13 Jun 2007

Mutapa Empire

Posted by K Chikuse

Great ZimbabweThe Empire of Great Zimbabwe (also called Munhumutapa, Mwene Mutapa, Manhumutapa, Monomotapa, Mutapa, all meaning “Ravager of the Lands”) was a medieval kingdom (c.1450-1629) which used to stretch between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers of Southern Africa in the modern states of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Its capital city was Great Zimbabwe.

The empire is thought to have been established by the Rozvi whose descendants include the modern-day Shona people. African folklore has it that this polity was preceded and loosely based on the empire of “the strange ones”, reported to have had white skins, red hair and green eyes.

The founder of the ruling dynasty was Mbire, a semi-mythical potentate active in the 14th century. Great Zimbabwe reached its zenith around the 1440s on the virtue of its brisk trade in gold conducted with Arabs via the seaport of Sofala south of the Zambezi delta. The fabrics of Gujarat were traded for gold along the coast.

By the beginning of the 16th century, the pressures from European and Arab traders began to change the balance of power in the region. Mbire’s purported great-great-grandson Nyatsimba was the first ruler to assume the title of the “Ravager of the Lands”, which became hereditary among his descendants. It was he who moved the capital from Great Zimbabwe to Mount Fura by the Zambezi.

The Portuguese began their attempts to subdue the Shona state as early as 1505 (when they took hold of Sofala) but were confined to the coast for many years until 1613. In the meantime, the Monomotapa Empire was torn apart by rival factions, and the gold from the rivers they controlled was exhausted. The trade in gold was replaced by a trade in slaves. Around this time the Arab states of Zanzibar and Kilwa became prominent powers by providing slaves for Arabia, Persia and India.

The empire was further weakened by the Zulus’ migration down to their present location in South Africa from an area north of the Zambezi river which they had left because of a plague complicated by a severe drought. It was finally conquered in 1629 by the Portuguese and never recovered. Remnants of the government established another Mutapa kingdom in Mozambique sometimes called Karanga. The Karanga kings styled themselves the Mambo and reigned in the region until 1902.

The Mwenes or Monomatapa of the first Mutapa state:

  • Nyatsimba Mutota (c.1430 – c.1450)
  • Matope Nyanhehwe Nebedza (c.1450 – c.1480)
  • Mavhura Mabwe (1480)
  • Mukombero Nyahuma (1480 – c.1490)
  • Changamire (1490 – 1494)
  • Kakuyo Komunyaka (1494 – c.1530)
  • Neshangwe Munembire (c.1530 – c.1550)
  • Chivere Nyasoro (c.1550 – 1560)
  • Chisamhuru Negomo Mupuzangutu (1560 – 1589)
  • Gatsi Rusere (1589 – 1623)
  • Nyambo Kapararidze (1623 – 1629)
  • Chimbwanda Matombo (1634-1698)


The Mwenes of the second Mutapa state:

  • Kangara II (1803 – 1804)
  • Mutiwapangome (1804 – 1806)
  • Mutiwaora (1806)
  • Chipfumba (1806 – 1807)
  • Nyasoro (1807 – 1828)
  • Cimininyambo or Kandeya II (1828 – 1830)
  • Dzeka (1830 – 1849)
  • Kataruza (1849 – 1868)
  • Kandeya III (1868-1870)
  • Dzuda (1870-1887)
  • Chioko Dambamupute (1887-1902)

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2 Responses to “Mutapa Empire”

  1. I am a moyo dhewa, and I have never heard of these white skinned peolpe with red hair and green eyes, where are you getting your information from?


    S musunhe

  2. The Moyo muzukuru detembo requires editing as there is an omission of the great ancestor called “Nyamita”


    Franklin Mukarakte

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