Department of Archaeology and Ancient History

Landscape transformations and socio-ecological management in Limpopo National Park, Mozambique

The research project uses archaeology, anthropology and paleoecology to analyse the long-term socio-natural dynamics in Limpopo National Park (PNL), Mozambique.

PNL was proclaimed in 2001 as part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park and inhabitants are presently being resettled. PNL is an area constituted by a very high vulnerability to climatic variability but with a long and continuous occupation by farmers, pastoralists and hunter and gatherers.

The project asks

  • How have past and current resource management practices contributed to shape the PNL landscape over time and
  • How have these practices contributed to shape social and biological resilience and vulnerability?
  • How can landscape history contribute to improving equity and sustainability in conservation management?

The strength of this project lies in its interdisciplinary methodology including archaeological surveys, vegetation and land use history reconstructions, interviews on past and present day changes, local history and mapping and documentation of the place names, landscape markers and historic remains.

Our aim is to inform and improve conservation and heritage decision-making in PNL. Landscape history may provide the possibility to mediate between different value systems. We will also be able develop methodologies for assessing and improving conservation management, of importance not only for PNL and Mozambique, but also internationally.

Participants: Dr Michel Notelid, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History;Dr Rebecca Witter, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, University of British Columbia;Limpopo national Park. Funded bySwedish Research Council (2012-2015).

The research project uses archaeology, anthropology and paleoecology to analyse the long-term socio-natural dynamics in Limpopo National Park (PNL), Mozambique. PNL was proclaimed in 2001 as part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park and inhabitants are presently being resettled. PNL is an area constituted by a very high vulnerability to climatic variability but with a long and continuous occupation by farmers, pastoralists and hunter and gatherers. The project asks 1) How have past and current resource management practices contributed to shape the PNL landscape over time and 2) How have these practices contributed to shape social and biological resilience and vulnerability? 3) How can landscape history contribute to improving equity and sustainability in conservation management? The strength of this project lies in its interdisciplinary methodology including archaeological surveys, vegetation and land use history reconstructions, interviews on past and present day changes, local history and mapping and documentation of the place names, landscape markers and historic remains. Our aim is to inform and improve conservation and heritage decision-making in PNL. Landscape history may provide the possibility to mediate between different value systems. We will also be able develop methodologies for assessing and improving conservation management, of importance not only for PNL and Mozambique, but also internationally.

Participants:  Dr Anneli Ekblom and Dr Michel Notelid, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History; Dr Rebecca Witter, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, University of British Columbia; Limpopo National Park. Funded by Swedish Research Council (2012-2015).

Documenting village history

As part of our project we have combined semi-structured interviews, group discussions and visits to ancestral places in the villages Bingo, Chimangue, Mashamba and Mapai to document village history (Ekblom et al 2017). We will focus here on the lineage histories of village leaders, that is a negotiated form of formal village history, often relating to the founder of the village. Interviews were carried in Portuguese-Shangaan with that assistance of local translators or game rangers from Limpopo National Park. For readability, we will relate the information we have pieced together from interviews on a number of occasions as a single narrative. The genealogies represented here are represented with the permission of our informants.

Baloi

Descendants of Baloi can be found in many parts of the park, particularly to the south but also along the Limpopo River. The Balois are a big lineage group and consist of several sub lineages living in different areas of the park. Today, as was also related by Junod (1927), Baloi historians count descendency from the Vanyanhi (e.g. the Venda). Here we present Baloi lineage history as residents of Bingo presented it to us. The narrative was given by Jeremias Nkwanyeni Baloi the traditional leader of Bingo and successor and descendent of the founding fathers. Interviews were carried on several occasions with many village elders present: 19/11 2013; 11/7 2014; 23/7 2014; and the story presented here was also related back to Jeremias Baloi in Shangaan 7/6 2015). The narrative is organized around the 12 generations of ancestors starting with the ancestral father, Vawaloi and progressing to the present as follows:

The early ancestors Vawaloi and Wanxuloane and Wamitsitsi Ekulo (Table 1), Ekulo meaning “big hair” lived in Zimbabwe and these founding ancestors are all buried in Zimbabwe. Matsenga who was the son of Wamitsitsi Ekulo was the first of the Baloi ancestors who came to Mozambique. The date when Matsenga came to Mozambique is uncertain but it was perhaps in the days of Umzila (e.g. Ngungunhane father and predecessor). Baloi were probably driven away from the Venda country on account that Matsenga married his niece, which was illegal amongst the Vanhai. Jeremias is not himself sure of this story but it was confirmed by Rodrigues Maluleke (29/7 2015) that claims that the Baloi ancestor were driven away because he married his sister and that it is from this event that the lineage got its name, Loi meaning bad omen-bad luck. Thus Matsenga and his wife moved to Mozambique and started their own lineage. The Bingo Baloi branch first settled in Mabalane (southeast of Bingo, east of the Limpopo River), many Balois are still living here today.  The ancestors Matsenga, Xangamela, Macovane, Umkwaxi and Matsumbane are all buried in Mabalane. Bingo, son of Matsumbane was born in Mabalane. As his father Matsumbane, Bingo was renowned as a good elephant hunter on account of his use of poisoned arrows. In the lands he lived there were never any troubles with elephants. Bingo therefore was asked by the Mbombis to come and aid them with the elephants. The Mbombi then only ate meat, they were not cultivators, they only sometimes grew seeds and they did not cook the meat they ate it raw. Bingo stayed in the Mbombi area for some years with his wife. After a few years he wanted to return to Mabalane but the Mbombis refused to let him go. Bingo then demanded of the Mbombi that if they forced him to stay they must make him the chief. Mbombi refused and there was a fight that Bingo won and he founded then founded the village Bingo. Bingo was followed by Tindava. Tindava, like Bingo, was a great elephant hunter and he as his ancestors also sold ivory. Tindava was a great chief and when there was a problem in the village, he gave a council: he used to be seated on a lion skin and he had an iron hoe and an elephant tusk in his hands. When he put them down in front of him it meant the problem was solved

Some of the Bingo village elders present during the interviews told us that in the days of Ungunghuane the ancestors used to pay tax to Ungunghuane. For instance, if they killed a cow, they had to give a part of the cow to Unhunghane. Some of the elders still have holes in their ears since the days of Ungunguhane. The hole in the ear meant that they were the subjects to Ngungunhane and they had to work for him.

Fig 1. The Bingo Baloi lineage as given by Jeremias Baloi.