One of the earliest known Zimbabwe Traditions is the use of Totems and these are often depicted in the sculptures you see throughout the country.
These Totems also know as mitupos were used by the MaShona to identify the different clans that made up the ancient civilizations of the dynasties. The symbols are usually associated with animal names and provide the social identity of the clan. They are also meant to guard against incestuous behaviour and to praise someone in recited poetry.
There are at least 25 identifiable totems and 60 principal names in the contemporary MaShona society. Totems are usually animals and body parts. Examples include Fish Eagle, Zebra, Lion, Monkey, Elephant or leg, heart and lung, etc.
People of the same totem are descendants of one common ancestor and the MaShona recognize this totem unity even across tribal boundary lines.
Totem identity is very important at traditional ceremonies.
For example, a person of the same totem, even when that person is from a different tribe, can initiate burial of the deceased. However, a person from a different totem cannot initiate burial and if he does, he risks paying a substantial fine to the family of the deceased.