Stone architecture and the development of power in the Zimbabwe tradition AD 1270 – 1830 by Prof. Innocent Pikirayi
Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa
Volume 48, Issue 2, 2013
Special Issue: Monumentality in Africa
Published online: 26 Jun 2013
Within the Zimbabwe Culture, stone architecture was not a mere reflection of the existing power of élites; rather, the process of creating architecture was also one of creating élite power. Creating architecture involved manipulation of the ‘natural’ environment, the elements of which were extended or appropriated to constitute the built environment. There is a clear relationship between architecture and ‘natural’ power, which provided links with the ancestral world. Thus, the construction of monumental architecture in the Zimbabwe Culture was a process of constructing social and political power through the manipulation of ideology, including the appropriation of ‘nature’. The Great Zimbabwe and Khami architectural styles express two distinct architectural forms with two distinct conceptual relationships to nature. Great Zimbabwe (AD 1290–1550) period architecture was apparently an extension of the natural environment, while Khami (AD 1400–1800) architecture arrogated elements of nature wholly transforming them into monumental built environments. Understanding these ideological differences is critical to understanding the dynamics of ancient states on the Zimbabwe Plateau.
Keywords: Great Zimbabwe, Khami, architecture, ideology, appropriation, built environment, domination