Shona traditional religion and sustainable environmental management: An Afrocentric perspective
Africans are a very religious people and religion permeates almost all facets of their lives from cradle to the grave. Religion is at the centre of African ontologies, cosmologies and African existence. There is no separation between the spiritual and the material in traditional African life. From a traditional African belief system, the ultimate dominion over the whole world is in the hands of God. Most indigenous African religions including the Shona traditional religion have peculiar beliefs and practices that have a bearing on the environment. For example, in Shona traditional religion, certain natural features like trees, rivers, mountains, animals and birds are considered sacred and should be conserved. Popular in Shona traditional religion are Shona taboos (zviera) that have a bearing on sustainable environmental management together with the Ubuntu African philosophy. Certain places are considered dwelling places for mashavi, masvikiro and ancestral spirits hence such places should be conserved. Despite the central role of African traditional beliefs and practices among the lives of indigenous Africans, they have suffered western hegemony mainly due to the infiltration of Christianity. It is the proposition of this paper that Shona traditional religion has some beliefs and practices that encourage sustainable conservation of the environment. Though such beliefs and practices are at times wrongly referred to as paganism and mythology especially in colonial literature, they have in the past helped in conserving the environment for future generations and they have the capacity to do the same in the future if they are preserved.