The Info List - Kingdom Of Mutapa

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 •  c. 1430 – c. 1450 Nyatsimba Mutota (first)

 •  1740–1759 Dehwe Mupunzagutu (last)


 •  Established by Nyatsimba Mutota 1430

 •  Portuguese protectorate 1629

 •  Mutapa dynasty schism 1712

 •  Disintegrates under Civil war 1760


 •  16th century[1] 700,000 km2 (270,000 sq mi)

Preceded by Succeeded by

Kingdom of Zimbabwe

Rozwi Empire

Today part of  Lesotho  Mozambique  South Africa  Swaziland  Zambia  Zimbabwe

The Kingdom of Mutapa
Kingdom of Mutapa
– sometimes referred to as the Mutapa Empire, Mwenemutapa, (Shona: Mwene we Mutapa or more commonly and modern "Munhumutapa"; Portuguese: Monomotapa) – was a Karanga kingdom which stretched from the Zambezi
through the Limpopo rivers to the Indian Ocean in southern Africa, in what are the modern states of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique
and parts of Namibia and Botswana; stretching well into modern Zambia. Its founders are descendants of the builders who constructed Great Zimbabwe.


1 Etymology 2 History

2.1 Expansion 2.2 Religion 2.3 Portuguese contact

2.3.1 The accidental crusade

2.4 Decline and collapse

2.4.1 Portuguese control 2.4.2 Loss of prestige 2.4.3 Butwa invasion 2.4.4 Shifting rulers 2.4.5 Independence and move from Zimbabwe

2.5 Collapse

3 Mutapa as Ophir 4 See also 5 References 6 Sources 7 Additional reading


A sixteenth-century Portuguese map of Monomotapa lying in the interior of southern Africa.

The Portuguese term Monomotapa is a direct transliteration of the African royal title Mwenemutapa meaning prince of the realm.[2] It is derived from a combination of two words Mwene meaning Prince, and Mutapa meaning Realm. Over time the monarch's royal title came to be applied to the kingdom as a whole, and was used to denote the kingdom's territory on maps from the period.[3] History[edit]

Towers of Great Zimbabwe.

The origins of the ruling dynasty at Mutapa go back to some time in the first half of the 15th century.[4] According to oral tradition, the first "Mwene" was a warrior prince named Nyatsimba Mutota from the Kingdom of Zimbabwe
Kingdom of Zimbabwe
sent to find new sources of salt in the north.[4] That's the first legend Prince
Mutota found his salt among the Tavara, a Shona subdivision, who were prominent elephant hunters. The second says that there was hunger at the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. Mutota then escaped the hunger then found land. They were conquered,[5] a capital was established 350 km north of Great Zimbabwe
at Zvongombe by the Zambezi.[6] Expansion[edit] Mutota's successor, Mwenemutapa Matope, extended this new kingdom into an empire encompassing most of the lands between Tavara and the Indian Ocean.[5] This empire had achieved uniting a number of different peoples in Southern Africa
Southern Africa
by building strong, well-trained armies and encouraging states to join voluntarily, offering membership in the Great council of the Empire to any who joined without resistance.[7] The Mwenemutapa became very wealthy by exploiting copper from Chidzurgwe and ivory from the middle Zambezi. This expansion weakened the Torwa kingdom, the southern Shona state from which Mutota and his dynasty originated.[5] Matope's armies overran the kingdom of the Manyika as well as the coastal kingdoms of Kiteve and Madanda.[5] By the time the Portuguese arrived on the coast of Mozambique, the Mutapa Kingdom was the premier Shona state in the region.[5] He raised a strong army which conquered the Dande area that is Tonga and Tavara. The empire had reached its full extent by the year 1480 a mere 50 years following its creation.[7] Religion[edit] The Emperor Mutope had left the empire with a well-organised religion with a powerful priesthood. The religion of the Mutapa kingdom revolved around ritual consultation of spirits and of royal ancestors. Shrines were maintained within the capital by spirit mediums known as mhondoro. The mhondoro also served as oral historians recording the names and deeds of past kings.[8] Portuguese contact[edit] The Portuguese dominated much of southeast Africa's coast, laying waste to Sofala
and Kilwa, by 1515.[9] Their main goal was to dominate the trade with India; however, they unwittingly became mere carriers for luxury goods between Mutapa's sub-kingdoms and India. As the Portuguese settled along the coast, they made their way into the hinterland as sertanejos (backwoodsmen). These sertanejos lived alongside Swahili traders and even took up service among Shona kings as interpreters and political advisors. One such sertanejo, António Fernandes, managed to travel through almost all the Shona kingdoms, including Mutapa's metropolitan district, between 1512 and 1516.[10] The Portuguese finally entered into direct relations with the Mwenemutapa in the 1560s.[4] They recorded a wealth of information about the Mutapa kingdom as well as its predecessor, Great Zimbabwe. According to Swahili traders whose accounts were recorded by the Portuguese historian João de Barros, Great Zimbabwe
was an ancient capital city built of stones of marvellous size without the use of mortar. And while the site was not within Mutapa's borders, the Mwenemutapa kept noblemen and some of his wives there.[5] In 1569, King Sebastian of Portugal
Sebastian of Portugal
made a grant of arms to the Mwenemutapa. These were blazoned: Gules between two arrows Argent an African hoe barwise bladed Or handled Argent – The shield surmounted by a Crown Oriental. This was probably the first grant of arms to a native of southern Africa; however it is unlikely that these arms were ever actually used by the Mwenemutapa.[11] The accidental crusade[edit] In 1561, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary managed to make his way into the Mwenemutapa's court and convert him to Christianity.[3] This did not go well with the Muslim merchants in the capital, and they persuaded the king to kill the Jesuit only a few days after the former's baptism. This was all the excuse the Portuguese needed to penetrate the interior and take control of the gold mines and ivory routes. After a lengthy preparation, an expedition of 1,000 men under Francisco Barreto
Francisco Barreto
was launched in 1568. They managed to get as far as the upper Zambezi, but local disease decimated the force. The Portuguese returned to their base in 1572 and took their frustrations out on the Swahili traders, whom they massacred. They replaced them with Portuguese and their half-African progeny who became prazeiros (estate holders) of the lower Zambezi. Mutapa maintained a position of strength exacting a subsidy from each captain of Portuguese Mozambique that took the office. The Mwenemutapa also levied a duty of 50 percent on all trade goods imported.[12] Decline and collapse[edit] Mutapa proved invulnerable to attack and even economic manipulation due to the Mwenemutapa's strong control over gold production.[12] What posed the greatest threat was infighting among different factions which led to opposing sides calling on the Portuguese for military aid. However, the Portuguese proved to be happy with the downfall of the Mutapan state. Portuguese control[edit] In 1629 the Mwenemutapa attempted to throw out the Portuguese. He failed and was overthrown, leading to the Portuguese installation of Mavura Mhande Felipe on the throne.[13] Mutapa signed treaties making it a Portuguese vassal and ceding gold mines, but none of these concessions were ever put into effect.[12] Mutapa remained nominally independent, though practically a client state. All the while, Portugal increased control over much of southeast Africa with the beginnings of a colonial system. Loss of prestige[edit]

Baptism of king Siti of Mutapa by workshop of Tomasz Muszyński, 1683, Dominican Monastery in Lublin. The baptism of Siti Kazurukamusapa was celebrated by João de Mello on 4th August 1652, the feast day of St Dominic.

Another problem for Mutapa was that its tributaries such as Kiteve, Madanda and Manyika ceased paying tribute. At the same time, a new kingdom under a Rozvi dynasty near Barwe was on the rise. All of this was hastened by Portugal retaining a presence on the coast and in the capital.[12] At least one part of the 1629 treaty that was acted on was the provision allowing Portuguese settlement within Mutapa. It also allowed the praezeros to establish fortified settlements across the kingdom. In 1663, the praezeros were able to depose Mwenemutapa Siti Kazurukamusapa and put their own nominee, Kamharapasu Mukombwe on the throne.[14] Butwa invasion[edit] By the 17th century, a dynasty of Rozvi pastoralists under the leadership of a changamire (king/general) began transforming the Butwa kingdom into new regional power. The Rozvi not only originated from the Great Zimbabwe
area, but still continued to build their towns in stone. They were also importing goods from the Portuguese without any regard for the Mwenemutapa.[12] By the late 17th century, Changamire Dombo was actively challenging Mutapa. In 1684 his forces encountered and decisively defeated those of Mwenemutapa Kamharapasu Mukombwe just south of Mutapa's metro district at the Battle of Mahungwe. When Mukombwe died in 1692, a succession crisis erupted. The Portuguese backed one successor and Dombo another. In support of his candidate, Changamire Dombo razed the Portuguese fair-town of Dembarare next to the Mutapa capital and slaughtered the Portuguese traders and their entire following. From 1692 until 1694, Mwenemutapa Nyakambira rules Mutapa independently. Nyakambira was later killed in battle with the Portuguese who then placed Nyamaende Mhande on the throne as their puppet. In 1695, Changamire Dombo overran the gold-producing kingdom of Manyika and took his army east and destroyed the Portuguese fair-town of Masikwesi. This allowed him complete control of all gold-producing territory from Butwa to Manyika, supplanting Mutapa as the premier Shona kingdom in the region.[15] Shifting rulers[edit] It appears neither the Rozwi nor the Portuguese could maintain control of the Mutapa state for very long, and it moved back and forth between the two throughout the 17th century. Far from a victim of conquest, the Mutapa rulers actually invited in foreign powers to bolster their rule. This included vassalage to Portuguese East Africa
Portuguese East Africa
from 1629 to 1663 and vassalage to the Rozwi Empire from 1663 until the Portuguese return in 1694. Portuguese control of Mutapa was maintained or at least represented by an armed garrison at the capital. In 1712, yet another coveter of the throne invited the Rozwi back to put him on the throne and kick out the Portuguese. This they did, and Mutapa again came under the control of the Rozwi Empire. The new Mwenemutapa Samatambira Nyamhandu I become their vassal, while the outgoing king was forced to retreat to Chidama in what is now Mozambique. Independence and move from Zimbabwe[edit] The Rozwi quickly lost interest in Mutapa, as they sought to consolidate their position in the south. Mutapa regained its independence around 1720. By this time, the kingdom of Mutapa had lost nearly all of the Zimbabwe
plateau to the Rozwi Empire. In 1723, Nyamhandi moved his capital into the valley near the Portuguese trading settlement of Tete, under Mwmenemutapa Nyatsusu. Upon his death in 1740, the young Dehwe Mapunzagutu took power. He sought Portuguese support and invited them back to Mutapa along with their garrison of armed men, but Mutapa remained independent. Collapse[edit] The Mwenemutapa died in 1759, sparking yet another civil war for the throne. This one was more destructive than its predecessors and Mutapa never recovered. The "winners" ended up governing an even more reduced land from Chidima. They used the title Mambo a Chidima and ruled independently of Portugal until 1917 when Mambo Chioko, the last king of the dynasty, was killed in battle against the Portuguese. Mutapa as Ophir[edit] The empire had another indirect side effect on the history of southern Africa. Gold from the empire inspired in Europeans a belief that Mwenemutapa held the legendary mines of King Solomon, referred to in the Bible as Ophir.[16] The belief that the mines were inside the Mwenemutapa kingdom in southern Africa was one of the factors that led to the Portuguese exploration of the hinterland of Sofala
in the 16th century, and this contributed to early development of Mozambique, as the legend was widely used among the less educated populace to recruit colonists. Some documents suggest that most of the early colonists dreamed of finding the legendary city of gold in southern Africa, a belief mirroring the early South American colonial search for El Dorado
El Dorado
and quite possibly inspired by it. Early trade in gold came to an end as the mines ran out, and the deterioration of the Mutapa state eliminated the financial and political support for further developing sources of gold. See also[edit]

List of rulers of Mutapa Great Zimbabwe History of Zimbabwe Nehanda Nyakasikana


^ Bairoch, page 59 ^ Stewart, John (1989). African States and Rulers. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 395. ISBN 0-89950-390-X.  ^ a b  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Monomotapa". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.  ^ a b c Oliver, page 203 ^ a b c d e f Oliver, page 204 ^ Owomoyela, page 14 ^ a b Williams, Chancellor (1987). The Destruction of Black Civilisation. Chicago: Third World Press. p. 280. ISBN 9780883780305.  ^ Oliver, page 205 ^ Oliver, page 206 ^ Oliver, page 207 ^ Slater, Stephen (1999). "Africa". The Complete Book of Heraldry. London: Anness Publishing. p. 228.  ^ a b c d e Oliver, page 208 ^ Stewart, page 190 ^ Hall, page 133 ^ Oliver, page 209 ^ Elkiss, T.H. (1981). The Quest for an African Eldorado: Sofala, Southern Zambezia, and the Portuguese, 1500–1865. Crossroads Press. p. 16. 


Bairoch, Paul (1991). Cities and economic development: from the dawn of history to the present. Chicago: university of Chicago Press. p. 596. ISBN 0-226-03466-6.  Oliver, Roland & Anthony Atmore (1975). Medieval Africa 1250–1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 738. ISBN 0-521-20413-5.  Owomoyela, Oyekan (2002). Culture and customs of Zimbabwe. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 163. ISBN 0-313-31583-3.  Stewart, John (1989). African States and Rulers. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 395. ISBN 0-89950-390-X. 

Additional reading[edit]

Elkiss, T.H. The Quest for an African Eldorado: Sofala, Southern Zambezia, and the Portuguese, 1500–1865. Waltham, MA: Crossroads Press, 1981.

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Part of a series on the

History of Zimbabwe

Ancient history

Leopard's Kopje c.900–1075

Mapungubwe Kingdom c.1075–1220

Kingdom c.1220–1450

Mutapa Kingdom c.1450–1760

Torwa dynasty c.1450–1683

White settlement pre-1923

Rozwi Empire c.1684–1834

Matabeleland 1838–1894

Rudd Concession 1888

BSA Company rule 1890–1923

First Matabele War 1893–1894

Second Matabele War 1896–1897

World War I involvement 1914–1918

Colony of Southern Rhodesia 1923–1980

World War II involvement 1939–1945

Malayan Emergency involvement 1948–1960

Federation with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland 1953–1963

Rhodesian Bush War 1964–1979

Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI)


Rhodesia under UDI 1965–1979

Zimbabwe-Rhodesia JuneDec 1979

Lancaster House Agreement

Dec 1979

British Dependency 1979–1980

Zimbabwe 1980–present

Gukurahundi 1982–1987

Second Congo War 1998–2003


v t e

Historical states in present-day South Africa

before 1600

Kingdom of Mapungubwe
Kingdom of Mapungubwe
(1050–1270) Kingdom of Mutapa
Kingdom of Mutapa


Dutch Cape Colony
Dutch Cape Colony


Mthethwa Paramountcy
Mthethwa Paramountcy
(ca. 1780–1817) Ndwandwe
(ca. 1780–1817) Swellendam
(1795) Graaff-Reinet
(1795–96) Cape Colony
Cape Colony


Dutch Cape Colony
Dutch Cape Colony
(1802–06) Cape Colony
Cape Colony
(1806–1910) Waterboer's Land
Waterboer's Land
(1813–71) Zulu Kingdom
Zulu Kingdom
(1818–97) Adam Kok's Land
Adam Kok's Land
(1825–61) Winburg
(1836–44) Potchefstroom
(1837–48) Natalia Republic
Natalia Republic


South African Republic
South African Republic
(1852–1902) Orange Free State
Orange Free State
(1854–1902) Republic of Utrecht
Republic of Utrecht
(1854–58) Lydenburg Republic
Lydenburg Republic
(1856–60) Griqualand East
Griqualand East
(1861–79) Griqualand West
Griqualand West
(1870–80) Diggers' Republic (1870-71)


(1882–85) Goshen (1882–83) Nieuw Republiek (1884–88) Klein Vrystaat
Klein Vrystaat


Cape Colony
Cape Colony
(1652–1910) Union of South Africa
South Africa
(1910–61) Transkei
(1976–94) Bophuthatswana
(1977–94) Venda
(1979–94) Ciskei
(1981–94) Republic of South Africa
South Africa

South Africa
South Africa