Thursday, August 23, 2012

People Profile The Gosha (Shambara)

Religion: Islam
Population: 120,000 in Somalia; 2,400 in Kenya
(including 20,000 Mushunguli speakers)
Status: 0% Christian
NARRATIVE PROFILE Location: The Gosha live in the Jubba Valley of Somalia with about 2,400 living in Mandera District of Kenya. History: In the 19th century manay Bantu slaves escaped from the upper Shabeelle River area as they could, south to the lower Jubba area. The first villages were established by escaped slaves around 1800. A constant stream of freed or escaped slaves followed. By 1840, about 60,000 were established in the lower Jubba River valley. Abolition decrees after 1900 led to the immigration of another 50,000. They developed trading relations with the Swahili people of Kismaayo (Kismayu) and Brava (Baraawe) and gradually established clan relationships with the Digil, Rahanwiin (Reewin, and other variations) and Ajuuraan people in the Jubba area. Many had lost their Bantu languages before migrating to the Jubba Valley, but the Zigula retained their language. By 1900 Zigula was the language of about 15 villages in the lower Jubba Valley. The various tribal groupings, however, were maintained, with Yao descendants settling together, Makhuwa descendants establishing in their own villages, etc. Some of the other Gosha people came to speak Zigula, which came to be called Mushunguli. In the 1900s to 1930s, more immigrants came from the Shabeelle River valley fleeing tribal wars around Qallaafo in Ethiopia. Identity: The term "gosha" actually refers to a riverine forest infested with tsetse flies, coming from the Somali words reer goleed, "people of the forest". The term has come to apply to those diverse peoples of mostly Bantu backgrounds in the fertile farmlands of the lower Jubba Valley. The majority of Gosha are descendants of freed or escaped slaves from the Shabeelle Valley who moved south to established free farming colonies in the 19th century. There is some evidence that there were free Bantu people already settled in the lower Jubba River area when the slaves from the north came. There were also Oromo slaves who went to the Jubba Valley when manumitted. They have remained a distinct group, but there has been a lot of intermarriage with the Bantu Gosha. The term Gosha was used for all the non-Somali people. ILanguage: The most common language of the Gosha peoples is Maay. Some also speak the Ajuuraan dialect of standard (northern) Somali. One notable group of Gosha speak the Bantu language Mushunguli, descended from the Zigula-Shambara language of early slaves captured in northern Tanzania. This name comes from the Zigula word for the singular person, Muzigula. Mushunguli has been eroded as more Gosha came to speak languages of the surrounding Somali peoples. Some Gosha speak Swahili as a second language in their trading relations with the Bajun and other Swahili peoples. The Gosha in Kenya speak Maay and may be considered bilingual in Garre-Ajuuraan, an Oromo language. Customs: Most Gosha gradually accepted Islam in the early decades of the 20th Century. Most Gosha now consider themselves members of Somali Digil or Rahanwiin clans. However, marriage patterns still tend to follow the original ethnic lines of the various original Bantu groups. This has perpetuated the non-Somali physical characteristics of the Jubba Valley farmers. Because of this the Somalis consider them different. One of the Bantu customs still observed by Gosha people is the Gulu Nkulu ("Great Dance") of the Yao in Mozambique and Malawi. Religion: Many aspects of the animistic Bantu religion is retained by the Gosha people, including the practice of magic and curses. During the 20th century, however, they have gradually accepted Islam as a "cover" religion and culture. Awareness of Islam will be necessary to understand and communicate with the Gosha. But it will also be helpful to study African Traditional Religions of the Eastern Bantu peoples. Many Gosha participate in possession dances like "lumbe," similar to the cults practiced by the Somali peoples. These all involve dances, efforts to placate spirits, and specialists who are paid by possessed people or families. It is reported that possessed people often speak in Swahili. Historically, slavery was associated with animism and the animistic beliefs of the Bantu peoples was an excuse for enslaving them. The Islamic word kafir (infidel) was applied to them. As slaves accepted Islam, however, terminology for them changed. After the Gosha peoples began to accept Islam, the term "black" was used to distinguish the "foreign" non-Somali peoples from the Somali/Maay overlords or patrons. Thus "black" denotes inferiority. This is historically a common usage in Northern Africa, no matter what actual color slave owners were. Christianity: There has been virtually no Christian contact with the Gosha peoples. Early Italian missionaries had minimal contact but no ongoing work in the Lower Jubba area. Another mission had a presence from 1898 to 1935. The Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions was involved in Jamaame from the mid-50s to 1976. No recent mission work has been established. ==========================================
Cassanelli, Lee V. The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600-1900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992. Menkhaus, Kenneth J. Rural Transformation and the Roots of Under Development in Somalia's Lower Jubba Valley. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1989. Orville Boyd Jenkins June 1996 Updated July 2000 Copyright © 2000 Orville Boyd Jenkins Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.

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