Understanding the Traditional and Contemporary Purpose of the Njelele Rainmaking Shrine through the Oral Testimonies of Local People in Matobo





Njelele, Mambo hills, spiritualism, nationalism, intangible heritage, Matobo heritage site, Mwali religion


The Njelele shrine is located in the Matobo Hills, an area that has been declared a world heritage site. The site of the Njelele shrine is of paramount spiritual significance in Zimbabwe, and it is visited annually between August and September for ritual purposes just before the rain season begins. The rituals are not limited to rainmaking but also relate to, for example, asking for forgiveness after society’s wrongdoings and asking for cures for diseases. During the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, this shrine was consulted by politicians and liberation fighters, and, in contemporary times, war veterans still consult the Ngwali oracle. It is believed that many years ago a voice came from the Njelele rocks but that it has since disappeared because of the disrespect people have shown to the area. This article conveys the views of the local community about the traditional and contemporary purposes of the Njelele national shrine, and in so doing aims to provide some insight into these people’s views. It also looks at the diverse values that different interest groups attach to the site. The researcher mainly used oral testimonies as sources of information but also consulted some published sources.

Author Biography

Sindiso Bhebhe, National Archives of Zimbabwe

Principal Archivist at National Archives of Zimbabwe