We left off observing that some early Ikalanga traditions trace the formation of the first Bakalanga kingdom to the south west migration of people from the Mutapa state during a period of strife fuelled by the Portuguese sponsored expansion of trading for ivory, gold and more destructively slaves in what is today northern Mozambique and adjacent areas of eastern Zimbabwe.
According to Ikalanga traditions collected by Masola Kumile during this period of turmoil a leader remembered as Madabhale emerged to ultimately lead the Bakalanga to peace and prosperity.
According to Kumile’s sources: “the Munamutapa kingdom was torn by internal fighting, civil warfare that destroyed the Bakalanga. It was then that Madabhale broke away with a very big following and went down to the west of the country, into [modern] Matabeleland. He went there to build a kingdom, having left with a very large following. It was a big kingdom and he had his councillors such as Nimale, Hungwe, Zwikono, Vunamakuni, Nkami, Nigwande, Ninhembwe and many others of the tribe.
After his arrival, Madabhale found that that country belonged to the Bakwa [Khoe/Basarwa], and so he came and conquered them. Then he ruled and sounded his war horns. That is where the name Chibundule came from [-bundula = roaring of a bull, war trumpet].”
Thereafter the name Chibundule was associated with the rulers of the first Bakalanga Kingdom, which is referred to in Portuguese records as the Torwa or Tolwa state.
While the above construction is compelling in both the detail of the Ikalanga sources and their consistency with other local and Portuguese accounts, it diverges from alternative interpretations arising from archaeological evidence.
Whereas the debilitating influence of Portuguese expansion on Mwenemutapa is well documented from the late 16th century; archaeology dates prominent Chibundule associated sites, including the royal ruins at Khami, to least a century earlier, which is the period that also neatly coincides with the abandonment of Great Zimbabwe.
The conclusion on the part of some archaeologists of a material link between the Bakalanga and the 11th century Mapungubwe civilisation calls into further question the notion that Bakalanga state building began with a breakaway from Mwenemutapa. Available evidence rather suggests that although Madabhale is the earliest known Mambo or King of Bukalanga, his lineage may very well have been preceded by any number of other now forgotten dynasties.
The post-16th century legacy of the Chibundule dynasty is at least clearer, being associated with the contemporary Balilima or Bahumbe section of the Bakalanga, which incorporates such modern Botswana based branches as Mosojane, Madandume, Nshakazhogwe and Majambubi.
Returning to the dynastic traditions, by the end of Madabhale's reign the boundaries of Chibundule royal authority are described as having extended from western Zimbabwe into the Kgalagadi as
To the south the Kingdom is said to have extended as far as Palapye, at its height including much of the Limpopo valley and Venda country. Its northern boundary was the Zambezi.
It may be further noted that the monumental stonewalled architecture found at the royal ruins at Khami, which are located just to the west of Bulawayo, differs significantly from those at Great Zimbabwe. The walls are elaborately decorated with “check” and “herring bone” patterns.
Well-built houses, presumably belonging to members of social elite, were constructed on the top of stone platforms consisting of layers of retaining walls with rubble fill. The remains of 14 such platforms can be found at Khami itself, while similar constructions exist throughout north-eastern Botswana as well as western Zimbabwe. Though less massive than Great Zimbabwe, to this author’s own subjective eye the aesthetics of the Khami style ruins are more elegant.
Excavations at Khami and other Chibundule era sites further confirm that from 16th century the Bakalanga and their neighbours continued to be connected to extensive international trading networks. Ceramics and glass objects of Dutch, German and Portuguese, as well as Asian including Chinese origin have been unearthed, along with fragments of both imported and locally manufactured cotton cloth, indigenous pottery and objects made of gold, iron and copper. Also common are glass beads, which as we have previously noted for many centuries served as a regional currency.
There was also considerable local manufacturing. Indigenous pride in traditional cottage industries is reflected in the following Ikalanga verses praising their “cleverness” (“Buchenjebvu gwebaKalanga nebunyambi”:)
Traditional manufacturing is reflected in the following translated text, also recorded by Kumile:
“They knew the iron which is in the earth and families collected copper ore, which was taken to the enclosures for extracting and smelting. There the following things were cast: hoes, spears, axes, knives, earrings, bracelets, blades, long needles, hoop irons, pairs of pliers to hold other iron and adzes for carpentry. Their eating utensils included pots moulded from clay, plates, mortars and pestles, wooden spoons, winnowing baskets and big baskets for storing things. Their clothing came from wild animals and from livestock, and also from their sinew, which was used for sewing cords. All the people who were making these things were called makers of the eating utensils, of blankets, and of spears....”