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Africa at Noon: Ndau Transnational Spirits, Languages, and Identities in Zimbabwe and Mozambique (Hosted by Katrina Thompson)
November 2, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
The Ndau are a Bantu ethnic group in the Zambezi valley, in central Mozambique to the coast and eastern Zimbabwe. In both countries, Ndau religious life is similarly predicated on continuing relationships between the living and the dead. A symbiotic relationship exists between the spirits and the living who are always inextricably, mutually and coherently integrated in a single cosmos. On one hand, VaNdau (Ndau people) depend on midzimu (spirits of ancestors), madzviti (spirits of Nguni warriors), zvipuntha (spirits of young girls), zvaayungu (spirits of African liberation fighters) and mphongo (Mozambican/Zimbabwean spirits) for healing, protection, guidance, fertility and security during times of personal, familial, and communal crises. On another hand, the spirits themselves solely rely on the living for physically embodiment to maintain and massage their spirit-to-spirit and spirit-to-man relationships in the human world. Drawing on ethnographic data collected from both Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the study examines the extent to which indigenous elements of spirituality continue to sustain, reinforce and reflect the multiple, and sometimes contested, notions of Ndau identities in both countries. Because most VaNdau, including staunch Christians, believe strongly in the spirit world, which conveniently is always in contact with the human world through spirit possession, the study investigates the level to which both ‘local’ and ‘foreign’ spirits’ continuous engagement with VaNdau have ‘tied and kept Ndau people together’ (Patricio, undated) through cultivating personal, familial, communal and even transnational relationships among Mozambicans and Zimbabweans despite their countries’ geopolitical separation. It establishes that spirits have helped influence, (re)create, (re)shape, reinforce and solidify shared transnational Ndau identities, histories, cultures, and languages that have thus far successfully defied the arbitrarily drawn artificial international boundary that separates Mozambique and Zimbabwe.