 A.H.U., Moç., Documentos, Annexos e as Plantas: Franciscode Mello e Castro to Marques de Tavora, 10 Aug. 1750; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 3: Fr. Femando, Jesás M.A., 13 04. 1752; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 16: Diogo António de Barros Sotto Mayor, D., 13 08. 1780; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 42: João Felipe de, Carvalho, 23 05 1803; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 69: João, do RozÁrio Tavares, 22 12. 1821.

57 Lacerda e, Almeida, Travessia, 166; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 16: Diogo António de Barros Sotto Mayor, D., 13 08. 1780;Truão, , Estatística, 10.

58 Truão, , Estatística, 10.

59 Francisco Raimundo Moraes, Pereira, Journey Made Overland From Quelimane to Angoehe in 1752, trans. and ed. Newitt, M. D. D. (Salisbury, 1965), 27.

60 Legal exports increased from 1,484 to 5,040 (Truão, , Estatística, 14; Biblioteca de Ajuda, 52-x-2, no. 3:José Francisco Barbosa to Cortes Geraes e ExtraordinÁrias e Constituintes da Nação Portugueza, ‘Analyze Statística, TopogrÁfica e Política da Capitania dos Rios de Senna’, 30 12. 1821).

61 A.H.U., Códice 1452: da Silva, J.B.A., 14 05 1825.

62 A.H.U., Moç., Maço: Francisco Henriques, Ferrão to Sebastião Xavier, Botelho, 29 10. 1828.

63 A.H.U., Moç., Maço : Francisco Henriques, Ferrão to Manoel Joaquim Mendesde Vasconcelos e, Cirne, 23 10. 1829; A.H.U., Moç., Maço 15: Caetano Benedito Lobo and Francisco Pereira Coutinho Vilhena, 1830.

64 A.H.U., Moç., Maço 8: António Mariano da, Cunha to Francisco Henriques, Ferrão, 10 09. 1829; A.H.U., Códice, 1703, fol. 61: Andres Victorino de Souza et. at, undated; A.H.U., Moç., Maço 15: Manoel Joaquirn Mendes de Vasconcelos e Cirne to Paulo Joze Miguel de Brito, 14 July 1830.

65 A.H.U., Códice 1469, fols. 79–80: António Mariano da Cunha to Gov. Geral de Moç., 6 Apr. 1833; A.H.U., Códice 1473, fol. 160: Izidro Manoel de, Carrazedo to Manuel Correia, Monteiro, 20 12. 1836; A.H.U., Códice fol. 31: ManuelAbreu, de Madeira to Tito Augusto d'Araujo, Sicard, 20 05 1845.

66 A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 42: João Felipe de, Carvalho, 28 05 1803; A.H.U., Códice 1452: João BonifÁcio da, to Francisco Henriques, Ferrão, 20 01. 1827; A.H.U., Moç., Maço 10: Manoel Joaquim Mendes de Vasconcelos e, Cirne to Conde de, Brito, 7 12. 1829; A.H.U., Moç., Cx. 69: João, do RozÁrio Tavares, 22 12. 1821.

67 A.H.U., Moç., Maço: Francisco Henriques, Ferrão to Manoel Joaquim Mendes de Vasconcelos e, Cirne, 23 11. 1829.

68 A.H.U., Códice 1315, fol. 208: Francisco Henriques, Ferrão to Sebastião Xavier, Botelho, 10 01. 1828; A.H.U., Moç., Maço: Francisco Henriques, Ferrão to Manoel Joaquim Mendes de Vasconcelos e, Cirne, 23 11. 1829; A.H.U., Códice 1469, fol. 7: Antonio Mariano da, Cunha, 19 03. 1833.

69 See Isaacman, , The Zambesi Prazos 1750–1902, chapter 9 for an analysis of these conquest states.

70 Although virtually nothing has been written about Matequenha and Canhemba, a wealth of data exists in the Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique about them and their Afro-Portuguese counterparts in the Zunibo Region.

71 Erelsford, W. V., The Tribes of Northern Rhodesia (Lusaka, 1956), 45 and 84;Bromsiaw, Stefaniszyn, Social and Ritual Life of the Ambo of Northern Rhodesia (London, 1964), pp. xxi–xxii;Langworthy, , ‘A History of the Undi to 1890’, 278.

72 Lane Poole, The Native Tribes, 68; Stefaniszyn, , Social and Ritual Life of the Ambo, 64;Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 364;Brelsford, , The Tribes of Northern Rhodesia, 58 and 64; A.H.M., Códice 2-1431, G.B.2: António, Augusto d'Azévedo, ‘Relatório das occurencias havidas durante o mez de Novembro de 1900’, 1 12. 1900; A.H.M., Cx. 4–115, Maço. 17, fol. 272: A. Santos to SecretÁrio do Governo do Districto de Tete, 8 Aug. 1908; Ranger, , ‘Revolt in Portuguese East Africa’, 56.

73 Selous, F. C., Travel and Adventure in Africa (London, 1893), 62–3;Brelsford, , Tribes of Northern Rhodesia, 36;Stefaniszyn, and Santana, , ‘Chikunda Condottieri’, 363;Stefaniszyn, , Social and Ritual Life of the Ambo, 64;Harry, Langworthy, ‘Conflict among rulers in the history of Undi's Chewa Kingdom’, Transafrican Journal of History, 1 (1971), 1516.

74 Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 5762;Rowley, , Universities Mission, 103; A.H.M., Cx. 4-195, Maço 7: Rufino de Carvalho to Commandante Militar de Chicoa, 19 Feb. 1897; Stefaniszyn, , Social and Ritual Life of the Ambo, 64.

75 Barrie, Reynolds, The Material Culture of the Peoples of the Gwembe Valley (New York, 1968), 17, 59, 75, 183, 189, 194, and 197.

76 The author is currently involved in a detailed study of the patterns of Chikunda migrations, the nature of their interaction with the indigenous Malawian and Zambian peoples, and their important political and military roles in their new homelands.

1 I wish to express my gratitude to Barbara Isaacman, Jan Vansina, Philip Curtin and Paul Lovejoy for their valuable criticism of an earlier draft of this article. Research for this study was carried out under a generous grant provided by the Foreign Area Fellowship Programme.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed