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Ibutho izulu (also referred to as Ibutho, or The Army of Heaven) is a hereditary diarchy situated on the east-central coast of Artania. The country borders Dundorf to the north, Rutania to the west, Kundrati to the east, Luthori to the south and the Mad Dog Ocean to the south-east. With 93% of her population being Ibutho, she is famously one of three Esinsundu (OOC: African)-majority nations in Terra. The Ibutho are intensely proud of their way of life. For centuries, all attempts to significantly reform them have been resisted, whether these have come in the form of direct colonisation, neo-colonial coercion, "international development programs" or the mulititude of temptations and pressures presented by the modern global economy. To the admiration of some but the despair of others, the Ibutho are, to an astounding extent, ezingaguquki - unchanging.
- 1 History
- 2 Government and politics
- 3 Economy
- 4 Religion
The story of the Ibutho is a remarkable saga of resistance to outside attempts to mould and change them. For as long as the historical record goes back, the nations and cultures surround them have regarded them as backward and doomed to extinction. Yet year after year, century after century, the Ibutho keep up their act and uphold their traditions. As the saying, goes, njalo okafanayo - always the same.
At different times the neighbouring powers - Dundorf, Rutania, Kundrati and most recently, Luthori - have all sought to control and subjugate the Ibutho, either directly or indirectly. The pattern of events has always been predictably cyclical. Foreign overlords typically begin with trying to make the country more profitable through a program of economic modernisation, including using mechanised mining techniques in mineral-rich Izimayini and swapping subsistence crops like maize for lucrative cash crops like tea, coffee, cocoa and tobacco.
This the Ibutho, being so attached to their traditional, simple economic system based on national self-sufficiency, invariably resist as fanatically as they can. The occupier then increasingly loses faith in the colonial project, eventually being driven out - usually by a mixture of Ibutho insurgency and canny alliances formed between Ibutho nobles (isiZulu: izinDuna) and other surrounding powers. For all their presumed lack of guile and cultural separateness from other Artanians, the Ibutho are proven masters of the art of shrewdly playing on Artanian nation off against the other in order to preserve their own independence.
Government and politics
The Ingonyama or King serves as the central figure in the political, religious and social life of Ibutho. He is revered as a god-like figure. Even if he retires or is removed from office, he continues to be so revered and continues to be called "Inkosi". The Ingonyama is one of the most powerful heads of government in Terra, ruling the country from the capital, Isizinda, and enjoying full control of the executive branch of the government. In constitutional theory, his Indaba or Cabinet is meant to help him govern, but in practice, it is an advisory body at best, with the ministers serving more as senior civil servants than as political decision-makers. In Ibutho, the Ingonyama is also head of the judiciary, which mean that if push comes to shove, he can usually get his way if he squabbles with the legislature - the Isishayamthetho. Or anyone else, for that matter. But in practice, in the interests of harmony and consensus, AmaKhosi (plural of Inkosi) generally prefer to exercise their judicial function responsibly, often delegating judgements to respected tribal elders.
As a nod towards democracy and a sop to the former Luthori occupiers, every 5 years the Ibutho go to the polls to elect a 105-member Legislature. This is a far from free and transparent process, however, since voters do not have the privilege of a secret ballot and it has been known for them to be punished if they do not vote in the correct way.
The 10 dynasties of Ibutho
The country is divided into 5 izifundazwe or provinces, which serve as constitutuencies at election time. Each province is divided into 2 izigodlo or Estates. Each Estate is occupied by one of Ibutho's 10 dynasties, and presided over by the relevant inDuna or noble. On occasion, the dynasties quarrel with the Inkosi, but these days, differences are usually - although not always - settled peacefully.
No understanding of the government and politics of Ibutho is possible without an appreciation of the role of these dynasties, which provide each Ibutho with their surname and play a key part in determining their sense of social and political identity. Each dynasty is headed by an induna who functions on a local level as religious and community leader on the one hand, and a government administrator on the other. The izinduna (plural of induna)generally inherit their positions when previous izinduna die, the inheritance has to be confirmed by the Ingonyama although by convention the Ingonyama bases his appointments upon advice received by isigodlo nobles. A new induna will usually, although not always, be appointed from within the same family as the previous induna. The Ingonyama can dismiss any inDuna, although this is rare.
The dynasties are as follows:
Shabangu - A powerful dynasty and from a clan with a prestigious warrior tradition that resides in southern Kwelakubo, the Shabangu have produced more izingonyama that any other dynasty.
Mathebula - Based in northern Kwelakubo, this dynasty has a reputation for producing fine administrators. The Mathebula rose to prominence under foreign occupation, but since independence have lost influence to the Shabangu.
Silongo - At least partly by virtue of their proximity to the beaches of southern Emambhishi, the Silongo are a great trading clan who are more open to influences from the rest of Artania and Terra than the other dynasties. One of their proudest achievements is Bokufika, which is the closest Ibutho has to a modern-style city. However, their enthusiasm for modernisation and technological development puts them at odds with the other dynasties, who at times regard them as almost foreigners.
During the unification process of Ibutho, the Silongo were the last dynasty to agree to join the confederation, and only did so on the condition that they would be able to elect their leader without the need for approval from the Inkosi, and that he (or, very rarely, she) would be allowed to retain the more elevated title of Inkosi instead of that of inDuna.
Hlanganani - The Hlanganani are famed across Ibutho for their expertise in growing crops in northern Emambhishi, especially maize. They are also marvellous cooks, although many of their best recipes are secrets closely-guarded by Hlanganani elders. The Hlanganani are also noted for their matriarchal social structure and are led by a divine Chieftess known as the Rain Queen, with succession limited to eldest surviving daughters only.
Mhaule - Guardians of the caves and mines of the caves and mines of northern Izimayini, during periods of colonial occupation the Mhaule struggled bitterly with their overlords, resisting all inducements to use modern, mechanised mining techniques to increase production. For the Mhaule, the mines are not just an economic resource but also places that need to be respected as the homes of ancestral spirits and an assortment of Gods. Azawiith, a former senior God of the Ibutho, is said to live at the bottom of one of the deepest mines. The other dynasties are a little wary of the Mhaule, finding it suspicious that they live and work underground so much.
Nkosi - Cows, goats, sheep, chickens - if it moves and has two or four legs, the Nkosi have it. The Nkosi use the grassy rolling hills of southern Izimayini to maintain the finest and healthiest herds to be found in Ibutho. In the past the Nkosi dominated politics so much that their name became a synonym for monarchy.
Mabuza - Known as "the Forest People", the Mabuza dwell in the dense forests of northern Amahlathi, where they support themselves mainly through hunting and a limited amount of tourism-related activity. They worship the hlathi or forest as a deity in its own right, believing it supplies them, through its benevolence, with all of the necessary means of existence. The Mabuza are somewhat introverted and cannot understand why anybody would want to live outside the forests, which, unlike outsiders, they regard more as a nurturing and protective force than as a mysterious place of danger.
Sibanyoni - Foreign anthropologists, hippies and progressive radicals have long been fascinated by the Sibanyoni of southern Amahlathi, who stand out from the rest of the Ibutho for being dynasty of peace-loving vegetarians who practice pacifism even when attacked. Unlike the other dynasties, the Sibanyoni are monogamous, with the men never taking on more than one wife. The Sibanyoni are often bullied by the other dynasties and would probably have been wiped out by now were it not for a tradition that the Inkosi of the Ibutho is expected to act as the special protector of the Sibanyoni. When the Inkosi is strong, attacks on the Sibanyoni are usually deterred, although unfortunately, when the Inkosi is weak and unpopular, other dynasties sometimes follow a custom of expressing their displeasure with him by launching attacks upon them.
The Sibanyoni shun political power, and have so far never produced a Inkosi.
Dlamini - Also known as the "Ukubuyela" or "Returners", the Dlamini dream of relocating to the continent of Squibble, where they believe the Ibutho originated from. In Dlamini lore, Squibble was and still is a paradise, and the Ibutho were mistaken to leave there. The other dynasties find this belief offensive, believing, as they do, both that their country is th best place to live in Terra and that the Ibutho are the original inhabitants of the whole Artanian continent. Perhaps partly because of this, the other dynasties assign a low status to the Dlamini, and have inflicted discrimination and even enslavement upon them in the past. Their low status is reflected in the fact their territory is assigned to desert terrain of northern Ugwadule where it is difficult to grow anything. The Dlamini make the most of their circumstances, however, excelling at craftsmanship and the arts.
Like the Sibanyoni, the Dlamini wield little political clout in Ibutho, although unlike the Sibanyoni, they wish they held more power than they do.
Mabena - Nicknamed the "Ukugcina" or "Storers", the Mabena of southern Ugwadule are possibly the most powerful clan after the Shabangu and Mathebula, and are renowned for supplying Ibutho with its intellectual class. Most of the Mlando or historians come from the Mabena. The feats of memory accomplished by the Mlando are incredible, since this is a country where writing down history and legends is frowned upon as umuthu omnyama - black magic. The Mabena also produce a disproportionate number of teachers, sangomas (diviners) and ingyamas (herbalists).
It would be a mistake to associate the Mabena with any enthusiasm for modernisation and technological progress, however. More than any other clan, the Mabena see themselves as guardians of the old ways. Deep enmity exists between them and the more progressive-minded Silongo.
The Ibutho - especially Ibutho men - are more passionate about their herds of izinkoma or cattle than Luthorians are about their cars. Cattle ranching is a very masculine affair. Women and girls are not even allowed to enter the enclosures, whereas boys start helping to look after their fathers cows from the age of about 5. Nothing makes an Ibutho man prouder than to stand in his fields, gazing at his cows for hours on end, thinking about how many wives they could procure for himself and his sons. For him, his cows are a measure of his isithunzo or standing in the community.
When foreign powers have been in the ascendant, they have always tried to discourage the Ibutho away from cattle farming and towards more profitable ventures, but just as predictably, the Ibutho masses have always rebelled against this and returned to their cows at the nearest opportunity. To this day, cattle are the backbone of the Ibutho economy, providing yenkomo (beef) and amasi (curdled milk) for eating, manure for fertilser, ilobolo (bride price) for wives, amashoba (tufts of cow's tail) for fashionable adornment and sacrifices for invoking the help of the ancestors.
On a smaller scale, Ibutho also rear other animals including sheep, goats, pigs and chickens, but socially this form of farming is regarded as very low status. In the forests of Bokufika, large quantities of game are hunted, and these contribute to the Ibutho cuisine.
Blessed with large stretches of fertile land, especially in Kwelakubo, the Ibutho love to grow their native crops - especially maize (used to make mielie-meal, an Ibutho staple), pumpkins, calabashes, watermelons, pineapples, bananas potatoes and a variety of different beans. During periods of political independence, as in the present era, crop yields tend to fall as the Ibutho abandon more sophisticated and mechanised agricultural techniques in favour of more traditional methods.
Izimayini is rich in minerals and a prime location for the mining of coal, iron, aluminium and copper. Foreigners have always been keen to use the latest technology to exploit these, but the Ibutho despise these processes, which they call "awayiphazamisi" or "intrusive", fearing they cause earthquakes and upset the spirits of the ancestors whose bodies are in the ground. Under the present Ibutho regime, some mining still goes on in the old-fashioned style, but production levels are nothing like what they once were. The government continues to refuse to allow foreign companies or experts to have anything to do with the running of the mines.
Ibutho has a reputation as one of the most exotic countries in Terra and is a popular destination for those who want a taste of something different. The tourist sector is mainly based in Emabhishi, where the beautiful beaches are a great magnet. Emabhisi's city, Bokufika, is the closest Ibutho has to a modern-style city, and is another hotspot for visitors. Also popular with foreigners are the forests of Amahlathi, where, according to the official tourist manual, "every conceivable flora and fauna may be found". Monkeys, elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes and other endangered species inhabit the forests. Illegal hunting continues, despite efforts to stop it.
The Ibutho, who overwhelmingly follow their national religion, Inkolo, inhabit a mindset where nothing happens just by chance, because the gods and the spirits of the ancestors are ever-present, always ready to assist or punish.
Unkulunkulu: the God who sleeps
Unkulunkulu created everything in existence and then was so exhausted by his work that he fell to sleep - and still has not woken up! Unkulunkulu's long sleep is blamed for all of the disorder in Terra. At rare moments of extreme need, the Ibutho practice specific dances and chants designed to rouse the god from his slumbers, but so far these attempts have all been unsuccessful. One day, according to Ibutho legend, Unkulunkulu will finally wake up and put his creation to rights, but until then, petitioning him for favours is generally regarded as a waste of time, and "Unkulunkulu botherers" are seen as eccentric.
Politics & religion: the role of the Inkosi
A much more tangible deity in the everyday life of the average Ibutho comes in the form of the Inkosi. A god in his own right, the Inkosi presides over the all-important Umkhosi WokweShwama or First Fruits Ceremony, a highly-ritualised even which culminates in the Inkosi tasting the first fruits of the harvest and intercedes on behalf of the people for the blessing of the Gods and ancestors. A successful First Fruits Ceremony is seen as crucial to the continued well-being of the nation. It is taken so seriously that if anybody misbehaves - especially if they eat before the Inkosi - they are executed on the spot.
Just as he appoints a senior wife from amongst his wives, the Inkosi also appoints a senior God from amongst his people's Gods. This choice is usually determined by political considerations, taking into account what the needs of the nation - and most especially its Inkosi - happen to be at any one time. During the 3590s, the authority of KY Inkosi Mlungisi was being undermined by claims from the sangomas or witch doctors that the country was facing impending doom.
Then, in January 3599, one of the most respected sangomas, Sanele, announced the God Azawiith had promised the Ibutho nation that for as long as the Ibutho worship him, he will "protect them and guarantee they will live and prosper in this land until the end of time". Upon hearing this, Inkosi Mlungisi swiftly demoted Unkulunkulu, who was in any case not considered the most responsive of deities, and promoted Azawiith to the position of senior God. Whether this was a political crisis that became a spiritual crisis or a spiritual crisis that became a political crisis, for the time being, it had been lain to rest. The whole nation breathed a sigh of relief.
Living with the ancestors
Ibutho neglect their idlozi - the spirits of their ancestors - at their own peril. Ancestors must be regularly placated and paid attention to or else they will bring about misfortune or withdraw their protection. If a person experiences a run of bad luck, he will often find, after consulting the local sangoma, that he has not done enough to appease his ancestors. More often that not, the sacrifice of a goat according to the proper rituals will resolve the problem.
You cannot travel far in Ibutho without meeting a sangoma. They are everywhere, and life in Ibutho could not function the way it does without them. Sangomas are usually although not always women. They are the spiritual leaders of the community, and the people the Ibutho turn to for help in intercediing with the gods and ancestors. There is much more to being a sangoma than just performing rituals, sacrifices and incantations, however. To be a really successful sangoma, you need to have a good understanding of the people you are dealing with and to be able to advise them on their problems. By winning the trust of the community, you can shrewdly expand your influence - especially if you win powerful patrons. It is not unknown for sangomas to land themselves places on the Indaba.