“Believe in your destiny”: Nandi, queen of Zululand, a woman of high esteem

“Believe in destiny”: Nandi, queen of Zululand, a woman of high esteem

 

Historical background

The incredible story of Nandi, Queen of Zululand, is set in the 18th century in the part of South Africa called “Zululand”.

 

A determined woman was born

Daughter of a chief of the Elangeni tribe, Nandi Bebhe was born in 1766 in eBonzini umuzi. Her love for her son and her determination have made her one of the most remarkable African women in history.

 

Nandi’s meeting with the Prince of Zulu Senzangakhona KaJama

Near the Babanango Hills, near the ikhanda esiKlebe, Nandi met Prince Senzangakhona south of the White Umfolozi River in the wooded bed of the Mkumbane River, while on a trip to visit relatives.

At that time, Prince Senzangakhona already had two legitimate wives who had not yet given him children. But this does not prevent her from seducing the young Nandi, known for her beauty and high self-esteem. From this loving union, Nandi became pregnant after 6 months and gave birth to a son, the very famous Chaka Zulu. Nandi’s life will change completely because of this birth.

 

A birth full of changes

When Nandi first announced her pregnancy in Senzangakhona, the elders of the tribe took a very negative view of it. To avoid shame, they said she was not pregnant, but suffered from a stomach condition caused by the iShaka beetle, a relaxation of the intestines.

When the child was born, Nandi suffered great humiliation because she had conceived a child out of wedlock. Insulted, mistreated, rejected, there was no welcome party or ceremony for her and her child.

The women and singers of the eLangeni did not waste any time in denigrating her, as in this sentence from a poem:

USontanti, Omathanga kahlangani, ahlangani ngokubona umyeni” qui veut dire «  The woman, whose thighs are never pressed against each other, except when seen by a man. ”

 She also attracted the wrath and anger of Senzangakhona’s first wives, who were jealous and bitter about the situation. According to Zulu custom, pregnant women who were not married had to be sent back with their children. And their children were never recognized as being of royal blood. The king’s legitimate wives, jealous and bitter, pressured Senzangakhona to banish Nandi from the kingdom.

Nandi had had as many problems, because she had had a child out of wedlock, but also she was the subject of an inter-clan marriage that was forbidden. Indeed, Nandi’s mother, Mfunda, was the daughter of Kondlo, a Qwabe chief, with whom mixed marriages between clans and Zulus were unacceptable.

Abandoned during her pregnancy by the prince, permanently humiliated, Nandi, a single mother, kept her confidence in life and continued to believe in her destiny. She was convinced that one day her son would become king and repeated himself day and night:

 “My son will be a great king. »

She instilled values in him and raised his son as best she could. She instilled in him the power of unity and the concept of “We are the same”.

When she has been driven out, she will be taken in by a priestess, who will explain to her that the child she bears is the fruit of a great prophecy, according to which a great chief will be born from the Zulu tribe and will revolutionize the whole southern part of the African continent.

Tired of the constant rumours, Chaka’s father decided to marry Nandi and welcome them into his Kraal. She will thus become his third wife. Nandi’s strong character is also reflected in the marriage ceremonies, where she herself will negotiate before the husband the amount of the dowry and the price of the redemption of the illegitimate child. Humiliated, by the boldness and courage of Shaka’s mother, King Senzangakona did not hesitate to humiliate her and despise her regularly in the eyes of all. Despite everything, she will give her husband a second child.

The king will continue to humiliate Nandi during the wedding ceremony of his fourth wife. He will ask his third wife to carry the calabash of water to his lips. When she obeys, he will not hesitate to push her and drop her on the floor.

A single mother, Nandi decided to raise these children alone and return to the Elangani family.

Exhausted by all this abuse, Nandi decided to flee with her two children and return to her Elangani tribe.

In his own tribe, the mockery, the insults, the aggressions will start all over again. Shameful, Nandi and her son were rejected. No one wants to stay with them. One day Chaka was beaten to death by the young people of the tribe, and for Nandi, it was the final act. She decides once again to take her children and her mother and leave.

The happiness found in the Mthetwa tribe

Dingiswayo, chief of the Mthetwa tribe, will warmly welcome Nandi and her children. Always in love, he will take care of her and her children, as if they were his own flesh. For once in her life, Nandi will finally feel in her place, loving and pampering.

 Dingiswayo will teach Chaka the art of war and combat. He will train the young man in his army until Chaka’s fame and popularity is heard everywhere. Chaka served for six years as a Mthethwa warrior and distinguished himself by his courage to become a general.

His popularity would reach the ears of his father, Senzangakona, who then decided to pick up his son himself at Dingiswayo’s.

When his father died, he created his own army to conquer the Zulu throne. Crowning King of the Zulus in 1816, he decided to give the title of Queen Mother to Nandi. A good counsellor, her mother is a force of moderation in her life. She often suggested that he make various political compromises rather than violent actions. The mother of the fearsome king and warrior, by her determination and patience, fought against the slave traders.

She remained Shaka’s counsellor until October 10, 1827, when she died of dysentery. However, when her mother died, more than 7,000 people were executed in what is known as “grief” for the deceased queen.

It should be noted that most of the sources on Nandi’s history come from vocal sources. In history, the mother of the great Shaka Zulu, remains a symbol of patience, determination. She is held in high esteem because she has overcome many difficulties. And yet, she believed in her destiny and that of her son.

For all women who find themselves in complicated situations, single mothers, women abandoned by their husbands, do not forget that you must always believe in your luck and keep faith in God and fate. It is in difficulty that a man is able to show the best of himself.

 

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Do you know this queen? What is your opinion about Nandi, Queen of Zululand?

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