About the Language

Shona, also known as chiShona or Shonic language, is a Bantu language. It is spoken by roughly 14 million Shona people of Zimbabwe. It is also spoken in parts of Mozambique and Botswana.

Main Communities

Masvingo, Harare (the capital), Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces of Zimbabwe

Shona Names and Their Meanings 

  • Tendai - Be thankful to God
  • Anashe - One who is with God
  • Chipo - Gift
  • Kudzai - Respect
  • Munyaradzi - Comforter

Staple Food

Sadza -a starchy food can be made from a variety of grains from maize to sorghum. This Shona staple is accompanied by vegetable or meat-based stews. The Shona people also use the termSadza, to refer to any meal. For example, "Sadza re Masikati" which translates into 'sadza of the afternoon' means “Lunch”. Similarly,  "Sadza re Manheru" (Sadza in the evening) means “Dinner”.

Culture and Traditions

Kutema Ugariri - In traditional Shona marriages, the groom is required to pay a ROORA (bride price) to the bride’s family in order to marry their daughter. If the groom cannot afford the roora, the Shona people allow the man to pay using physical labor. In such instances, the groom works  for a member of the bride’s family until he has earned the equivalent of the roora. After that, he can continue with the marriage rites.

Mbira - this traditional percussion instrument is made up of a wooden board with a resonator and a row of metal strips. These strips, which vary in length, are used as keys. The Mbira, sometimes called a thumb piano, is played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the keys with the thumbs. In 2020, UNESCO listed mbira music as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Notable Figures:

Munya Chawawa - Comedian. He is best known for his online satirical sketches of politicisans, musicians and current events. Munya produced a BAFTA-nominated YouTube Originals series and secured deals with Atlantic Records & Netflix to name a few.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe - President. He served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017.

Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana - spiritual leader. She was one of the leaders of the Chimurenga Uprising against British occupation in the 19th century. Nehanda, also known as Mbuya Nehanda, was a spirit medium. Before she was hanged, she declared that her body would rise again. In 2021, the Zimbabwean government erected a statue of Nehanda in the capital city of Harare.