Rare Tsong-Shangaan Male Figure, Northeastern Transvaal/Mozambique
height 22 7/8in (58cm)
of overall rounded proportions, standing with knees slightly bent supporting the torso with broad, sloping shoulders, the arms to the sides (with the forearms now missing), the oval head resting on a cylindrical neck, the large, slightly raised oval ears bordering the face with round eyes, triangular nose and diminutive mouth, open and revealing two rows of teeth, wearing a slightly raised and painted coiffure, mustache and beard; painted overall in dark-brown, save for the face, neck and calves which are natural brown.
Udo Horstmann, Switzerland
Private European Collection
A similar carving is in the Museum fur Volkerkunde, St. Gallen Switzerland. The classification "Tsonga-Shangaan (or Shangana)" deserves explanation. Tsonga is used to designate a group of languages which includes Tsonga, Ronga and Tswa. Apparently, Tsong was a nickname given by the Zulu to the peoples living around Delagoa Bay and probably derived from "ronga", meaning east. Tsonga also means "slave", referring to the relationship of the Tsonga to their Nguni victor invaders. Shangaan derives from Soshangana, one of the names of Manukosi, the Nguni military leader who subjugated many of the peoples in Southern Mozambique during the early nineteenth century.
Among the Tsonga-Shangaan, the initiation of young men in initiation lodges, separate from regimental age grades, continued throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These figures appear to have been made for use in such ceremonies, and may also have been set up in or near the houses of chiefs as emblems of rank.