The Chibvumani National Monument is one of many dry-stone fortresses of the Munhumutapa Empire. It is believed that the Shona speaking people inhabited this place between 12th–15th century soon after the demise of Great Zimbabwe according to Caton-Thompson-1931. According to heritage practitioners, this site was built using biotite granite blocks quarried from the surrounding bedrock outcrops. It has walls of varying heights of between 1m to 3m. It is located in the South-Eastern part of Zimbabwe in the Bikita District of Masvingo Province at the 128km peg along the Masvingo–Mutare highway in Muduma Village.
Much of the information about Chibvumani comes from the VaDuma tribe who came from Mozambique and settled in the area in the 16th century. The VaDuma people came from Uteve, present-day Mozambique, lead by Chikosha, who left Uteve sometime after the death of his father 16th century. They travelled through the present Buhera countryside and crossed the Devure - Chivaka confluence and settled at Chibvumani. When the ancestors of the Duma arrived, they found the stone structures already built, but they used them for their own purposes. In the 17th–19th centuries, Chibvumani has been believed to have served diverse and varied purposes for the VaDuma people. The Chibvumani Hill played a crucial role around the 1860s, the years when the VaDuma were repetitively attacked by the Nguni from the Eastern part of Zimbabwe. The Duma are a subgroup of the Moyo totem.
Muduma Village Headman Madzinga stated that, “Chibvumani had a legend of its own a story involving a trunk or box loaded with gold.” According to the local legend, ‘there is a trunk or a box full of gold (Eldorado) in that place but it belongs to the vadzimu/ancestors. As such, any lucky person could see or even be rewarded with it. In this regard, another village headman Box Tarera alleged that “Joram Musoro a resident of the village saw a trunk loaded with gold at the site he then went to his house to call for manpower. By the time he returned, trunk was no longer there.” According to the people in the village Joram was supposed to leave an offering to vadzimu/ancestors as he had been the lucky one to see the trunk before he went to call for manpower.
According to the locals there is also the “legend of mermaids/njuzu’ which reside in the sacred Dzivarembwa pool in the underground caves. A local villager Edward Sungisai mentioned that there is a tunnel which links from Chibvumani to Mbuvi mountain and its beloved that this is the home of the njuzu/mermaids. The mermaids are associated with mysterious sounds and even disappearance of people or domestic animals in the pool. Local villagers have heard people singing and beating drums and they believe that these people are probably the ones taken long ago by the mermaids.
Another Village Headman Davison Tamirepi added that many ‘white tourists’ used to come and pitch their tents, and one day they were shocked when their
tents were blown away by the mighty whirlwind of the mermaids.” In many African cultures, mermaids are usually associated with supernatural behaviours and if they do not feel respected they can cause havoc or even death to people. There have been claims within the surrounding areas that people have sometimes encountered mysterious people from long ago, snakes, chickens, and white clothes. Headman Tamirepi’s neighbour supported what the headman had said about the mysteries of the area stating that one day when she had gone to Gondora wetlands to cut some grass which is near Chibvumani, she had seen two mysterious people believed to be “from long ago wearing traditional animal skins (vakapfeka nhembe)”. The headman also stated that long ago there used to be a particular chicken that roamed around the village and no one was supposed to hurt it.” Similarly, Sinamai (2020) noted sacred places like Great Zimbabwe are said to have mythological stories of sacred pots that walked from mountain to mountain.
Some of the taboos (zvierwa) at Chibvumani prohibit people from cutting down trees or mistreating the area. It is also a taboo for a visitor to climb Chibvumani Mountain alone. Maybe this was done to protect visitors from getting lost and spending hours circling the same area(chidzimira) and not able to come out. In other cases, they might take difficult routes that subject them to an itching plant (Gwenyanguruve).
Generally, in African indigenous religion (Chivanhu chedu), pollution of sacred places such as pools, forests, mountains, rivers or caves is not allowed in order to promote tourism and conservation of heritage places and also to show respect to the ancestors of that area. Apart from the legends and myths attached to the Chibvumani Monument, it is also a place of paramount importance to us as Zimbabweans as this is where our history lies.
Chibvumani Monument is one of many exciting places to visit. It has subterranean crevices, corridors, and freestanding walls and amazing architecture dating back in time.
More importantly, indigenous people valued it historically as a place where the VaDuma clan’s great warrior WeSango Bikita came and settled there during the 16th century. Chibvumani’s potential as a revenue generator and tourist spot is endless. This is a great place to visit and learn some history of the Duma people.
Credits: Tracks4Africa, Spiked.co.zw and The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.
Photo credits: Tracks4Africa, Isaac Samuel (@rhaplord) twitter, spiked.co.zw.