Reconstructing Changamire’s family roots: new evidence from the Valoyi oral history
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The Munhumutapa (or Monomotapa) empire became a major political entity in Southern Africa from around 1420 AD. Founded and ruled by the Nembire family, its territory covered areas in the present-day Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Its rulers used the title ‘Munhumutapa’, derived from the founder’s nickname, which was later adopted by the empire itself. All the rulers during the first century of the empire’s existence are known, and so are the relationships with each other, except with the fifth ruler, Changamire, whose relationship with the other rulers has been debated for years. There are two schools of thought: One that identifies him with the Nembire; and another linking him with the Torwa, a ruling lineage of the empire’s Mbire province. Consequently, Changamire’s history is confused and his contribution to the ancient history of Southern Africa is under-researched. This has affected studies on the various roles he played in his lifetime: As ruler of the empire’s Guruuswa province; as fourth Munhumutapa’s chief justice and army commander; as the fifth Munhumutapa ruler; and later, his association with Butua state (centred in the Mbire and Guruuswa provinces). In this article some views are exchanged and compared with new information from the Valoyi oral history.