Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Zwimba, Matthew Chigaga

Shiri Chena Church

Founder of the first independent Christian church among the Shona.

He was the son of the government-appointed paramount chief of the Zwimba reserve in eastern Zimbabwe, where he became a catechist under the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. He established the first mission school in his district, working with enthusiasm among his own relatives and friends. However, when he was transferred to a strange district he clashed with his supervisors. Eventually he was dismissed as a teacher (1907). He was in constant trouble with the white authorities until 1915, when he founded his own church and physically occupied the Methodist station in his own district. His Original Church of the White Bird Mission (Shiri Chena Church) incorporated both Christian and traditional Shona symbolism and was the first of a large number of independent churches among the Shona. Zwimba was afterwards persistently harassed by the white government, and became a leading spokesman for the people in his reserve.

Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen


Ranger, Terence O. The African Voice in Southern Rhodesia, 1898-1930. London: Heinemann, 1970.

Barrett, David B. Schism and Renewal in Africa. Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1968.

——–. “Who’s Who of African Independent Church Leaders.” Risk (Geneva, W.C.C.) 7(3) (1971): 23-34.

Rasmussen, R. Kent. Historical Dictionary of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1979.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Dictionary of African Historical Biography, 2nd edition, copyright © 1986, by Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. All rights reserved.