During my research, I attempted to Trace the history of great African Revolutionary Women. This is how I stumbled upon Mbuya Nehanda.

In 1840, a Mashona woman by the name of Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana was born in the Mazowe District of central Zimbabwe.

She was medium to a revered female spirit of rain and land fertility, the spirit of Nehanda. She was better known as Mbuya Nehanda, spoke for her people, and was committed to upholding traditional Shona culture. 

When British settlers first arrived, the people of Shonaland and nearby Ndebele land were welcoming, allowing them to trade and live freely. Unfortunately relationships became strained when the settlers started imposing taxes, forced relocations, forced labour, and worse.

According to history, the last straw was the imposition of a ‘hut tax’. ( I know, right?)

This lead to a massive revolt against the British and sealed Nehanda’s name in history forever.

Nehanda was instrumental in leading the First Chimurenga (“Revolutionary Struggle”) of 1896-1897. This made her status significant enough to become a British symbol for the need to “civilize” the Africans.

As a way of punishing her for daring to challenge colonial rule, Nehanda along with three others ( Zindoga, Hwata and Gutsa), were falsely (historians differ on the veracity of this claim) accused of murdering a brutal white native commissioner, Henry Hawkins Pollard of the British South Africa Company who lived near Mazowe and terrorised people in that district. 

They were subsequently convicted on March 2nd 1898 in a case entered as “The (British) Queen against Nehanda”. They were sentenced to death by hanging and  executed on April 27th 1898.

Mbuya Nehanda became a symbol for African Nationalists of the “uncolonized” past that had been destroyed by colonialism. Her legacy will forever remain entrenched in the annals of Zimbabwe’s history.

To honour her memory, her statue was erected at the Parliament of Zimbabwe. Hospital wards, streets and national jets have been named after her, as well and movies, songs and poems fondly referring to her as Mbuya or Grandmother.

Nehanda’s dying words, “My bones will rise again,” predicted the Second Chimurenga (1966-79) which culminated in the independence of present-day Zimbabwe.

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