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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Ancient Origin of the Lemba (Mwenye): A Critical Overview of Existing Theories
Author:Hendricks, Benjamin
Periodical:Journal of Oriental and African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
ethnic groups
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Anthropology and Archaeology
Abstract:This article surveys the existing theories - both scholarly and popular - about the origin of the Lemba, who inhabit the area from the Zambesi river (Zimbabwe) down to Potgietersrust in the Transvaal (South Africa). In Zimbabwe the Lemba, or at least part of them, are also known as Mwenye. The author classifies the theories about the origin of the Lemba and identifies their shortcomings. The classification starts from an anthropological point of view, but aims at accommodating possible religious and other aspects. The Lemba have been seen as Semitic (Arab, Jewish, Ethiopian, Phoenician), Bantu (Swahili, Venda, Shona, Yao, Lamba), Indo-European, Azanian, and as the builders of old Zimbabwe. What appears from the analysis is that most theories have not taken oral traditions into account, that written sources have been used at random, that 'origin' and 'influence' have been confused, that linguistic interpretations are inadequate, and that ideologies have played a role. On the other hand, some facts are evident: the Lemba are 'alien' among the groups surrounding them, they have migrated between different areas, and there is a strong Semitic element in their origin. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French.