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 1862.

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.