Don’t let Hwange’s Bambusi Ruins die

by Rutendo Mapfumo

— IN the wilderness in Hwange, hundreds of kilometres away from the cities, lives a tribe, not really secluded but certainly still equally not up-to-scratch with modern life. Although Christianity is slowly trickling in, the baNambya people remain glued to their traditional prayers, through an ancestral lineage at a sacred shrine called Bumbusi Ruins.

The Bumbusi Ruins are a sacred place for the Nambya people under chief Nekatambe in Hwange, close to the wildlife enclave of Hwange National Park. Intermittent droughts, scorching heat and the attendant of epidemics such as malaria present a continuing menace that the people of this area have to contend with, everyday.

One would think the Gods were cruel to let geography and history condemn them to this place. Yet, even if one becomes hardened to the elements, many of them are proud of where they come from and their culture.  Distance from the cities and towns, intermittent droughts, unreliable rainfall patterns have surely made the people in this community vulnerable to poverty.

In the vast wrap of arid land Hwange lies a sacred place where the baNambya people communicate with their Mande (the spirit mediums) some 70km away from the small mining town of Hwange.

The sacred place is within Sinamatela National Park. Getting to the place can be very difficult as the area is located in a scrubland, among stunted mopane bush shrubbery, dotted with huge acacia trees and savanna grasslands. A dirty road, hardly travelled by car lead to the shrine.

Here is where there is the rock engravings, the stone engravings depict the spoor of lions, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, roan antelope, sable, impala and many others. It is believed to be the area where the baNambya meet and communicate with their ancestors.

“This is the area where us as the baNambya meet and communicate with our ancestors,’’ says Gabriel Shokodema one of the elderly in the Nambya society who is also a member of the Nambya Cultural Association.

Annually rainmaking ceremonies (miliya) are done at these ruins to appease the ancestors even though one could not help but wonder about the rainmaking ceremony when measured against the area’s unreliable rainfall.

If rain does not come by January, which is common in Hwange, the elders (vashe) conduct a national rainmaking ceremony at the graves of the Wanges or chiefs at Bumbusi.

Historically, the ruins are believed to be ancient home of the Chief Hwange, where natural rocks ascend and overshadow the area.
These ruins were built when the baNambya broke away from Rozvi Changamire, when they entered the Leya territory via lower Gwayi River, they settled at the upper Deka valley. Here they named the place Bumbusi and build their capital between two large baobab trees. The two huge trees still stand even up to date having stood the test and taste of time.

The stone walled enclosure is about 55 metres long and metres high as the royal dwellings were located within this complex. On several rocks in the area tsoro boards are carved which proves that there it was a traditional game, which was indeed loved by most inhabitants. Bumbusi Ruins is a variant of the architecture of Great Zimbabwe and the Nambya maZimbabwe (houses of stone).

To date, Mr Nsimango who is the chairman of Nambya Development Trust said the Bumbusi Ruins are of paramount importance to the Nambya culture. It is heartbreaking to see such monuments being ignored and not secured. “Yes, Bumbusi is not being taken care of and I am worried that our culture and the value of Bumbusi might languish as people would forget about it.’’

Mr Nsimango said he had requested Government to intervene through the protection of National Museums and Monuments as the situation was getting out of hand. “I know that it might take long for us to get help but I have made an appeal to the officials of National Monument Mr Mahachi to intervene in the protection of our monuments,’’ he said.

The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe should help in the reconstruction and it least in the protection of the remaining of the ruins.  At this precious monuments baboons and other animals are progressively taking their toll on what remains are the Bumbusi Ruins which is ignored and neglected, but such historical treasures remain known to few and face the real danger of being lost with time.

This is a case which, in the end, credibility of those claiming to be tourism and National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe experts, should be ashamed for failing to intervene as Bumbusi Ruins may as well be tourist attraction.

— reprinted from The Herald Online.