Disability and Traditional Shona Societies

A Reflection on Disability in the Shona Folktales

  • Clemence Makamure Zimbabwe Open University


Disability among the traditional Shona societies was perceived with mixed attitudes and feelings. At one time the Shona would view disability with an abusive and denigrating attitude while at other times they would discourage the abuse and ill-treatment of people with disability. The Shona may view people with disabilities with suspicion because it is generally agreed that such mishaps are related to certain actions or non-actions by parents or family members. The punishment and retribution of vadzimu (ancestors) can be manifested in the form of deformities in the children of the offending persons. Disability is also blamed on the works of jealous witches who do not want to see a certain family having able-bodied children. The diversity of Shona people’s attitudes towards people living with disability has been and is exhibited through taboos and folktales. It is in light of this view that this paper is set to reflect on the rich legacy of traditional Shona taboos and folktales and see the extent to which they exhibit both negative and positive attitudes of the Shona people towards people with disability. The paper will start by giving the beliefs of the Shona people on the types and causes of disability and then proceed to give Shona taboos and folktales which either accommodate or denigrate people with disability. Document and story analysis methods will be used to glean data for this paper.

Author Biography

Clemence Makamure, Zimbabwe Open University

Clemence Makamure is Programme Leader and Lecturer at the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy. He is also a part-time lecturer at the Catholic University of Zimbabwe in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. He has a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Master of Science in Rural and Urban Planning (UZ), Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies (UZ), Diploma in Religious Studies (UZ), Diploma in Project Planning and Management (CCOSA).

How to Cite
MAKAMURE, Clemence. Disability and Traditional Shona Societies. The Fountain: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 23-46, june 2017. ISSN 2520-453X. Available at: <http://journals.cuz.ac.zw/index.php/fountain/article/view/34>. Date accessed: 23 june 2018.