History of the Shangaan People
King Shaka of the Zulus, sent Soshangana (Manukosi) to conquer the Tsonga people
in the area of present-day Mozambique. Soshangana found a fertile place inhabited
by scattered communities of peace-loving people, and he decided to make it his home
rather than return to Shaka.
He imposed Shaka's military system of dominion and taught the people the Zulu ways
of fighting, and made them wear skins and ostrich feathers on their heads. He did
not change the style of architecture, the round huts with their patterned thatch
roofs, because they were beautiful.
Soshangana gave his name to the Shangaan people. During the Evening Festival, the
song "Ndwandwe" refers to his colloquial name and pays homage to him.
Life however was not all peaceful for the new nation. Shaka was angry and sent troops
to attack Soshangana, but they too did not return. Internal quarrels led to Shangaan
people dispersing far north as Congo. Soshangana fought the Portuguese in 1833 and
1834. When he died in 1858 no-one was told about his death for a year, and when
word got out there was a great struggle for power between his two sons. This became
a six year war, and eventually Muzila defeated his brother on the Sabi River in
By this stage, there was much trade with the Portuguese colonialists and many had
opened shops in the interior. Shangaan men went to work on the gold mines of Johannesburg
to earn money. They maintained their traditions and their high standard of dancing
made them famous on the reef.
Muzila's son, Nghunghunyana, took over when he died in 1884, and is remembered by
present-day Shangaans as their best-loved leader and their last true chief. He fought
against the Portuguese colonialists, and was taken capture. He arranged for his
family to be freed, but he remained hostage and died.
Today, the Shangaans live in areas mainly between the Kruger National Park and the
Drakensberg mountains, in South Africa's Mpumalanga and Northern Province. Their
sister tribe, the Tsongas, inhabit most of southern Mozambique. Shangana Cultural
Village celebrates the cultural heritage of all these peoples.