Ostrich People: Meet the Vadoma People of Southern Africa

The Doma or vaDoma are a clan of an uncommon people who live deep within the confines of western Zimbabwe in the Kanyemba region in the north of the country, a tributary of the Zambezi River Valley.

Vadoma People of Zimbabwe

These people are derogatorily referred to as the “ostrich people.” (Because of the structure of their feet) They are said to suffer from a rare genetic condition called ectrodactyly, which affects a substantial minority of their population.

Ectrodactyly, or “lobster claw syndrome,” could affect either the hands or feet. But, in the case of the vaDoma people, the middle three toes are absent and the two outer ones are turned inward. The condition is an inherited dominant genetic mutation.

They only have two big toes on each foot.

Because of this deformity virtually none of the people inhabiting the community can get a shoe to fit their feet. They still can walk but with some difficulty, running is also difficult to them. It is said this condition helps them while climbing trees, though.

Golden Law Guiding The Community

It is against tribal law for members to marry outside the group. The clan is the only traditional hunter-gatherers indigenous to Zimbabwe and are said to be famous for the inherited condition.

Ancestral Myth

According to vaDoma mythology, their ancestors emerged from a baobab tree. Upon descending from it, they walked upright to hunt and gather the fruits of the land. The name vaDoma is also used in the Zambezi region for a semi-mythical people characterized as magical, capricious, hard to find, and living among the trees. This may refer to Khoisan hunter-gatherers, who preceded the migration of the Bantu Shona into the Zambezi Valley, and the vaDoma are said to be possibly related to this earlier population.

There is also a myth that persists among people in neighbouring communities that the vaDoma are capable of disappearing in the forest and performing magic.

The very weird thing about the vadoma people is that even with the condition, they don’t see themselves as handicapped.

Uzonna Anele
Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.


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