Introduction / History The Chopi people speak Chichopi, which is a Bantu language, and the younger generation also speak Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique.
They are well known for their use of the timbila instrument and their accompanying skill in traditional dancing.
Where are they located? They are mainly located on the coast between Chidenguele in the province of Gaza and Inharimme in the province of Inhambane. The center of the Chopi people group is the Zavala district, and specifically the town of Quissico.
What are their lives like? The Chopi generally live a life of subsistence agriculture growing staples such as cassava, corn, and peanuts, and they also fish. They eat what they grow and go to local markets to sell their produce and buy other things. Their stretch of the Mozambican coast has an abundance of coconut palms as well as many cashew trees.
Many of the men work over the border in South Africa in the mines, leaving many households with several generations of women. The women work in the fields, take care of children, get water, cook, clean, and sell produce at the markets.
What are their beliefs? The majority of Chopi function under a traditional animistic belief system where local witchdoctors and healers have spiritual authority in the communities. Ancestors are worshipped, and pacified when angered. Animal sacrifices are important to obtain favor with spirits that one may have good crops, health, peace, and success. Ropes, strings, and cords are also tied around the body under the clothes (especially at the neck and waist, and for babies also at the wrists) for spiritual protection and success.
There are also many Chopi that belong to the African independent church called Zione (locally mazione) which combines teachings of the Old Testament of the Bible and traditional rituals for purification, different forms of "baptisms" and demonic exorcism. The prophets where colorful robes and utilize spiritual objects that are said to contain power, such as special ropes and staffs. Most are polygamist and they do not eat pork.
There are a few Catholic and Protestant churches, but many of the church members would continue to function, at some level, under traditional animistic belief system alongside of their church practices.
What are their needs? The Chopi need to know that the Creator God is all powerful and that He loves them. They need to truly and deeply understand His salvation in Christ and His victory over Satan, demons, and darkness. They, like all other people, need incarnational missionaries who enter in and dwell amongst them to be, do, and speak God's grace and truth in Christ Jesus.