Central & Southern Africa

CSA figura

23andmesamples CSA


NOTE 09/08/2019

This page was first published on 17 February 2015. Please keep in mind that 23andme’s Ancestry Composition has been updated several times now! On this page I am dealing exclusively with results being reported in the period 2013-2018. All matters being discussed on this page are therefore not pertaining to updated results (2018 up till now). For more details see:


Knowing which African populations score the highest for each of the 23andme “Sub-Saharan African” (SSA) categories can be a good guideline for their predictive ability. Below screenshots are all taken from people who have kindly agreed to share their results with me. For which i am very grateful! They were either born in the African country highlighted or have both parents from that country. These are obviously first of all individual results and very limited in number because there’s only very few Africans yet who have tested with 23andme. I’m posting them for illustrative purposes, mainly to get a very rough idea what to expect. Undoubtedly with more African 23andme test results you might see different or additional patterns. Still i think in most cases these screenshots below would be representative to some degree for how other people from their nationality or ethnic group would score hypothetically speaking. I will provide a brief overview of the main patterns i’m able to pick up on. Of course it merely shows my personal opinions & thoughts and is not meant to be conclusive in any way 😉

p.s. I’m only showing screenshots of the African breakdown. You’ll notice it will often not add up to 100%. In most cases this is because of a well known “bug” in the current version of Ancestry Composition causing people of 100% “Sub-Saharan African” (SSA) descent to show trace levels of non-SSA admixture or “unassigned” ancestry, this can generally be considered “noise”, i.e. reflecting an artefact of the DNA test. Hopefully it will be fixed with the next update. In some other cases though the individuals will have genuine additional non-SSA ancestry, which might however be “native” to Africa still if it’s labeled as “North African”, otherwise it might reflect historical geneflow from outside of Africa within the last 500 years or even earlier.


  •  Aside from actual Khoisan or Pygmy individuals taking this test it’s highly unlikely that this socalled “Central & South African” category, a huge misnomer, will reach significant levels (above 20%) among any other Africans or Afro-descendants. Given the samples being used it’s an extremely narrowly defined category, yet it is known that Pygmy and Khoisan markers are highly distinctive and therefore easily detectable by DNA testing. Which makes it still a reliable category if you forget about the labeling. On AncestryDNA the equivalent category (likely based on the very same samples) is called more truthfully “South Central Hunter Gatherers”. Also on the various Ged-Match calculators there’s usually similar separate categories for either San or Pygmies.
  • “Central & South African” %’s seem to be most informative for South African Coloureds who are known to have a great deal of Khoisan ancestry, they are however heavily mixed with other ethnic origins as well. Therefore not all South African Coloureds will have it as main African component, socalled “West African” (most likely to be Bantu) also being important and even sometimes “East African” showing up as largest SSA component (see screenshot South Africa 5). In this recent DNA paper increasing Khoisan ancestry levels among South African coloureds were found in the most northwestern parts of South Africa.
  • Bantu speakers from South Africa, Zimbabwe & Mozambique are all shown as being overwhelmingly “West African” which is obviously false and having to do with Bantu samples being used for “West Africa”. The South African result (number 6) is showing the highest level of “Central & South African” conforming with significant Khoisan ancestry being found for most South African ethnic groups (see this spreadsheet of Africa9 results). Possibly Khoisan admixture is also being detected for the Mozambican and the three Zimbabweans but at a much more decreased level.
  •  The SSA breakdown for the two individuals from Madagascar is quite diverse.  Although “West African” is predominant both “Central & South African” and even “East African” are being shown at detectable level, especially relative to their total amount of SSA ancestry. It’s intriguing to speculate whether the “Central & South African” scores for Madagascar are suggestive of either Pygmy or San affinity. Given the local Vazimba legends perhaps Pygmy-like ancestry is more likely. See also this recent paper about new findings regarding the earliest African settlers of Madagascar. Also very notable is their Southeast Asian ancestry which is shown as being predominant, other persons from Madagascar might have less Southeast Asian though depending on ethnic background. Afro-descendants showing minor %’s of Southeast Asia might very well have partial Malagassy origins, i’ll discuss this in a separate future post.

**Highest scores among Southern Africans**


South Africa  1


South Africa  2

ZAk (6)

South Africa  3

ZAk (3)

South Africa  4

ZAk (7)

South Africa  5

ZAk (1)

South Africa 6


Zimbabwe 1

ZIM (1)

Zimbabwe 2

ZIM (2)

Zimbabwe 3

ZIM (3)



Madagascar 1

MAD (1)

Madagascar 2



**Highest scores among Central Africans**

  • Just like the previous results for Bantu speakers from southern Africa also these Central African individuals are misleadingly shown as being over 90% “West African”. Again having to do with Bantu samples being used to define the “West Africa” category, while the “Central Africa & South Africa” category is merely based on Pygmy and Khoisan samples.
  • Compared with genuine West African results these Central Africans do seem to score markedly higher for “Central & South African”, in their case suggesting minor ancient Pygmy admixture. I suppose only for some southern Angolans this category might be indicative of Khoisan ancestry instead. These Pygmy admixture levels will again show great variaton according to ethnic group and also location being near the rainforest areas where the interaction between Bantu speaking groups and Pygmy populations would have been greatest.
  • I only have a very limited number of Central African screenshots but their Pygmy %’s seem lower than from what i’ve seen on the Ged-Match calculator Africa9 (see the Bakongo (from Congo), Bamoun (from Cameroon) and Fang (from Gabon) scores for Biaka & Mbuti in this spreadsheet). Curiously i’ve seen many Afro-diasporeans score higher “Central & South African” scores than these 5 Central Africans even with their total SSA being less than 80%!


Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 1

DRC (1)

 DRC 2

DRC (2)


DRC (3)







**Highest scores among Afro-Diaspora**

  • “Central & South African” %’s among Afro-descendants are likely to derive almost exclusively from Bantu speaking ancestors who already carried these markers within their genome because of ancient geneflow taking place within Africa. I personally don’t know of any historical records mentioning the presence in the Americas of Pygmy or Khoisan slaves. Given their nomadic lifestyle in highly remote and thinly populated areas and perhaps also because of being deemed physically unsuitable for plantation work it seems any systematic and
  •  enslavement of Pygmies and Khoisan for Trans Atlantic purposes can be ruled out. Khoisan slaves were however present in the Dutch ruled Cape Colony of South Africa.
  • From the results i’ve seen Brazilians by far score the highest “Central & South African” percentages, especially relative to their total SSA. Judging from their documented slave trade origins this was to be expected, Brazil showing the highest shares of slave imports from Central Africa as well as Southeast Africa compared with other destinations in the Americas. It could be indicative of both Pygmy and Khoisan ancestry (carried over by Bantu speaking slaves), however Pygmy affinity seems most likely. Going by the results of Zimbabwe and Mozambique ancient Khoisan admixture outside of South Africa doesn’t seem to be that high.
  • Judging from what i’ve seen African American results for “Central & South African” are minor but vary a lot in between the range of 0,2% – 4,9%. I’ve seen far less West Indian results but on average African Americans seem to score slightly higher for this category than Jamaicans perhaps in line with documented slave trade with Congo & northern Angola being more important for the USA than most other former British colonies, especially Jamaica and Barbados.
  • Dominicans and Puerto Ricans seem to score relatively high “Central & South African” percentages if you compensate for their generally lower total SSA ancestry. This could however also be a result of random recombination and perhaps certain DNA segments being more likely to be “retained” or “recycled” than others, ending up with a genetic SSA breakdown that could be disproportionate to a genealogical SSA breakdown (if it was somehow possible to reconstruct one completely).

Brazil 1

   BRA 2

Brazil 2



AA (1)


AA (2)

Dominican Republic

DR 2

Puerto Rico

PR 2

39 thoughts on “Central & Southern Africa

    • Yes. There is no “southern” or even “southeastern” African region on MyHeritage. Did you get any “Central Africa” in your results on My Heritage, though? For someone like you depending on which ethnic group you come from, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any combination of broadly West, Central and Eastern Africa in your results given the Bantu migration.

      What are your full results?


      • Hi Damon I did my ancestry with Myheritage over a year ago, my results where 45% west african and the rest where Kenyan. I rang the company for more clarity and they mentioned exactly you’ve just stated that they don’t have any southern or south eastern regions. I felt a bit deceived therefore asked for my refund. I got more curious recently anddecided to send my DNA again over to AncestryDNA of which i’m still waiting for the results. Just to let you know i still have the raw Data from Myheritage, would that be any use to you?

        Liked by 1 person

        • As I’m sure you know, now, you should probably always research something like this before handing over your money. I’d doubt that something like this justifies a refund, quite honestly, particularly now that you’ll be using the raw data they came up with for use at AncestryDNA. But, maybe they did give you a refund and they agree with you.

          Anyway, no, that wouldn’t be much use for your question, particularly now that you’ve uploaded to Ancestry. The 45% “West African” and the rest being “Kenya” makes total sense given their MyHeritage’s regions for someone from southern Africa. Ancestry’s regions will likely be more helpful to you, though still barely since they only have “South-Central Hunter-Gatherer” and “Africa Southeastern Bantu.” Depending on your ethnic/tribal heritage, you’ll likely get a mix of African Southeastern Bantu and “Cameroon-Congo” with some other trace West African regions and maybe a bit of South-Central Hunter-Gatherer.


        • Hi Mmeli, in case you’re interested I have included 8 Zimbabwean AncestryDNA results in my survey. A few of them with mixed (South African) background but most seem to be Shona. See this spreadsheet (rows 124-131):


          The 5 presumably Shona persons are all described by AncestryDNA as a combination of “Cameroon/Congo” and “Southeastern Bantu”. With the former region being somewhat predominant. This sets them aside from the South African results i’ve seen who have a much greater pull to “Southeastern Bantu” and usually also show minor amounts of “SC Hunter-Gatherers”. This could just be an outcome of the particular samples being used by AncestryDNA in their Reference Panel. Very likely including South African Bantu samples. The circumstance that Zimbabweans seem to be more so “Cameroon/Congo” might suggest an intermediate position genetically speaking i suppose.


          • Hi FonteFelipe
            The spreadsheet you’ve sent only goes down to row 84.
            Don’t know if I’m looking at it right.
            I was born in Matabeleland (so as my parents) and i class myself as of Ndebele / Kalanga ethnic group. Once i get my results from AncestryDNA would you like me to update you on that? If it’s any help to your survey ?

            Liked by 1 person

              • Hi i finally got my results from Ancestry. Its just as you guessed, predominately Cameroon/Congo. I’m having trouble putting the screen shot on here, let me know your email if you like.
                Many thnx


                • MMeli, what ethnic group(s) do you belong to in Zimbabwe? I’m actually a bit surprised so many from that region of Africa get such high Cameroon/Congo. I’d expect that to make up a significant chunk, but since it’s most distant (both geographically and in time), I’m always surprised when it’s a primary region for people from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, etc. Absent the screen shot, just post your percentages of each region.


                  • Hi FonteFelipe
                    My results are as follows
                    Cameroon/congo 54%, africa southeast bantu 34%, benin togo 7%, mali 3%, africa south central hunter gatherers 1%, nigeria 1%.
                    I’m still trying to figure the explanation to this as well however my only conclusion is the bantu migration theory. My ethnic group is Ndebele/Kalanga, although i also have zambians and tswanas in my family. Also using some calculators on GEDmatch with my raw data i found my closest matches are Nguni and Kongo tribes.Moreover, if its worth mentioning Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi all used to be one until the early 1900s. If you find other explanations please keep me updated. Many thnx

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Hi Mmeli, thanks a lot for sharing your results! I have added them in row 150 of my sheet. Indeed very similar to the other Zimbabwean samples in my survey. They were however for the most part Shona’s. Given your partial Ndebele background one might have expected a more increased level of “Southeast Bantu” I suppose. From what i’ve read the Ndebele are very closely related to the Zulu right? In case you like to explore that side of your lineage in particular I would advise you to have a closer look into your DNA matches. You probably already have quite a few South African matches if you systematically go through your list.

                      Do keep in mind that Ancestry might carry out an update soon. So your breakdown might very well change in the near future. Afterall it’s just a snap shot of how your DNA compares with the reference samples in Ancestry’s current database according to their current algorithm. See also:



                    • Mmeli, what are the lingusitic/cultural differences between the Northern and Southern Ndebele, and which group do the (ba)Kalanga fit into? I’ve never quite been able to understand which groups these two claim most affinity to. It seems that there has been quite a bit of cultural pressure from surrounding groups on each, and it sounds like the “Shona” didn’t exist as a group prior to European settlement, so it sounds really complicated. So I’m trying to figure out given that the “Shona” are a mix of all the peoples of the area, if the Kalanga are simply a “Shona” sub-group who were able to retain their culture better.


    • i have not done any detailed analysis of My Heritage. But basically you will need to learn more about their African sample database as well as how each African region they have in place is defined by these samples. Afterall your admixture results are a reflection of how your own DNA compares with these samples according to MyHeritage’s algorithm.

      On 23andme for example as a Zimbabwean you are bound to also show a very significant “West African” score because 23andme includes Bantu samples from Kenya in this category (despite the labeling..). See also the three Zimbabwean screenshots on this page.


  1. Do you have full 23andMe composition results for Coloured South Africans ? I would like to see their pie charts, chromosomes, and percentages. I’ve been trying to find Coloured South African results on 23andMe for a while now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Damon,
    I’m glad you asked as there is so much misconception of who Kalangas are, but before that let me emphasise that they are NOT Shonas as most would claim, same Bantu family but different. The simplest way i can explain is that In Zimbabwe, Ndebeles and Shonas are not tribes but merely ‘nations’ made up of different tribes. Ndebeles in South Africa are pure and distinctly different to the ones found in Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. This is because of the mis-labels by the europeans in the 1900s. Ndebele or Matabele nation is made up of various tribes such as Suthu, Kalanga, Tonga, Nambya,Tswana, Chewa, Shangani and the ones refered to Abezansi (meaning the nguni clans who are an offshoot of the zulus nation). Its more confusing now because they’re the ones (abezansi)who are now referred to as ‘ndebeles’. I regard myself as Kalanga based on my tribe, however i have Ndebele as my first language and culture. On the other side of Zimbabwe (Mashonaland) you’ll find Zezuru, Ndawu, Karanga etc who refer to themselves as Shona and use that as an umbrella term both linguisticly and culturally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I read the wikipedia article, which is why I was confused. Let’s start at the beginning. First, the (ba)Kalanaga are Nguni-speakers, correct? Now, are they Northern or Southern Ndebele peoples? What’s more confusing is that the TjiKalanga language the Kalanga speaks is classified as “Western Shona,” which the Kalanga doesn’t seem to be happy with. Then to add even more confusing, apparently the Northern Ndebele language(s) of Zimbabwe is/are actually said to be closer to languages in South Africa than the Southern Ndebele language(s) is/are, which is also spoken in South Africa.

      Is TjiKalanga not considered a Northern or Southern Ndebele language? It’s definitely part of the larger Nguni language family, but what I can’t figure out is which sub-group the language fits in? It seems that it’s either classified as “Western Shona” or given it’s own status as seperate from either “Western Shone” or Northern/Southern Ndebele. But then you said you speak “Ndebele,” but which one?

      This is all very interesting, I just want to make sure I get it correct, as I seem to have a Kalanga match and would like to be sensitive to the local understanding of the different groups in that part of Africa. It sounds like the Kalanga have been in this part of Africa longer than most, and have fought hard – with varying success – not to be seen as “part” of this artificial group or the other created by the Europeans, so I’d like to show respect to how they view themselves compared to their neighbors.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ignore my last post. After more research, I see that TjiKalanga is not even Nguni and thus not (northern) Ndebele, at all, and is a seperate predating those languages and ethnic groups in the region. For lack of a better term, Kalanage is group with other “Shona” language/dialects making up its own sub-group of Western “Shona.” None of these languages is Ndebele and thus not Nguni. However, “Shona” by itself appears to only apply to the Central “Shona” languages, which is why the Kalanga do not associate with the labeling of their language/dialect as “Shona.”

      So that kind of clears things up. I guess the confusion is that there are Ndebele-speakers in the same area of Zimbabwe as the historic Kalanga, and that the Kalanga have been under social/cultural pressure for decades/centuries from these Ndebele-speakers with many Kalangas having been “Ndebelized,” if you will. So, while Kalanga may not see themselves as Shona, they are most definitely more closely related to the groups who call themselves Shona than they are to the “foreign” Nguni Ndebeles, correct? So you consider yourself linguistically Ndebele, but ethnically Kalanga, correct?

      With all that out of the way, I’m more curious, then, about the connections between the Kalanga and the other “Shone” to the northeast. Could a Central Shona-speaker from, say, Harare understand a pure Kalanga-speaker from Matabeland, or are the dialects/languages too different? In that same vein, since they are surrounded by Nguni Ndebele speakers, is a Kalanga-speaker more likely to know Nguni Ndebele as a second language than her or she is a Central Shona language? It would seem by your own story that the present-day ethnic Kalanga have more an affinity to the Ndebele than the Shona?

      I guess with those last two questions what I’m curious about is whether a person who considers himself ethnically Kalanage, even if he doesn’t speak the language, sees himself as more “Shona” or more “Ndebele” or if it simply depends on where he lives in the country? It is really a shame studying up on the Kalanga given their amazing and storied history, that their history and unique culture seems to be treated as an after-thought. These ancient people of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, of the Kingdom of Butua, of the Kingdom of Mutapa…had their history told by others, whether it was the Europeans or the Ndebele.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Damon, you’ve made some pretty good points. I’ve just had a convo with a friend on facebook pertaining to what you’ve mentioned
    FIRST POINT;”For lack of a better term, Kalanga is group with other “Shona” language/dialects making up its own sub-group of Western “Shona.” >
    Shona language it’s not even 100 years old, so how can it be that languages that have been there for more than a 1000 years be classified under Shona? However, this was Prof. C M Doke’s idea, his aim was to destroy Kalanga dialects spoken by people in the north and in the eastern Zimbabwe. He did the same thing in Matebeleland where he managed to wipe out languages like isiZulu, isiSwati and Ndzundza and Manala Nguni dialects. All those languages gradually disappeared and they were replaced by isiNdebele -a language that has not been there prior that time. Other non-Nguni languages like Kalanga, Sotho and Tswana were greatly affected by that era of assimilation imposed on natives and became officially institutionalised by the Rhodesian government in 1930 and continued till the end of the colonial era. So as a result it would be quite silly for a Kalanga to see themselves as Shona.

    SECOND POINT; With all that out of the way, I’m more curious, then, about the connections between the Kalanga and the other “Shona” to the northeast. Could a Central Shona-speaker from, say, Harare understand a pure Kalanga-speaker from Matabeland, or are the dialects/languages too different? >
    For the most part a Shona speaker would’nt understand a pure Kalanga speaker, although there are terms that might have the same meaning, for instance my last name ‘Moyo’ meaning heart in Shona, Swahili, Lozwi and few other Bantu languages. Moreover, the so called Shona dialects have none of these sounds in their language ‘L’, light B, W, DL, HL or even clicks as the Kalanga has.

    THIRD POINT; It would seem by your own story that the present-day ethnic Kalanga have more an affinity to the Ndebele than the Shona? >
    That’s true and its due to their geographical location and the history of the Lozwi empire has with the southern Nguni tribes in the 1800s. King Mzilikazi and Mambo co-existed and created the Mthwakazi state, which is now known as Matabeleland.

    FORTH POINT;I guess with those last two questions what I’m curious about is whether a person who considers himself ethnically Kalanga, even if he doesn’t speak the language, sees himself as more “Shona” or more “Ndebele” or if it simply depends on where he lives in the country?
    I think to the most part you’re right, however never in my life have i met anyone who’s Kalanga and claimed to be from MaShonaland or related to anyone from that part of Zimbabwe. Its sad to say this however, that whole part of southern africa is the most divided region ethnically, and its all thanks to the colonial era, i would highly recommend you to have a read on Prof. C M Doke . Although most Kalangas see themselves as Ndebeles they’ve still preserved much of their culture and language through folklore and religious beliefs. And most of these so called Ndebeles are now using Kalanga surnames and vise versa.
    Kalangas have been in that region much longer than most tribes. The evidence of the masonry is scattered in many parts were the Kalanga people are still living till this day. In Bulawayo, Maswingo, Hwange, Plumtree, Gwelo etc, and in many places across Botswana there are ruins there, look up Mapungubwe (although that’s another piece of history being hijacked). The Kalanga did build them and evidence is there to prove it. Some researchers even say It was a skill that they have brought all the way from the Nile valley.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mmeli,

      I thank you genuinely for all of your help in explaining this. And, again, I did not mean to offend with the comparisons of the languages and using the name “Shona,” which is why I said “for lack of a better term.” I use “Shona” only to mean those peoples and languages of Mashonaland who share a similar linguistic heritage who are not Nguni Ndebele speakers. I realize that “Shona” is a modern invention that groups together varying and different peoples, but for better or worse it’s the only term that one can use to differentiate those who speak related languages in Mashonaland from the Ndebele-speakers in Matabeleland.

      BTW, to follow up, you take a view that this Prof. C M Doke sought to eliminate different Kalanga dialects in the north and east of the country (and by Kalanga, I take it you mean those languages I talk about in Mashonaland as “Shona”), but then what are the dialects/languages spoken in Mashonaland, today, if not those languages? Did you mean to say that these Central “Shona” (related non-Ndebele) languages have been standardized? Because aren’t languages like Zezru, Karanga, Manyika etc…all still “Shona” (related non-Ndebele) languages/dielcts? Or are they seen as having been “degraded” by other languages and outside influences, and if so, which languages been responsible for this?

      What is the view from the Kalanga perspective on the what languages of Mashonaland are, today? Oh, and I also meant to ask that while I know the Kalanga live in North and South Matabeleland provinces, in which specific districts do they make up a significiant percentage of the population in those provinces? Also, does Bulawayo City have a significant Kalanga population or is it seen as more a center of Ndebele culture, these days?

      Oh, last question, I’ve heard that a lot of Kalanga names are easily noticeable in Zimbabwe because they have to do with bodyparts. Does the name “Masendu” mean anything having to do with a part of the body?

      I have been enamored with finding out all I can since I found this Kalanga cousin. Since I began this DNA journey earlier this year, never in a million years did I think that I’d find potential distant cousins from people this far south in Africa, and from such people as the Kalanga who have lived in their area for hundreds and hundreds of years. Fonte has put together such an amazing site for us.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Damon,

    Offended ? Don’t be silly mate lol. I’m actually impressed on how much work you’ve put in on your research about Kalangas. Stuff that’s ignited my passion to know more about my people aswell. That’s the thing about us continental Africans we take our identities for granted, regardless of the colours we wear and the languages we speak.
    With regards to the Shona dialects spoken in the Eastern side of Zimbabwe i’m not really well informed to be honest. However from what i have gathered, the Zezuru language has had a significant influence and unlike in Matabeleland, tribes over there have been absorbed fully with the Shona umbrella term without preserving their own. I’d say Prof. C M Doke ‘s objective was more achieved in Mashonaland than in Matabeleland. In Matabeleland, you’ll still hear xhosa, Kalanga, tswana, tonga, nambya dialects spoken outside of ‘Ndebele’ depending of where you visit. The most known Kalanga districts in Zimbabwe are Plumtree, Tsholotsho, Kezi and maybe Matobo (known for its Mwali religious shrines)

    Bulawayo is more of a Ndebele Central although its now quite diverse. Most people who are born and bred in Bulawayo such as myself are mostly in my generation, born after the so called independence( 1980 +). Before that, the whole place was mostly occupied by Europeans. There are still countless structures there that are still standing from colonial times.

    And yes, with regards to Kalanga surnames, the point i was trying to make on my previous message is that Kalangas are the only tribe in southern africa who use animals and body parts as their surnames. So if you find a Zulu or Shona person with such surnames they’re more likely to have Kalanga roots without even realising, as we both would agree that the culture predates most of them.

    I’m not sure what the term Masendu means but i know a place by that name in Plumtree. The chieftain’s family is called Masendu, they are well known as they have royalty connections to that particular place. Is that where your cousin’s from? That’s interesting as i have family there as well.

    If you don’t mind me asking, where’s your family from?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, I understand what you’re saying now about Prof. C M Doke. He didn’t eliminate the Kalanga languages/dialects to be replaced with some other non-Kalanga language, rather he attempted to standardize the various Kalanga languages/dialects under the “Shona” umbrella; I will have to do more research on him to find which dialect(s) he chose to base the standard language on in Mashonaland. Maybe it was Zezeru that was used to standardize the dialects, as that is a dialect I keep hearing about. For instance, I hear that the Kalanga say the “Karanga” dialect in the east has been “Zezurized,” though to be fair they think the Kalanga dialect has had too much influence from the ‘foreign’ Ndebele language. lol

      Oh, I should have mentioned this; I am African American, my family has been in the States for hundreds of years. The vast majority of my DNA I’ve found to be West African as one would expect given the slave trade, but I’ve also been finding sigificant amounts of West-Central (Cameroon, Congo) and southern African (Zambia) matches.

      I have not been able to get a reply back from Mr. Masendu, but looked up the name and it pointed towards the Kalanga, which is what spurred my interest in this particular post dealing with Central & Southern Africa. I also see Plumtree pop up alot as a location of significant Kalanga populations.

      Anyway, thank you again for all of your help in helping me to understand Zimbabwe.It is a country with a fascinating history, and I wish much better for it in the future. BTW, do you still live in Zimbabwe and where in Matabeleland were you born?


      • Hi Damon,

        I have been following your conversation with Mmeli, and I would like to make a few comments please.
        It is good to see that he is passionate about his heritage and preserving it, but the truth as you pointed out is that the Shona is a blanket term for combination of different tribes with different languages set apart from the Ndebele. And they have not lost their languages, they still speak them in their homes and villages but when they come in public they usually speak a standard language called shona, which has words which are similar to their own. The Kalanga language also has words which are similar in the Shona language. I noticed this when I lived in Botswana for three years, where there are also Kalangas connected to the Kalanga’s in Zimbabwe. I had a a Botswanian friend, who was Kalanga and as a shona speaker I could understand them when they spoke because some of their words were the same as the shona words and we could identify with each other.

        There are actually some different tribes under the new shona banner who use animals and animal parts as their surnames and they are not Kalanga’s, including my surname. I have noticed that some of these tribes are also proud of their languages and seek to maintain it, but because of the standard use of shona like English, the new generation tend to loose touch with their language. I would like to find out which tribe originally speaks shona or it is a combination of different words from the different tribes. I have also noticed that the shona language also has words similar to that of the Kenyans.

        If we are to really look at the combination of the so called shona people, we would find that the combination of tribes are as distinct as the Kalanga themselves and yet at the same time a combination of all the languages make up the main shona language including the Kalanga themselves. In one of the online dictionary this is what I found.

        “Shona as a Bantu language consists of Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika, Ndau and Korekore dialects. According to Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992:730) orthography is a term for correct or accepted writing and spelling and for a normative set of conventions for writing and spellings”

        My family speaks Shona in its flat term, and I have not known or heard any other language from my family members. My grandfather moved from Chivhu near Masvingo (Great Zimbabwe) to Marondera where he bought a farm and settled there, and that became our homeland. His family had 3 surnames, Tsuro (rabit – animal), Moyo (totem which means we cannot eat the heart of an animal), and Mombeshora (cow). My family come from the Rozvi empire, which is the kingship royal empire that built the Great Zimbabwe (so my mother says, I will ask my father to confirm and let you know).

        What I know is that Kalanga is not different from the other tribes under the shona umbrella, as their language also contributes to what is shona now. Although all the different distinct tribes not only Kalanga’s are fighting to be identified as distinct and actually have control of the affairs of their own regions.


        • Some very good points Philipaah. Not only has this language contributed to the standard shona you have today but it was used as a conceptual language on which shona is drawn upon. Considering that it predates all the other indigenous dialects within those borders. Has it ever occured to you that shona is basically Bakalanga with a zezuru influence? ? Also the following people Balakanga/Kgalaka/Khalanga;
          were forced into the newly created Shona identity by the colonial government, an assimilation era that began in 1930. Maswingo & Midlands provinces were also pre-dominantly occupied by the Kalanga speaking people up until the Shona language was imposed on them. Only those in Matebeleland and Botswana as we both agree have managed to retain their identity since its attainment dating back to the 1600s at the beginning of the Moyo-Lozwi empire. Hence why I will always argue against the idea of having it under the shona umbrella.


        • Phillipah, thank you for your insight. If you don’t mind me asking, what group of Shona are your mother and your father from? What do you consider yourself as it relates to ethnicity? Just Shona or a specific sub-group of Shona?


    • Memli,

      I finally got a response back from my distant Masendu cousin. He says he is a Shona from Wedze in Mashonaland East and that Mwoyo is his family’s totem. I’m still not sure what totems are to the Shona, but that is what he told me his is. I assume Mwoyo and Moyo must be identical and are simply of different dialects?


      • Hi Damon
        Thats amazing!
        Well as far as i know, Mwoyo is Heart in standard Shona and Moyo is heart in Kalanga. Most people in MaShonaland use Mwoyo as their totem in contrast to those in Matebeleland who use Moyo as their surnames like myself.


  5. Not a problem Damon, you’re more than welcome.

    You’re right by the way I’ve also heard some people say the Kalanga Dialect in Matabeleland has Ndebele influence. Well if that’s the case then how come the Kalanga spoken in Botswana sounds exactly the same? To add they’re the largest minority and I know this as I have family there. Also here’s another good book you can refer to, I’ve got the hard cover at home although some pages are available on Google books.

    Like most African Americans I speak to on their research with ancestry you’ve done quite a lot of digging which as I’ve said its quite impressive, and for that I wish you all the best in your journey. And I know there’s a lot more you’re gonna discover.

    I was born and raised in Bulawayo before immigrating to the UK roughly 18 years ago. I still visit home every now and again. If you ever decide to travel that side for holidays let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mmeli,

      Aside from the book you linked me to, I found this recent opinion piece from the news site Bulawayo24 that gives a view of what sounds to be a Kalanga tribalist/nationalist:


      Not sure what you think of the politics of an opinion like this, or how prominent or serious Bulawayo24.com is seen in Zimbabwe. But I thought it was an interesting piece, nonetheless, on how people with very strong Kalanga self-identifications view their history and present-day culture. It sounds to me that this writers thinks that if we went by identification here by name instead of language, that the “true” Ndebele would be a truly small number of those who just speak the language, that maybe MOST of the Ndebele-speakers are actually ethnically Kalanga. I found that very interesting as I’ve been wondering about that, myself, since we began this conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Damon,

    I’ve been following the writer for a while now, I like his stuff. He has composed some enlightening details about identities in Zimbabwe both historical and political. To a certain extent i do agree with him. The so called Ndebele tribe has always been a small group of people compared to other minorities. It’s well documented how many of those clans migrated to Matabeleland in the 1800s. To my knowledge its not even a 1000. Those clans have long intermixed with the indigenous Kalanga/Lozwi hence the ongoing confusion regarding which surname belongs to who. He further states that it was the Ndebele people behind ”Ndebelefying everyone in Matabeleland. We both know that’s not true. You can even research this yourself. Matabele people have never had any political advancement in Zimbabwe. You have to have certain last name or be born in certain region to run for parliament or even be voted for president.
    I agree with the writer that the Kalanga identity should be distinct, i support that argument myself however on the same breath he is calling for a Matabeleland Political party to go against the oppressive Shona regime that’s been ruling Zimbabwe since 1980 following the recent elections. I wish i could screen shot some of his posts from FB on here lol.
    Back to your point lol Yes Most Ndebele speakers are in fact Kalangas as i did mention something along those lines on our previous messages. One would say it’s near to impossible to separate the two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “He further states that it was the Ndebele people behind ”Ndebelefying everyone in Matabeleland. We both know that’s not true.”

      Obviously, this is him exaggerating. But it can’t be denied that that culture and language of the Ndebele overwhelmed the language of the Kalanga if even these Ndebele-speakers are still ethnically/racially Kalanga. It’s really hard to argue that the Ndebele haven’t had an oversized influence on the Kalanga, when the vast majority of the Kalanga can’t even speak their own language, anymore. It sounds to me that that was what he was getting at.


      • Yes i agee Damon.The Ndebele langauge has overwhelmed most languages in Matebeleland not only Kalangas but others too ; Tonga, Tswana, Venda and so on however my issue with the writer is how he’s putting the blame on the so called Ndebeles of whom themselves NEVER had a hand in this doing. They too have lost their sense of culture and identity, from being whatever they were back then to be refered to as Ndebeles.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very educational this conversation between you, Damon & Mmeli! I was not aware of this Zimbabwe-specific context before but I imagine these themes of language replacement; cultural assimilation; ethnic blending etc.. are also very common for other parts of Africa and in fact the whole world taking a broader perspective.

          Ongoing ethnogenesis will of course be different in each place but this phenomenon does impact the ability of DNA testing to come up with socalled “ethnicity estimates”. It seems to me that many people have rather unrealistic expectations about how accurate their DNA results might be due to not being aware of these historical processes and how ethnicity, despite certain genetic underpinnings, is also quite fluid and overlapping especially when considering longer time periods. This is something I therefore always underline in my blog posts.

          Don’t mean to butt in but I found these remarks especially fascinating:

          “I regard myself as Kalanga based on my tribe, however i have Ndebele as my first language and culture. “

          Moreover, the so called Shona dialects have none of these sounds in their language ‘L’, light B, W, DL, HL or even clicks as the Kalanga has.

          the “true” Ndebele would be a truly small number of those who just speak the language, that maybe MOST of the Ndebele-speakers are actually ethnically Kalanga

          I didn’t know about the Kalanga language having clicks, very fascinating! Eventhough only reported as a minimal trace region I did find the 1% “South Central Hunter-Gatherer” score noteworthy as such scores did not appear for any of my other Zimbabwean samples yet (excl. the ones with partial South African lineage).

          Would you say that the somewhat subdued “Southeastern Bantu” score you received (when comparing with South African results) does make more sense when considering that possibly it’s more so the Abezansi who have retained their genetic Ndebele connection the most? While you despite culturally also identifying as Ndebele would genetically be more so Kalanga?

          Eventhough AncestryDNA’s regional framework is rather limited I do find that with proper interpretation, awareness of local context as well as knowledge of how other people tend to score you can get additional insights. I find it very disappointing therefore that Ancestry will be canceling this distinction between “Southeastern Bantu” and “Cameroon/Congo” in their upcoming update. In fact it seems they will also be more conservative in their trace region reporting which might lead to the disappearance of your 1% “South Central Hunter-Gatherer” score, which is probably related to very diluted San lineage.


          • Should be interesting to see how Zimbabwean DNA will be described by 23andme after they have completed their update. It will have two new relevant categories: “Congolese” and “Southern East African”. Aside from the “African Hunter-Gatherer” category which used to be confusingly labeled as “Central & South African”., as described on this page. This configuration is bound to be much more informative than it has been up till now, haha. But it might even be an improvement over AncestryDNA when they implement their intended update.

            New African & East Asian Details in 23andMe’s Latest Ancestry Composition Update


        • They were the invaders, though. If they “lost” anything, it was by choice. It’s really hard to argue an invading people whose culture ends up displacing the indigenous local culture is the loser, particularly in this case with the Kalanaga. Whatever the change in their name or how they viewed themselves now vs. then, there is a cultural continuity with and direct connection to peoples and culture to the south that they still posses. The same can not be said of the people they assimilated.


          • Hi Damon
            Every tribe in that region came from somewhere whether through invasion or assimilation.
            I’m not justifying their conquer methods at that time. After establishing Matabeleland they too where over thrown by Europeans with the help of Shonas (1893-96). Losing their sense of identity was never by their choice. Matabeles have never had a political stand point in Zimbabwe let alone have a say on the constitution on what identities should be in place. Even now they’re trying to push Shona as a national language and identity, and even creating a one party state.


  7. Fontefilipe, truely amazing
    I kinda understand why they would change their estimates. On your spread sheets i read some south african tribes scoring a predominantly south easten bantu, however i recently saw a video of a kenyan who scored 100% south eastern bantu. Somehow i feel they should be some distinction there.
    Keep us updated

    Liked by 1 person

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