The vaDoma Tribe


Despite how easy it is to reach someone via social media and with today’s advances in technology, there still exist pockets of people who remain isolated from your everyday man and media. Over in South Africa, north of Zimbabwe to be precise, lives a tribe in the Kanyema area around the Zambezi River Valley.  Called the vaDoma tribe or the Doma, they speak Dema, Kunda, and Shona. Being the only hunter-gatherer tribe, they’re said to be the oldest tribe in Africa. However, within their numbers exists a minority who live with a condition called Ectrodactyly. Today, we’re going to discuss this tribe whose toes have made, and continue to make, them famous. 


The vaDoma tribe or Doma as it was often referred to, were actually nicknamed the “Two-toed” or the “Ostrich footed” tribe. This stemmed from the fact that they were missing their three middle toes and their only toes, the two outer toes, were turned inward which gave their feet a webbed look. This is a genetic condition called Ectrodactyly or Lobster Claw Syndrome (their feet resemble a Lobster’s claw) which was experienced by members of the tribe. The cause of this is a chromosome mutation that for years has affected the Doma people specifically because of their refusal to marry and reproduce with anyone outside the tribe as it was law. Though an upside to this is the fact that since they’re obedient when it comes to said law, their condition, which is genetic, remained within the tribe – never once was it spread to other tribes. Also, just as they were missing toes, sometimes they’d be born without a finger or two as well.  


Being of the vaDoma tribe, members gained their popularity due to the way they looked and, even though it is often labeled as odd and looked upon with furrowed brows, their defect did in fact benefit the tribe. You see, as they were hunters and gatherers, it was a shared belief that because of the way their feet were shaped, it boosted their climbing ability.  To be noted is the fact they couldn’t wear shoes and that walking and running came with their fair share of difficulty. In turn, you’d think because of this that it would deter them from climbing trees altogether, but no. You see, according to Sleek Gist, the vaDoma were quite boastful of their origin as according to them, it started with a Baobab Tree which they claim to have emerged from. Other people who tell the tale of their origin would state that “their ancestors were like bird beings who appeared from the skies and established their abode on earth who later had interactions with women and mix[ed] their DNA to produce offspring.” You might also hear that the “elders state that their ancient ancestors came from the star systems of Sirius and first established colonies on a planet within our solar system that they refer to as Liitolafisi.” That in their eyes, their ability to run as well as they can was a direct nod to them being “proud descendants of extraterrestrial beings.” It’s been said that when you look at their feet the thing that comes to mind is the most obvious of the lot, “How do they walk?” Turns out that when it’s time to hunt animals and gather fruits, they can be seen standing upright.


Yes, their condition is genetic, but thankfully, it is only a few of their tribe who suffer from the lobster claw-favoring condition as the reality is, one in four kids suffer from this lifelong condition. The vaDoma, otherwise known as the Bantwana tribe, which when translated means “means children/descendants” are said to follow an ethnic religion, though among them are Seventh Day Adventists. The people with two toes, as they are often referred to, are not labeled as disabled and they aren’t looked down upon. In fact, they are welcomed by the entire community. 


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