06 April, 2008

Mutapa (Mwene Mutapa or Monomotapa)

The early southern African towns and villages lacked any central authority until discipline was imposed, first by the 12th or 13th century AD ruler Mutapa (i.e. Emperor) Mutota and then by a descendant, Mutapa Matope. Matope was the greatest conqueror of the early Mutapas. In a series of campaigns, he conquered the Tavara and Tonga. In addition, he seized the Barwe kingdom. Economic considerations seem to have been paramount. Swahili traders from the East African coast, used to sail to the mouth of the Zambezi. Six leagues up stream was the town of King Mongalo. There the Swahili hired almadias (i.e. barges) to carry their merchandise along the channel to a trading bazaar. This was located in a large village in Tonga country. There, Swahili and Shona traders met and exchanged goods. In the interior, another famous trading centre was in the land of the Mambara. Here large quantities of copper were traded. The overland trade route with Sofala through Manyika had its own bazaars. In addition to the bazaars, individual Swahilis who travelled throughout the land selling their merchandise facilitated trade. Matope, in imposing a political empire over this network, offered the peace and security that allowed the gold and ivory trade to flourish. When We Ruled

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