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Tonga Tribe near Binga, Zimbabwe

Lake Kariba was made by damming the mighty Zambezi River and flooding the valley which was home to a people called the Tonga tribe. After the flooding they reluctantly resettled on higher ground. They were forced to move from where they’d lived and fished for centuries so that the power of the Zambezi could be harnessed for electricity and yet 50 years on and the Tonga people still go without electricity or running water.

Children standing outside Tonga villiage of thatched mud huts, near Binga, Zimbabwe

As we entered this village, excited children ran out to greet us.


Tonga woman smoking water pipe, near Binga, Zimbabwe

It is traditional for Tonga women to smoke from a water pipe.


Lachlan talking to Tonga villiagers with Lula the Landy in the background, near Binga, Zimbabwe

We asked in mime if they would show us how it's done.


Tonga women smoking water pipes, woman poring water in to pipes, near Binga, Zimbabwe.

Their water pipes are made from the bulb of the calabash fruit which has a long stem, perfect for puffing. The bulb is filled with water.


Close up of a Tonga water pipe with a clay bowl filled with millet and hot coals, near Binga, Zimbabwe

The clay bowl of the pipe holds tobacco or dagga which is inhaled through maize or millet with hot coals on top of it, the smoke then passes through the calabash filled with water.


Tonga woman exhaling smoke with eyes closed, near Binga, Zimbabwe

Under the old colonial Rhodesian government, the Tonga were the only tribe permitted to legally continue their dope smoking tradition.


Old Tonga woman smoking water pipe, near Binga, Zimbabwe

Groovy, baby!


Lifting old woman's hat so that we can see her face in the sun, near Binga, Zimababwe

Ready for your close-up?


Lachlan with old tonga woman smoking a water pipe, near Binga, Zimbabwe

This matriarch's lovely sense of humour required no language.


Tonga woman lighting a rolled cigarette from a smouldering piece of wood, near Binga, Zimbabwe

No wonder the Tonga people smoke, they've suffered throughout history. Before David Livingstone arrived on the scene around 1855/7 their living by the Zambezi river made them easy pickings for merciless Arab slave traders.


Young Tonag girl, near Binga, Zimbabwe

David Livingstone wrote in his journal "We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body and lying on the path. Onlookers said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer".


Traditional Tonga mud huts on stilts, near Binga, Zimbabwe

Prior to the Tonga people being displaced from their valley, they lived on the fertile banks of the Zambezi catching fish with long spears, growing crops and hunting wild game. They built their thatched mud huts on stilts so as not to become sneaky croc snacks and this attractive tradition has continued inland.


Scrawny Tonga dog, near Binga, Zimbabwe

Another pedigree Bow Wow! We gave the Tonga women bags of maize flour and sugar when we left but really they wanted Bow Wow. He looked so healthy and muscular, they reckoned he'd be good for hunting. Bow Wow took one look at their scrawny hounds and jumped back in the Landy 'The only thing I'm hunting is tennis balls!"


Tonga villiage with mud huts on stilts and chickens, near Binga, Zimbabwe

The women cupped our hands as we said goodbye. Our next stop would be the Tonga tribe's most spiritual mecca, the Victoria Falls, where they saw in its magnificent rainbow the presence of God.

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19 Responses to “Tonga Tribe near Binga, Zimbabwe”

  1. prince says:

    hope you had a good time in my area, was enjoying the pics you got of we are! we can taalk

  2. Ephraim says:

    This is total biased suffering doesn’t make the people of Binga smoke please correct that ask I will tell why they smoke its because women work extra hard and need a bit of refreshment by the way that pipe is not as harmful as cigarets
    I would like you to correct that,I’m from Binga and know what I’m talking about you guys must do a through out research before you write about anything, the way in which you portray Africans is no good

  3. mukali says:

    My sweet home sweet home. I am MuTonga without regret.

  4. Thanks for reading Mukali. We had a wonderful time and your people are incredibly kind. We absolutely love Zimbabwe and hope to return asap!

  5. The baTonga! such hospitable and kind people, yet forgotten! What is really needed in Binga is sustainable development.Thanks to Siabuwa Development Trust one of the few Non-Governmental Organisations, if not the first, that has focussed on stimulating sustainable socio-economic development in rural Binga.

  6. Great photo feature on the wonderful BaTonga people of Binga, Zimbabwe, bravo.

  7. Munsaka says:

    Hi Lucie,Lachlan&BowWow

    May you kindly get in touch on
    Would love to have a chat with you.

  8. jean piaget says:

    jeez, i luv ma roots……tru culture in its makin….actually the only undiluted culture in the country……….lol

  9. Thanks for all those photos they make make proud.

  10. chitondezyo mucimba says:

    I feel so great to have ma area being explored and recognised on the globe!

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  12. Kadjiri Ephraim says:

    Parcially good. I like this tribe, it is one of the tribes which are not culturally eroded than others in Zimbabwe. Very proud of being Tonga although oftenly forgotten. It is one of the fastest growing tribe in economic developments, education etc. The Batonga,the great tribe along Zambezi(thus from Chirundu, Kariba, Mola Binga up to VicFalls).

  13. It doesn’t matter how long it will take, God will remember Binga Batonga.Everything is changing for the good.People must remember the Tonga saying:Siasule ngusianembo,those in front one day they will be behind.If the Batonga people were created by God, He has a master plan for them,(Jeremiah29:11;1:12).Bless Binga.KM

  14. chitondezyo mucimba says:

    kunembo abutonga


    the last shall be the first.very humble people,beautiful and amazing black women,peaceful and accommodative one can challenge.Jah guidence.BaTonga represent

  16. siyamagani d says:

    murikabotu …………………….. im proud to be a tonga . i managed to look into the history of zimbabwe and find out that the tonga are the first people to occupy zimbabwe. woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow enjoy the hospitality of the tonga people

  17. binga dam says:

    I didn’t know that there is also a place called Binga in Zimbabwe. thanks for sharing.

  18. takwana nheya says:

    Im a shona,but hey i wish i was tonga.howi love those pple,their culture and i cn say almpst everything to do with them.i wish i cn have a tonga lady.God bless batonga,God bless Binga

  19. busu says:

    l’m a shona,but l so interested in history of zimbabwe,as of my interest l wish you could send me the history of Tonga,Ndebele,any to do wish zimbabwe l think this is the only way we can know our origin better and have an understanding.thank so much

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