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Ostrich People: Meet the Vadoma People of Southern Africa

The Doma, also known as the vaDoma, are a clan of unusual people who reside deep within the bounds of western Zimbabwe, in the Kanyemba region in the north of the country, along a tributary of the Zambezi River Valley.

The "ostrich people" is a derogatory term for these people. They are said to have ectrodactyly, a rare genetic disorder that affects a significant minority of their community, due to the form of their feet.

Ectrodactyly, often known as "lobster claw syndrome," can afflict the hands or the feet. The center three toes are missing in the vaDoma people, while the two outer ones are twisted inward. The disease is caused by a dominant genetic mutation that is passed down through the generations.

They only have two big toes on each foot.

Because of this deformity, almost no one in the neighborhood can find a shoe that fits their feet. They can still walk, but it is difficult for them, and running is also difficult for them. However, it is thought that this condition aids them in climbing trees.

Golden Law Guiding The Community

Members of the tribe are forbidden by tribal law from marrying outside the tribe. The clan is reported to be famous for an inherited condition and is Zimbabwe's sole traditional hunter-gatherers.

Ancestral Myth

Their progenitors, according to vaDoma mythology, arose from a baobab tree. They walked upright after descending from it to hunt and gather the land's bounty. In the Zambezi region, the word vaDoma is also applied to a semi-mythical people who are described as magical, capricious, difficult to locate, and who live among the trees. This could allude to Khoisan hunter-gatherers who arrived in the Zambezi Valley before the Bantu Shona, and the vaDoma are claimed to be linked to this earlier group.

There's also a legend that the vaDoma may vanish into the forest and perform magic, which has persisted among residents of nearby settlements.

The vadoma people are strange in that, despite their condition, they do not perceive themselves as disabled.


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Doma Kanyemba Southern Africa Vadoma Zambezi River Valley


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