Languages of land, water and 'tradition' around Lake Mutirikwi in southern Zimbabwe

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25 Citations (Scopus)


This paper focuses on the deployment of a vocabulary of water and land in the rhetoric of power, resistance, and the politics of identity of clans and individuals around Lake Mutirikwi in southern Zimbabwe. When the Mutirikwi (Kyle) Dam was built during the colonial period of the 1960s, local communities lost a great deal of land, both beneath it and around it. Peoples' memories and claims over land that has, in effect, disappeared - alienated by water or appropriated to become commercial farms, a recreational park and game reserve - have not been obliterated. In recent years, disputes over these stretches of land have re-emerged in the context of the government's 'fast track' land reform programme. This paper explores the roles that clans claiming 'original ownership' of land have played in that land reform. In particular, it considers how some spirit mediums - representing the ancestral owners of the land who ensure its rainfall and fertility - have attempted to engage with new nationalist political rhetoric about land reform, in an attempt to substantiate their individual authority, the particular land claims of their clans, and broader social concerns about the role of 'tradition' and the ancestors in Zimbabwe today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-249
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Modern African Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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