Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Zambia Ngoni Praise poetry

  • Wednesday, December 22, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Taken from Shona Praise Poetry

    'These tentative and rather inconclusive remarks have been triggered by comparing Shona Praise Poetry with a recent dissertation on the Ngoni poetrys of Zambia by Steven Moyo. Moyo observes, in passing, that the moribund state of the language has definite ramifications for the existence of the poetry. The ramifications are not spelled out. A caveat to the work points out that Ngoni is "no longer a sociolinguistically dynamic language." Yet a long and detailed analytical description (539 pages) of the Ngoni aesthetic ambiance proves to be a significant contribution to the corpus of African literary criticism. Indeed so broad, deep, and comprehensive is Moyo's analysis that it spans dance, song, and verbal poetry.

    Ngoni Izingoma are portrayed as the totality of the aesthetic experience implied by the genre of praise poetry. Moyo elaboratesupon the cognitive and taxonomic aspects of Izingoma (the basic modes of aesthetic communication) under eighteen subheadings-seven under the subcategory of dance (ingoma), six under singing (izihlabelelo), five under praises or stylized speech (izithokozo). The names of the subgenres begin with umgubho [war dance] and culiminate in imidabuko [national epics]. The songs go from imilolozelo[lullabies] to izigiyo [adult self-advertising songs]. The complete list is umgubho [hunting dance, war dance, and song], isigiyo [singly performed and rendered as self-praise], ngoma [pastime dances], umgido [associated with women and children], tshimbo [a two man or two woman dance], mzangaza [a dance in which young men and women form parallel lines and occasionally pair off], mvunga [in which men dance and murmur to women solists], imilolozelo [lullabies], umsindo [sung in the context of nubility rites and the initiation of girls in preparation for marriage], umthimba [sung in the context of bride wealth negotiations and marriage ceremonies], vyanusi [sung in the context of therapy presided over by diviners or medicine persons], ligubho [death songs and dirges], izigiyo [dance songs that accompany isigiyo dances] , vigiyo [topical boasts and self-praise poems], vithokozo [praise poetry proper in which "others" are declaimed], imihubo [community lyrics in which place names occur frequently as spiritual homes], viwongo [clan praises], and imidabuko [national epics].'


    Tuesday, December 14, 2010


    Northern Ngoniland - Imperial Possibilities of Missions

  • Tuesday, December 14, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Extract from Missionary Idea in Life and Religion, 1926

    ....Perhaps the imperial possibilities of missions have never been better illustrated than in the story of Laws of Livingstonia of the annexation of Ngoniland. It was won for the British Empire, neither by the soldier, nor by the administrator, nor by the explorer, but by the missionary. Sir Alfred Sharpe, Commissioner of Nyasaland, put absolute confidence in the judgment of Doctor Laws about the precise moment when the country was ripe for annexation. On receipt of a letter from Doctor Laws, the commissioner "did a thing surely unparalleled in the story of British colonization. He went up into the wilds of Ngoniland to annex the country, unattended by the military, and taking only his wife with him." On September 2, 1904, the day fixed for the great palaver with the native chiefs, "the Ngoni gathered in their thousands, chiefs and indunas and fighting men, with spears and shields, the proudest and most warlike people in Central Africa, and the commissioner walked into their midst to take away their independence, with all the implication which that involved the surrender of their old care-free life, the submission to outside authority, the imposition of taxation and he was alone. The few soldiers he had brought with him as a matter of form mingled, unarmed, with the spectators."

    A mission teacher acted as an interpreter; and after a long palaver, with many explanations asked and patiently and tactfully given, without the firing of a single shot and with the good will of the "wild Ngoni," by the setting of the sun Ngoniland had been added to the British Empire. The commissioner gratefully acknowledged his great indebtedness to Doctor Laws and the other missionaries.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010


    Ngoni Language - Scholars' Views

  • Sunday, December 12, 2010
  • Samuel Albert

    Sources: Introductory Grammar of the Ngoni language by W. A. Elmslie, M. B., 1891. Ikatekisma la Hari... ngu W. A. Elmslie, 1890. Izindaba zombuso ka Mlungu, 1890.

    There are in South Africa several different tribes which go by the name of Ngoni. Those among which the Rev. W.A. Elmslie has passed several years live under the rule of Mombera, on the western side of Lake Nyassa. Their language must not be coupled with Bunga (p.xix of this work), but with Mfengu, Zulu, Xosa, and Tebele, in the Kafir cluster. In the sources mentioned above I have scarcely found more than two or three words which may not be heard among the Kafirs of Cape Colony and Natal.

    The demonstrative pronouns and a few other forms are the same as in Zulu, not as in Xosa (n. 124). A few grammatical forms are proper to Ngoni, or borrowed from the dialects of the Nyassa region. Thus the classifiers ci and vi replace si and zi of Kafir {ci and zi of Tonga); and the connective pronouns of the plural number in the 1st and 2nd person are ti "we" instead of the Kafir si; mu or li "you" instead of the Kafir ni. Consequently, the substantive pronoun mwena or lina "you" replaces nina. (See pp. 153 and 160). Were it not for these few differences, all good Zulu and Kafir (Xhosa, Zulu or Ndebele) books might be used among the Ngoni of Nyasaland.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010



  • Sunday, November 7, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Below is a painting of a dead Maseko Ngoni warrior as drawn by Sir Harry Johnston during the war against Yao slavers around  1890s. Below is a vivid description of the realities of war and the circumstances that led to the discovery of the body of this brave warrior.

    In a secluded part of the precincts amid the scattered vegetation of the village outskirts I suddenly came across the body of a fine-looking Angoni, not many minutes dead. He might have been fighting on our side; he might haven been hired by the Arabs as one of their raiders, but someone had killed him with a bullet  through the head and he had fallen in his tracks, in all his panoply of war, scarcely conscious of the object for which he fought. His right hand still grasped the stabbing spear, his left still held the ox-hide shield. His throwing spears had flown from his hand and were scattered on the ground. Grimmest sight of all — four vultures had already arrived on the' scene to examine him. Two birds promenaded up and down with a watchful eye, ready on noting any sign of returning consciousness to take their departure; another bird, somewhat bolder, stood on one leg and inspected him as might a thoughtful surgeon; and the fourth whirled in circles on out-spread pinions round the body, wishing to settle but frightened, in case after all it was a swoon and not a death.


  • Samuel Albert
  • Author(s): A. Werner
    Source: Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 2, No. 8 (Jul., 1903), pp. 416-421

    Note from moderator: Alice Werner worked as a Blantyre Mission missionary in Nyasaland in 1890s and was more acquainted with the Maseko Ngoni having worked among some Maseko Ngoni as a teacher

    IT is generally conceded that the clicks which occur in Xosa, in Zulu, and, to a limited extent in Sesuto, have been borrowed from the Hottentots. Accordingly we find a greater number of click-words, though not a greater variety of clicks, used by the Xosas than by the Zulus, the former having been more in contact with the previous occupants of the country than the latter. Dr. McCall Theal (History of South Africa, II., 196) says that the clicks "were introduced by females spared when the hordes to which they belonged were conquered, as is evident, not only from tradition, but from the words in which they occur being chiefly those pertaining to the occupations of women." This, however, scarcely holds good, at least as far as Zulu is concerned, as the following list of words (which might easily be made longer) will show. (It is scarcely necessary to point out that c stands for the dental click, q for the palatal, and x for the lateral).


    Some Notes on Angoni by Alice Werner

  • Samuel Albert
  • From 'The Natives of British Central Africa', 1906.

    The Angoni were originally a Zulu clan who came from the south, under Zwangendaba, about 1825, and incorporated with themselves large numbers of the tribes whom they conquered by the way, so that there are now few, if any, of unmixed descent remaining. The 'southern Angoni '—formerly known as 'Chekusi's people'—are mostly Anyanja ; but there were, in 1894, a few head-men and others, besides Chekusi's own family, who spoke Zulu, and some of the elders wore the headring, but of a different pattern from the Zulu isigcoco (which is a smooth, round ring), being more like a crown done in basket-work. The northern Angoni (Mombera's people) all speak Zulu, with considerable dialectic modifications, such as the gradual elimination of the clicks, and the substitution of r for l. But their speech is quite intelligible to Zulus from the south. As already stated, there is a great variety of types. The young warriors introduced to me under the name of 'Mandala's boys ' (Mandala was the brother of Chekusi or Chatantumba, at that time chief of the southern Angoni) were big, swaggering, long-limbed fellows, somewhat vacant of face, and, I think, somewhat lighter in colour than the sturdy little men who went to work on the Blantyre plantations. But whether the difference

    Saturday, November 6, 2010


    The History of The Angoni According to Alice Werner

  • Saturday, November 6, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Note: Alice Werner worked as a Blantyre Mission missionary in Nyasaland in 1890s and was more acquainted with the Maseko Ngoni having worked among some Maseko Ngoni as a teacher.

    It is not known when the Zulus moved southward into the territory they now occupy, and where they must have been settled for some generations before thebeginning of the nineteenth century, as the graves of at least four kings (some say eight), of earlier date than that epoch, are still to be seen at Mahlabatini, in the valley of the White Umfolozi. In 1687 they, and tribes allied to them, seem to have been in peaceful occupation of Natal and Zululand, living so close together that migration on a large scale was impossible. Yet, about the same time, the Amaxosa, or 'Cape Kafirs,' who are very closely related to them, seem to have been pressing on to the south ; and they reached the Great Fish River soon after the beginning of the eighteenth century. However this may be, the Zulu king Senzagakona had, about 1800, risen to a position of some importance, though still subject to Dingiswayo, chief of the Umtetwas in Natal. His son, Tshaka, succeeded in 1810, and,

    Eye witness Account of the Funeral of Chief Mmbelwa I in 1891.

  • Samuel Albert
  • The following is an account, by an eye-witness, of the funeral of the Angoni chief, Mombera, who died in 1891:—

    ' Men were there from all parts of the tribe, sitting in the cattle-kraal—an immense enclosure open to the sky. Before the grave was dug, one of his brothers jumped up, and placing his hands behind his head, advanced towards the place of burial, mourning all the time and performing a sort of waltzing movement. All the men at the same moment jumped to their feet and stood mourning. After this subsided, the digging of the grave was proceeded with. It was not finished till next day. Meanwhile, companies of people were coming and going, and on entering the village, stood mourning and crying at the top of their voice, "Baba be! Baba be!"1 Before the body was brought out, there was a curious procession of his wives on their hands and knees to the grave, decorated with great bunches of feathers that only the chief is allowed to wear. Soon after, the body was brought in, rolled in cloth, and deposited in the grave in a sitting posture with his face to the east. This was the signal for all jumping up, and closing round the grave in a big circle, and there mourning and rending the air withcries. Only men were allowed in the kraal at this time. (The Zulus never allow women in the cattle kraal at any time.) They stood with their shields over their heads, crying out. Afterwards the young men came marching in in companies and stood mourning for a little, then retired. Meanwhile they were depositing in the grave along with him an immense amount of calico, dresses, etc. — I dare say the accumulation of years; cooking-pots, drinking-vessels, mats, and pipes also went in. During this time, the women were mourning in their own style and causing a fearful din. They appeared as if bereft of their senses, catching one another, and going through some queer movements.'

    1. Baba ='father'


  • Samuel Albert
  • From the book 'Totenism and Exogamy,' 1910.

    The population of the Nyasaland Protectorate includes many tribes belonging to different stocks and speaking different languages, but they are all members of the great Bantu family. Of the various stocks the Nyanja-speaking the Bantu peoples are the most numerous and important. They include many tribes, amongst whom are the Amananja, the Ambo, the Anyanja, and the Achewa. The Angoni, who give their name to Central Angoniland, a district of the Protectorate lying at the south-west end of Lake Nyasa, are a Zulu people, who having rebelled against the despot Chaka were defeated by him and fled northward, crossing the Zambesi in 1825 and settling in the country to the west of Lake Nyasa. They have intermarried with other tribes, particularly with the Achewa, so that they are now a mixed race; but the northern Angoni still speak the Zulu language, though with some dialectical modifications. At present the Angoni are not so much a separate people as a ruling caste dwelling in the midst of British Central African tribes whom their ancestors conquered.1 The natives of British Central Africa live chiefly by agriculture. The chase is a subsidiary pursuit, and except among the Wankonde, at the north end of Lake Nyasa, the keeping of cattle is an accident or an appanage of chieftainship. Among the principal crops raised by the natives are maize, millet, rice, beans, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and tobacco. The arts of weaving, pottery, and basketry are practised by the people, and they are acquainted with the working of iron and copper. Their houses are for the most part circular in shape with walls of wattle and daub and thatched roofs.2

    The Nyanja-speaking natives of Central Angoniland are divided into exogamous and totemic clans, some with descent in the male and others in the female line.Generally children take their clan from their father, but in some cases from their mother. The name of the clan is nearly always that of an animal, but sometimes it is that of a plant or other thing.3 The following are some of the animal names of clans :—4


    Saturday, October 30, 2010


    Notes on the Angoni and Achewa of Dowa District of the Nyasaland Protectorate

  • Saturday, October 30, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Extract from 'Notes on the Achewa and Angoni of the Dowa District of the Nyasaland Protectorate. by A. G. O Hodgson, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 63 (Jan. - Jun., 1933) pp. 123-164.


    1. Geographical Introduction.

    THE Nyasaland Protectorate consists of a strip of land some five hundred miles in length and approximately seventy miles in width, lying around the southern and western shores of Lake Nyasa, which is the most southerly and the third in size of the great East African lakes. The hot, low-lying plain which forms part of the Rift valley rises gradually from an altitude of 130 feet on the Lower Shire River to 1,600 feet at the level of the lake. To the west of this


    Thursday, October 28, 2010



  • Thursday, October 28, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By G. T Nurse , Clanship in Central Malawi pp 50-62 (1978)

    As might be expected, the clan structure of the central Ngoni of Malawi is one which has developed from the system current in the Nguni lands of Natal and Swaziland towards the end of Mfecane, the period of disturbances surrounding the rise of the Zulu power. It was as a consequence of the Mfecane that the two Ngoni migration which terminated in central and east Africa set out from their original homeland. Some of the modifications which have taken place in the clan structure of the Maseko Ngoni have been due to the exigencies of the migration, while others are recognizably the consequences of contact with the Maravi.


    Friday, October 22, 2010



  • Friday, October 22, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Margaret Read, Ngoni of Nyasaland (1956)

    Ngoni clans had a particular role in their political and social organization. These clans had certain characteristics which distinguished them from the clans of the local peoples, and which they had in common with the Nguni group of the South-eastern Bantu. The use of the clan name in address and in thanking for gifts, the strict exogamy in the clans, and the hierarchy of rank among the clans—these were all of southern origin. Mrs. Hoernle,1 writing of the social organization among the northern Nguni, said that the clan was called isibongo, 'a word referring more particularly to the name of the group'. The Ngoni spoke of their clan name as their cibongo, and they generally added 'that is my thanking name'. Dr. Kuper2  used the term clan for 'the furthest extension of kinsmen traced through the father or the mother'. She referred also to the sub-division of clans among the Swazi—a process of fission by which a

    Monday, October 18, 2010


    Some Ngoni words And Their Meaning Taken Down by A Werner in 1894 Among The Maseko Ngoni

  • Monday, October 18, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • In a list of Zulu words as used by Chekusi's Angoni, which I took down at Ntumbi (West Shire District) in 1894, I find the words amaqanda (eggs), isixwembe (a wooden ladle), and licansi (a mat), all written with a k, subsequently corrected to c. This is more probably because my ear failed to discriminate between the clicks, than because my informant (a very intelligent old woman, who had lived for a long time at Chekusi's kraal, but, I think, was not a Zulu by birth) pronounced them alike; but it is possible that, in the course of their northern wanderings, the Angoni have reduced the three sounds to one. M. Edouard Foa (Du Zambeze au Congo Francais, p. 74) says that Mpezeni's people called the head-ring (isigcogco) chijojo, which looks as though they had substituted/(probably the French sound as in jeune is intended) for the soft dental click gc; but it is also possible that M. Foa (or his Mang'anja boys, if he did not get the information direct,) failed, like myself, to catch the click.


    Sunday, October 17, 2010


    A White Missionary's Take On The British War on Maseko Ngoni and Killing of Gomani I

  • Sunday, October 17, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Miss A Werner, British Central Africa.

    The Angoni, also called Mazitu, or Mavitu, are an offshoot of the great Zulu nation. It appears that their ancestors revolted from Tshaka at the turn of this century, and gradually fought their way northward, probably incorporating with themselves a great part of the conquered tribes. The name Angoni is applied to a great number of people who are pure Mang’anja, as being vassals of the red Angoni. They have adopted a few Zulu words into their language, and learnt to use the shield and assagai, which, in the wars of the quite superseded the Mang’anja bow, and almost equally so the rubbishy firearms imported by traders I do not propose to trace thewanderings of the Angoni,or the history of their raids. Constant references to them, under the name Mazitu (or Mavitu),1 may be found in Livingstone’s “Last Journals ” and in Youngs “ Search for Livingstone,” and "Mission to Nyasa.”


    Some Interesting Observation By a Sympathetic Missionary Observer on the Language and Manners of the Maseko Ngoni in 1894

  • Samuel Albert
  • By Miss A Werner, British Central Africa.

    The Angoni Zulu are like their congeners in the south, a fine, manly, warlike race. Dr. Elmslie says of Chekusi’s people, “There are now no Ngoni among them, and their language is Nyanja” (ie Mang'anja), but I think this is too sweeping. Certainly, in 1894, I saw and talked with an old woman from Chekusi’s kraal,who knew Zulu; and I was given to understand that the language was still spoken by some of the older headmen.


    The Stabbing of Shaka and Ndwandwe War that Led to the Movement of The Ngoni and Others From Zululand

  • Samuel Albert
  • by A.T Bryant, a Missionary in Zululand and Natal 

    The evening was come, and brought an agreeable transformation of the scene. The bright variegated gaiety of the day had now become set in a background of jetty darkness, and, lit up by the lurid glow of bonfires of dried reeds, presented a weird and fascinating study in light and shade. It was a serenade in which the great chief was himself taking a part. Suddenly a terrifying shriek rent the air; and the fires went mysteriously out! The multitude was plunged in darkness, and confusion reigned supreme. Shaka the Terrible, Shaka the Divine, had himself been stabbed! Verily now hath come the end for many there present. What shall be done? The gathering wrath must be appeased somehow, else unhappy are they whose misfortune it must be to have to come near the wounded despot; for, says the adage, the wild-beast bites those who approach it. Now, the enemy whom Shaka just at that moment had uppermost in his mind was the Ndwandwe king, Zwide, whose power had not yet been broken and whose adherents, under Sikunyana, were even then threatening the

    Saturday, October 9, 2010



  • Saturday, October 9, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • From: Songs of the Ngoni People by Margaret Read 1937

    When trouble or sickness attacked the Ngoni their first act was go to the isanusi and ask him to divine for them the cause of the trouble. There were several grades of izanusi, from those in " private practice " to those consulted by the chiefs in big state affairs and in time of war.

    The first of these songs is an initiation song of an isanusi. The second refers to a very old prophecy among the Ngoni that their final downfall would " by way of the sea," and which they interpreted as the coming of the Europeans. The next two songs (3 and 4) are those of a famous isanusi called Manyonkolo Camango, and the second one reflects the general despair at his death. The last two (5 and 6) I took from an old isanusi who still practises his art.



  • Samuel Albert
  • From: Songs of The Ngoni People by Margaret Read 1937. When describing their songs and dances the Ngoni say " We had many beautiful dances but the best of all were those of inqwala." This took place in February at the time of the first ripening of certain crops, and seems to have a first fruit and fertility ceremony, as well as a general gathering of the tribe. These inqwala songs could be sung only at the time of the ceremony which lasted about one month. Before the inqwala was announced, and after it had been declared closed, no one could sing inqwala songs on pain of death. The ceremony was abandoned so long ago that most of the songs are forgotten, and the meanings of the fragments which are remembered are not at all clear. In this selection the third song refers to the invasion by the Ngoni of the Bemba country, and the fourth to the village of the father of Zwangendaba where the inqwala was danced.


    Thursday, October 7, 2010


    Native Characteristics, Customs, And Beliefs (Mainly Angoni)

  • Thursday, October 7, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • From the book, 'Wild Life In Central Africa' by Denis D. Lyell  published in 1913

    (From the moderator:  Please watch out for 18th and 19th century European biases and contempt of african traditions and lifestyle. )

    Most noticeable characteristics of the natives—Internecine war in olden days —Witchcraft and the things it can do—A strange custom with children —Boiling water ordeal—Charms against death—Dead returning in the shape of animals—Digging up corpses—Cooking children of enemies— Names given to commemorate events—Old name for the Angoni race— Distribution of the Angoni tribe—Marriage customs—Women workers Polygamy defended for natives—The " White Father's" Mission— Strange legend about the Angoni trek—Putting not-wanted people out of the way—Strange custom to get a case heard—Kindness of natives to others of same tribe—Superstitions about planting crops—Hardihood under painful wounds—Bible not suitable for natives—Untruthfulness of natives—Civilisation not beneficial to natives—Fondness of hunting and meat — Natives good servants — Patience with natives best — Atrocities practised by natives—Mild justice inadequate at times—Love of children — Natives as soldiers—Adaptability in learning quickly— Liking for music—Cruelty to animals—Splendid porters—Staunchness at times—Mission boys—Missions discussed—A strange custom with pigeons—A funny native woman—Old Mpseni—Peculiar ideas with regard to births—Child murder—Impossibility of natives reasoning as do Europeans.


    Thursday, September 30, 2010



  • Thursday, September 30, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Margaret Read.
    Excerpt from 'Songs of The Ngoni People'.

    Praise songs of chiefs and great men are so well known in South Africa that it is unnecessary to explain them at length here. In Nyasaland the Ngoni are unique in possessing praise songs, some of which go back seven or eight generations. These praise songs are today " chanted " on state occasions before the chiefs, and the tradition persists of handing them on. The izibongo, or praise songs proper, belong to a group of songs which have no music but which are " chanted " in a kind of recitative, which only a few people know how to do. Other songs in this group are the izithokozo or thanking names, and the izigiyo which the warrior shouts when coming forward in his own solo dance during the umgubo dance. All people who have any claim to distinction possess izithokozo and izigiyo, but the izibongo appear to be only for chiefs of the royal house and a few other distinguished nobles whose houses in the past were near to, if not actually, royalty.

    There are certain features in these praise songs to which it is worth calling attention in order to make comparisons with the similar group of songs in the south. In the first place, the phrasing and the words of the praise songs of the line of Paramount Chiefs vary in different districts. In Mwambera's country for example, one "pattern" of praise song is heard in Ekwendeni, another in Elangeni, in each the pattern being standardised unless a very brilliant umbongi or praiser added a phrase from his own isifua. In the second place sarcastic or even insulting remarks are sometimes found in praise songs. I am told they were permitted because no one could possibly believe them, "that is, it was, a form of high praise to say ludicrous things about a chief which could not be true. In the third place, some of the praise songs were " telescoped," praises of an earlier chief being included in those of a later one. As however this is the first time any of these praises have been recorded in writing, this " telescoping " may be a fault of the recorder.

    I am including here four sets of praise songs, in three of which there are alternative forms. It is interesting to see what a degree of variation was reached, and it may be possible in comparison with praise songs in the south to find out some principles of composition of these praise songs with their variations. It may be on the other hand that, "the spirit bloweth where it listeth," and isifua must have its way, and eloquence its own poetic licence.

    The arrangement of the sentences will be familiar to anyone who has listened to praise songs. The beginning of each sentence (marked with a capital letter) is on a high note, generally rallentando, and the notes descend to the end of the sentence, and are held again on the last note.

    (I) Ngoni : " Izibongo zikaNgwana1 kaGoqweni "

    Bayethe baba !
    Bayethe Nkosi !
    Bayethe Gumethe !
    Inkosi yelizwe lonke
    Wena umzukhulu kaNgwana, kaGoqweni
    Wena kaSongobe zamakhanda, kuyâmbatha amashoba ezinyamazana.
    Wena wadabuka kwaShaka ebenkundla zitha, amachamani ngesidaba soluthuli.2
    Wena wakwaMdladla uBanjwa, oBanjwa ngaMasokani.
    Umzukhulu kaNaNqongwane3kaGoqweni
    Wena okwenda okumnyama.
    Wena osilo sabantu.
    Wena ingudlangudla4inkunzi yamalanga.
    Owaphuza ubende lwezinkomo.
    Owabekwa ndawonye nezintaba.
    Liyasha, liyasha ungenampendulo.

    English : " Praise of Ngwana son of Goqweni."

    Hail father !
    Hail Chief !
    Hail Gumethe !
    Chief of the whole country.
    You the grandchild of Ngwana son of Goqweni
    You the son of Songobe of the military villages, clothed with armlets of wild animals.
    You who came from among Shaka's people. Shaka who was the milking place of his enemies, the calf skin for the kilt of Lutuli.
    You of the Mdladla who was captured, who was captured of Masokana.
    The grandchild of Na-Nqongwane daughter of Goqweni. You whose marriage had sad omens.
    You the wild beast of the people.
    You the biggest of all other bulls.
    You who drink the blood of cattle.
    You who wast placed together with the mountains.
    The sun is blazing, is blazing, and you do not answer.

    (2) Ngoni : " Izibongo kaNgwana, kaGoqweni noGoqweni."

    Wena owajub' imithi wajub' imiyomo5
    Wena ontethe vuyana wahlom' izinsiba zezintethe.
    Owaya phansi wakhwela phezulu, wayokuthabath' inkwenkwezi yokusa.
    Hamba wena lokhu bakwalakho, uyokuthabatha amashoba ezinyamazana: ezinkomo anombeyebeye.6
    Wena ukumbuyana umyandana wakadeni.
    Kuyehla wayehla ndawonye nezintaba.
    Wena wasel' ubende7bezinkomo.
    Wena waqhamukana naboShaka, uShaka kaMbelebele.
    Wena waghamukana naboNyathi ekaMashaane : eladuma lasibekela.
    Izinkomo ezapheya ngamaganyazana.
    Wena wadabukana8 naboMzilikazi
    Wena wadafiukana naboMpakana kaLidonga
    Wena wadaBukana naBoNdwandwa.

    English: "Praises of Ngwana son of  Goqweni and of Goqweni."

    You who cut the trees and who cut the mouths,
    You the locust, who fixed in your hair the feathers of the locust.
    Who went below, and climbed up, and went to bring the morning star of the dawn.
    You go, since you are rejected ; you go and bring the armlets of wild animals ; those of cattle will be much disputed.
    You who remember the fault of long ago.
    In descending, you descend together with the mountains. You who drank the blood of cattle.
    You who separated from the people of Shaka, Shaka of Mbelebele kraal.
    You who separated from the people of Nyathi the son of Mashobane ; it thundered, it was cloudy.
    Thou resemblest cattle which were finished by wolves.
    You who originated with the people of Mzilikazi.
    You who originated with the people of Mpakana son of Lidonga.
    You who originated with the people of Ndwandwa.

    (3) Ngoni : " Izibongo zikaGomani kaTshikusi."

    Bayeth' nkosi
    Wena umzukulana kaGwaya
    Wena umzukulana kaNgwana
    Umabanda tshembuzi tshenkomo tshinombalo
    Wena owadla muntu lapha kuboNgala.

    English : " Praises of Gomani9 son of Tshikusi."

    Hail Chief
    You the grandchild of Gwaya
    You the grandchild of Ngwana
    One who carries a goatskin shield, because he knows a shield of cow skin brings envy10
    You who ate a man there among the Ngala people.

    (3) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaZwangendaba11 kaHlatshwayo."

    UZwangendaba omnyama ngabomu ophik' eziyakhanya
    Obej' amehlo wabej' imiyumo
    Ophuz' ingazi zamanye madoda
    Indima azilingani nabakwazi kulima
    Ivila elidl' amabele okulinyelwa
    UMcethuli wezigodo nasekhaya uyacethula nakubafo uyacethula
    Owel' UZembezi ngezinyawo
    Bath' UZembezi aluwelwa luwelwa ngezinkonjane zimadada
    Ohlangane ngengwe emahlabeyeni
    Wathi ingwe izongiyamuyeya kanti ingwe izith' ezinye
    Nango, nango, umbonaphi?
    Umbon' emagumeni abonina.

    English : Praises of Zwangendaba son of Hlatshwayo.

    Zwangendaba whose intention it is to be black, whose wings are shining
    Red as to the eyes12 and red as to the lips.
    Who drinks the blood of the other men.
    The plots (which he hoes) are not equal to those of the people who know how to hoe.
    An idle man who eats grain which is hoed for him.
    Clearer of the stumps (which are in his way) ; at home he is clearing them13, and in the enemy country.
    Who crossed the Zambezi by foot.
    They say the Zambezi is not crossed, it is crossed by swallows like ducks.
    Who has encountered a leopard on his left side14.
    He said : the leopard will help me whereas the leopard is some enemies15.
    There he is, there he is, where do you see him ?
    You see him in the fences of his mothers.

    (4) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaZwangendaba kaHlatshwayo."

    UZwangendaba omnyama ngabomu ophike kwakhanya.
    Muka simuke wena owaliwayo
    SingaNtungwa siyishashazi lapha abantu bafa ngokhulaphaya.
    Ngqaba dlan' abantu shiy' izinkomo.
    Ngqaba kuLushwana kwaba uluthuli.
    Nango, nango Bambonaphi ? Bambon' emagumeni abonina. 
    Mathukuthela zaluke namathole.
    Iqili elikhulu elega amaseko ezinyanga.
    Ngenyuko ngaza ngazazu ulubombo.
    Siyenzwa ngenkani inkulu yaManqumayo.
    Uyabona amalembe akuhlalele amalembe angalembel' ukulinywa.
    Wakubon' inkotha wadladlama.
    Wakubon' udonga wafaka unyawo.
    Yena owashaya amanzi ngomshiza kuZembezi.
    Owakhumhul' inkomo zabalunjana.

    English : "Praises of Zwangendaba son of Hlatshwayo."

    Zwangendaba whose intention it is to be black16 who denies it to be light.
    Go away, let us go, you the rejected one.
    We are like a man of the Ntungwa17, a fat one; there the people die as fat ones.
    Ngqaba you must eat people. Leave the cattle.
    Ngqaba son of Lushwana there was confusion.
    There he is, there he is, where do they see him ? They see him in the fences of his mothers.
    One who is angry because the cattle have gone with the calves. 
    His great cunning overcomes the magic stones of the doctors.
    I have gone away until I have seen Lubombo Mountains.18
    We are suffering on account of the great dispute with the Nqumayo19 people.
    You are seeing the hoes which are waiting for you, the hoes which cannot be used for hoeing.
    He saw it, the short grass, he was biting it hastily.
    He saw it, the ditch, his foot slipped into it.
    He who divided the water with a stick at the Zambezi. 
    He who remembered the cattle of the Balunjana.

    (5) " Ngoni : Izibongo zikaHlatshwayo20 kaMagangatha"

    UGubazi ngokwambath' ingubo enzima
    Umanunk' onjengokaLongqola
    Umkhulana ngokubiz' ezizzweni
    'Sandla saphath' inkomo zaphalala
    EzikaNdlembe ngezikaNdlembe wakuboMfekane
    Bathi ubuhlalu kabulingani entanyeni
    Ingani kobodade babo buyalingana

    English: " Praises of Hlatshwayo son of Magangata."

    Gubazi by putting on a black robe
    Who smells like the son of Longqola
    Who is great by calling the tribes
    The hand that touched cattle and they multiplied
    Those (cattle) of Ndlembe, they belong to Ndlembe of Mfekane 
    They say the beads do not fit on his neck
    Whereas on the necks of his sisters they are fitting.

    (6) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaHlatshwayo kaMagangatha."

    UHlatshwayo omfishane anganyatheli ingubo
    Ingani abade bayazinyathela
    Inyama idliwa ngemikwa yamazembe
    Ingadliwa ngezinsungulo ibolile
    Hlatshwayo isihlahla esibenyana kulllatshwayo waMandulo 
    Utshani wentongoza awushi nokusha, usha nyasisitheka usha using' intonteya.

    English: " Praises of Hlatshwayo son of Magangata."

    Hlatshwayo the dwarf one21 who cannot trail his cloth 
    Whereas the tall people trail their cloths
    Meat eaten with knives of axes
    If it is not eaten with forks it is rotten
    Hlatshwayo whose bodily vigour is finished off compared with Hlatshwayo of former times22
    Grass of deep red colour is not burned with burning ; it burns very slowly; it burns drop by drop.

    Below is a video of Ngoni languages praises for Inkosi yamakhosi Gomani IV


    1.uNgwana was leader of the Maseko group of Ngoni when they left the South. He is the great-great grandfather of the present Paramount Gomani.

    2. The meaning of this phrase is very obscure and is just a guess.

    3. Na is the honorific prefix for important women in Gomani's country, taken from Chewa.

    4. This is obscure too but the meaning is said to be " grazing,"

    5. Probably imiyonzo yempi = advance guard of the army.

    6. Armlets of cattle would involve taking cattle, someone's property, and would cause dispute. Wild animals no one can lay claim to.

    7. Ubende is really cooked blood, but I am told that it is used here poetically for uncooked blood igazi.

    8. I am not sure whether ukudabuka is used here in its meaning of " to originate " or " to break away." Either is common usage.

    9. This was the father of the present Paramount Gomani.

    10. In dividing a cowskin for making shields a more honoured person receives the- right hand side. Hence disputes arose when chiefs gave skins for shields A goat skin is not divided

    11. Leader of the Jere group when leaving the south. Great grandfather of the present Paramount Mwambera.

    12. He was said to have blazing eyes like a man who smokes hemp.

    13. Refers to his way of getting rid of rivals and those suspected of witchcraft.

    14 The vulnerable side.

    15. A possible reference to Basa who killed Zwangendaba's wives.

    16. This may be a reference to the well-known black skin of the Jeris, sometimes jeered at by certain lighter skinned families.

    17. Considered to be a superior people.

    18. Meaning quite obscure uLubombo (= Lubombo Mts.) is said to be fontanel 

    19. Zwidi Nqumayo was Paramount Chief of the Ndwandwe; even the Jeres were under him.

    20. Was father of Zwangendaba

    21. He was known to have been a dwarf.

    22. A reference to his alleged impotence.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010



  • Wednesday, September 29, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Margaret Read
    Sources: Songs of the Ngoni People

    There are no real mourning songs of the Ngoni as singing and dancing were not part of the burial rites except at the death of a chief, though at subsequent funeral rites, some months later, it is customary to dance ingoma. The first one is sung to the igubu and is obviously a woman's mourning for her husband. The second I heard a woman sing at tl:e burial of her grandmother, and she said her grandmother had taught it to her. Many other igubu songs are in reality mourning songs.


    Tuesday, September 28, 2010



  • Tuesday, September 28, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • A chapter from the book, 'After Livingstone: An African Trade Romance' by Fred L.M Moir, founder and director of The African Lakes Corporation Ltd (Now known as Mandala Group of Companies whose headquarters was and is still in Blantyre, Malawi.)

    TRIAL by ordeal is practised by many kinds of primitive peoples. The common form among East Africans in our time was mwavi, bark poison. If a man or woman were accused of any crime or misdemeanour, protestations of innocence were usually accompanied by an offer to drink mwavi. Among natives near our stations it was often resorted to, usually at night, lest the white man should interfere and insist on investigations and a proper trial, with examination of witnesses.


    Sunday, September 26, 2010


    Note on the Tribes in the Neighbourhood of Fort Manning, Nyasaland1

  • Sunday, September 26, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Source: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.39 (Jan. - Jun., 1909), pp. 35-43
    Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
    THE chief tribes in the neighbourhood are:-(a) Angoni, (b) Achewa, (c) Achipeta, (d) Achikunda, (e) Asenga; and more distant:-(f) Akunda, (g) Awemba, (h) Awisa, (i) Swahili, (j) Ayao, (k) Atonga.

    There is one Swahili village, the chief being an ex-Askari,2 and some Swahili among the Askari from the lake shore at Kota Kota. Since the arrival of the Angoni and the consequent wars, the tribes have become rather mixed. The section of Angoni who settled here under Mpeseni have occupied chiefly Asenga and Achipeta country. For instance, Mponda, an Achewa chief, used to have his village under the west side of Mchenje, and held out in a fortified village against the Angonii for some time, but was finally worsted and had to run away. When things had quieted he built his village near the Rusa, about fifteen miles to the east of Mchenje.
    Katungwe, another Chipeta chief, used to have his village near where the White Fathers now are. A tree, in the gap between Chilembbwi and Kalulu Hills, is called Kuvakutira by the Angoni (from Kuvakuta-Bellows), as, when attacked, Katungwe at that place made the points of his arrows red hot with a lnative skin bellows before shooting them. He afterwards built his village twenty-five miles to the east. When the Angoni began to beat everybody the Achipeta concentrated in several places, many joined Mwasi, the Achewa chief, at Kasungu to the north, whilst others collected near Dowa. When peace was restored the Achipeta who had been with Mwasi had got mixed with Achewa, and there are many who still don't know whether they were Achewa or Chipeta originally. The Angoni raided and made slaves in every direction, marrying the women captured, and keeping the men to help them fight. There are numbers of Asenga, Achewa, Achikunda and Chipeta among the Angoni, who now call themselves Angoni, also a few Atambuka, but the latter are chiefly the slaves of the Mombera sectioni of Angoni to the north. There are also Akunda among the Angoni.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010


    Explorations In The Country West of Lake Nyasa

  • Wednesday, September 22, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author(s): R. I. Money and S. Kellett Smith

    Source: The Geographical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Aug., 1897), pp. 146-172 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

    IN the spring of 1895, an expedition left England for the purpose examining and exploring certain territories of the British South Africa Company north of the Zambezi. Command was held by the late Dr. A. Moloney, formerly of the Stairs expedition to Katangaland, and there accompanied him nine white men, including in their number a surveyor, a geologist, a surgeon, and prospectors. Disembarking at Chinde, on the East African coast, and proceeding up the now well known Shire river route, the expedition landed at Bandawe, on the west shore of Lake Nyasa. Here preparations were at once commenced for the inland march.


    Sunday, September 19, 2010



  • Sunday, September 19, 2010
  • Samuel Albert

    From Among the Wild Angoni by W A Elmslie

    William Koyi 1846-1886
    FOR the following particulars of the early life of William Koyi I am indebted to Lovedale: Past and Present, and the account of a humble yet worthy convert from African heathenism will be read with interest. "William Koyi was born of heathen parents at Thomas River in the year 1846. His mother died a Christian. He left his home during the cattle killing mania in 1857, and went to seek employment among the Dutch farmers in the Colony, earning half-a-crown a week as a waggon-leader. About this time his father died, and five years later his mother and two sisters. He left his Dutch employer and worked for five years at one of the wool-washing establishments at Uitenhasfe, and was promoted to be overseer. From thence he went to work in the stores of Messrs A. C. Stewart &Co., Port Elizabeth, where he remained for about the same number of years. He had never attended school, but now felt the need of education, and therefore set about learning to read Kafir. He had about this time, 1869, been converted, and been admitted a member of the Wesleyan Church at Port Elizabeth.



  • Samuel Albert

    Translated and edited by Ian Linden

    1 January 1891. The king issues a general warning that the Mangoni are in the vicinity, so it is dangerous to work in the gardens. Prima and Pedro, who were put up to it by Dominique, come and say "Happy New Year, father." May the coming year enable us to instruct them fully in our holy religion. At 8 p.m. we hear three rifle shots outside the mission and run out to see what is happening. A leopard had been killed. Chungwarungwaru and Chikusi are supposed to be in the neighbor-hood. We wonder if this time it is really war.

    3 January 1891. As far as the "war" is concerned, it is the usual story. Matavere has sent us three chickens and asked for a little sugar in exchange-dispatched. A nice roast of lamb comes from the king for us. He has some very good ideas.


    Saturday, September 18, 2010


    Fetish worship among the Ngoni of Ntcheu and other Tribes

  • Saturday, September 18, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • A letter from ALEXANDER HETHERWICK. The Blantyre Mission, British Central Africa. March 4th, 1903.

    I have to hand the Editor's letter, per Mr. Lovett, with inquiries regarding my note on Fetish-Worship in Central Africa, which he read before the Folk-Lore Society [10th December, 1902]. I reply to these queries in their order.

     1. [Are remote ancestors worshipped, or only the recently dead ?] 

    Worship is confined to recent ancestors almost entirely- generally to those of the generation immediately preceding. Among the Yaos and the Angoni, the chief or headman who has recently died, steps into the place occupied by his predecessor, and is worshipped in turn. The chief whose spirit hitherto was the object of worship is now for the most part neglected, and all homage is paid to the spirit of the man recently dead.

    For example : there is on the top of Mount Soche, three miles from Blantyre, the grave of an old Mang'anja chief called Kankomba. He was the chief of the country when the Yaos came into it in Livingstone's time and drove out the original Mang'anja owners. He died in his old village and was buried on the top of the hill where he lived. The incoming Yaos worshipped his spirit as the previous chief of the district. This they did till their own chief Kapeni died, when his successor left off making offerings to the old Kankomba and paid his worship to the recently dead Kapeni. This he will continue to do till he himself dies and becomes to his successor the next object of worship.


    Friday, September 17, 2010



  • Friday, September 17, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author(s): Margaret Read
    Source: Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1936), pp.453-484 Published by: Edinburgh University Press

    Before I made my first camp in an Ngoni village, many Europeans had said to me, 'There are practically no Ngoni left today. They are all hopelessly mixed with other tribes. None of them keep to the Ngoni customs any longer. Their chiefs are no good.' From the doorway of my hut I saw people coming all day long to the Paramount Chief, behaving towards him with profound respect, bringing him presents, working for him. His children formed a special group in the village, easily recognizable by their bearing and their manners. Old indunas came to instruct me, as they had instructed chiefs in their day, on the duties of a ruler, and the code of Ngoni laws. Old warriors in war dress came and danced by the cattle kraal and sang praise songs. Courts were held with scrupulous regard for order and justice. Other chiefs came visiting from distant parts with their retinues, and were received ceremonially. It soon became apparent that here was the centre of a political state, whose head was invested with prestige and authority over a wide area, and where behaviour to the Paramount and to every one else was strictly regulated by custom, and as strictly observed. These were Ngoni, and they and their fellow Ngoni in other areas1 for the next ten months introduced me to the Ngoni people. The European assertion, that they no longer existed as a people, they laughed at, and proceeded to demonstrate that the contrary was true.

    The Ngoni are found to-day scattered over four East African territories. The largest groups are in Nyasaland in the districts of Mzimba, Dowa, Fort Manning, Dedza, and Ncheu. In Northern Rhodesia they are in the Fort Jameson and Lundazi districts bordering on Nyasaland. Another section is in Portuguese East Africa on the South-West border of Nyasaland. Under other names there are Ngoni settlements in Tanganyika Territory. The present divisions of the Ngoni are due partly to European frontiers, partly to the fact that more than one party of them came up from the south, and partly to divisions among the Ngoni during the period of settlement.


    Tuesday, September 14, 2010



  • Tuesday, September 14, 2010
  • Samuel Albert

  • Author(s): J. T. Last, Commander of the Society's Expedition to the Namuli Hills, East Central Africa

    Source: Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Mar., 1887), pp. 177-187 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

    Note: Except for the map all images and photos are from the moderator of the blog.

    In May last (1886), being retained at Blantyre, waiting for the favourable season to start for the Namuli Hills, I made a journey, in company with Consul Hawes, to the Angoni country, on the highlands to the south-west of Lake Nyassa. I now submit to the Society the following account of this expedition :-


    Monday, September 6, 2010


    Ngoni Wars and Regiments

  • Monday, September 6, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Organization and  Tactics

    The Ngoni inherited a very strong military tradition from their origins as a migrating army. In the words of their historian YM.Cibambo, ‘To the Ngoni war was like work and his heart rejoiced to think of it.' At least some groups seem to have retained the Zulu system of organizing their warriors into regiments based on age, although most units were based on territorial divisions, and warriors tended to live in their villages  rather than in separate kraals as they did in the Zulu army. In Nyasaland, young men were often formed en masse into a new regiment known as a libandla, of which each large village or prominent chief might have several. Each libandla was divided into companies called libuto, which varied in strength up to 100 men or more, and would be allocated to one of the two maior divisions of the army - the younger men, or amajaha and the veteran amadoda. Each regiment and company was led by an officer known as an induna, who was responsible to the overall leader or 'war induna', appointed by the nkosi or chief.


    Thursday, August 19, 2010


    A Journey from Cape Town overland to Lake Nyassa.

  • Thursday, August 19, 2010
  • Samuel Albert

  • Read at the Evening Meeting of the Royal Geographical Society in the United Kingdom, November 30th, 1885.

    In the autumn of the year 1883 I sailed from England for South Africa with a view to satisfy a long cherished wish, namely, the exploration of African lands as yet little known, and more particularly to study the character, habits, and customs of the negro races.

    Arriving at the Cape, I made all inquiries from the most reliable sources as to the probabilities of my success in accomplishing a journey alone overland to Central Africa. I did not get much encouragement, but, nevertheless, finally determined to make the attempt (whatever might be the results) to reach the Lake regions of Central Africa, and from thence to proceed towards the sea.


    Ngoni Politics and Diplomacy 1848 - 1904 (part 2)

  • Samuel Albert
  • B. Pachai, Professor of History, University of Malawi, 1970

    In the period covered in this article there were six different rulers and regents functioning at different times with varying degrees of success in the political life of the main Ngoni hosts in the north and south.28 After 1875 those in office had to contend in their external relations with three important influences, viz., indigenous and neighbouring peoples, missionaries, and the advent of British administration. Of these the first powerful impact came from the Scottish missionary factor represented in the work of the Livingstonia and Blantyre missionaries. In 1878 Dr Laws and Mr James Stewart visited Chikusi where they were kept waiting for four days before Chikusi would see them, an experience which Dr Stewart was to live through when he visited Mbelwa the following year. The British Consul, Hawes, on the other hand,lead a pleasant experience at Kujipore when he called on Chikusi in 1886. The Ngoni chiefs kept strict protocol in their dealing with Europeans. Where this was not respected by the visitors, as it happened in the case of the Chiwere Ndlovu Ngoni of Dowa district, the consequences were very serious. Dr Laws, who was kept waiting for days by Chikusi, was surprised when Jumbe came out of his village to meet him half-way at Nkhota Kota in 1879;29 but this is understandable when we consider that Jumbe was saddled with internal disaffection led by his headman, Chiwaura, and external threats from the Yao. The Ngoni were in no hurry to seek political alliances with Europeans.


    Wednesday, August 18, 2010


    Ngoni Politics and Diplomacy 1848 - 19041 (Part 1)

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • B. Pachai, Professor of History, University of Malawi, 1970


    By 1904 the Ngoni of Malawi were widely distributed through a large part of the country with main and subsidiary settlements of both the Jere and Maseko communities or tribal clusters. These settlements had a number of common characteristics. The chiefs (with few exceptions) could all claim linear political descent from those who had led them through most of the way to the chosen land; they were now under British protectorate rule ; each main settlement had an administrative system with central authority, executive authority, military and judicial authority, all of which were subsequently modified to suit the protectorate government from time to time; each had started off with little more than a simple kinship organization with leadership provided by a determined individual of a well-known clan fleeing for safety and security with a hard core of kinsmen; each tribal cluster had to work out its own immediate political salvation during the period of dispersion or at the point of permanent settlement. The difference between these Ngoni and those of the Northern and Southern Nguni was that political evolution in the case of the former was based on trial and error tempered by a transference of 'home' patterns of government far removed in both space and time. Things not only happened quickly; they happened very far from `home'; they happened, too, without precedents at first. Before political patterns and social adjustments could evolve, external intrusions brought about compelling side-effects. In the end a political system emerged. Hammond—Tooke has defined a political system broadly 'as the system of power-distribution in a society'.2 In looking at this power-distribution in the Ngoni society of Malawi a number of propositions constitute a good starting point.


    Sunday, August 15, 2010


    Songs Of The Ngoni People (Lullabies, Umsindo and Mthimba songs)

  • Sunday, August 15, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Margaret Read, 1937


    Nearly 120 years ago the Ngoni left their homeland in the South during the upheavals of Chaka's wars. In Nyasaland where the majority of them settled, they began to mix with the local tribes, preserving certain Ngoni institutions which they had brought from the south, to which they clung tenaciously as proof of their political and social superiority over their neighbours.1 Predominant among these exclusive Ngoni institutions were their songs and dances. The musician listening to the phrasing, rhythm and harmonies of Ngoni music knows that here is something of rare and distinctive beauty. The linguist studying the words of songs recognises the old Ngoni language, closely akin to old Zulu and Swazi. The social anthropologist watching the dancing and singing can see an expression of the " national" spirit of the Ngoni, and watch how social distinctions mark off the true aristocrats from the former slaves, the latter being excluded from taking part in the dance.


    Wednesday, August 11, 2010



  • Wednesday, August 11, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author: Gerhard Liesegang
    Source: African Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1970), pp. 317-337
    Published by: Boston University African Studies Center

    The area adjacent to the Portuguese possessions of Lourenco Marques, Inhambane, Sofala, and Rios de Sena was affected after July 1821 by the wars and migrations which had started in South Africa a few years before.1 At least four groups moved into the area under consideration; one of them, the Gaza Nguni under Sotshangane, continued to remain in possession of a part of it after 1839, when the other three had left, dominating an area where, before 1820, more than fifty independent political units had existed.

    The purpose of this paper is to discuss the written evidence on these migrations as contained in Portuguese sources, most of which are administrative records,2 though these are not as rich as might be supposed. They hardly ever contain the names of the leaders of the migrating groups, and none of the terms applied to their followers (Mazitis, Landins, Massitis, Mabzites, Vatuas, etc.) is applied exclusively to any one group of invaders. It is therefore impossible to reconstruct migration routes on the basis of the administrative records alone. Only if we take the scraps of recorded oral tradition and personal memories,3 is


    Tuesday, August 10, 2010



  • Tuesday, August 10, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
    The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.37 (Jan - June., 1907 pp 119-132

    1. Arts. 2. Burial Customs. 3. Customs and Dances. 4. History. 5. Language. 6. Mode of Subsistence. 7. Musical Instruments. 8. Ornaments and Disfigurations. 9. Religion and Superstitions. 10. Various and Miscellaneous.

    Brass Anklets and Bracelets.-These are made from empty cartridge-cases, brass wire, etc. The crucibles, made of clay, are filled with cartridge-cases, which are heated in a charcoal fire, blown by means of bellows made of goat skin flayed in the form of a bag and attached to a wooden mouthpiece at one end, and to a stick at the other, to pull it open and shut. The crucible is held by a pair of long iron pincers. A mould is made by holding a stick upright and piling white powdery sand round it next to the stick, and supporting this outside with wet sand. The stick is then withdrawn, and the metal, when molten, poured into its place. This makes a stick of mnetal when cool, which is then hammered round to form the anklet or bracelet.

    Anklets.-Made of the seed of wild banana (sarakoto). Holes are bored in the black seeds with a red-hot nail, and strung on string. Used to make a rattling sound in dancing.


    Monday, August 9, 2010


    Tentative Chronology of The Ngoni, Genealogy of Their chiefs and Notes

  • Monday, August 9, 2010
  • Samuel Albert


    THESE tentative notes relating to the Ngoni are the result of many years of research amongst the natives in the Eastern Province of N. Rhodesia, with whom I have been in constant contact, firstly as a Government official and secondly as a friend. I have received the greatest assistance and courtesy from the Paramount Chief, Mpezeni Jere II, and I am further indebted to A. K. Jere, a son of old Chief Kapatamoyo Jere, without whose knowledge, assistance and tactful handling of the old indunas these notes and genealogy would never have been completed.


    (1) Zongendaba (Zwangendaba, Uzwangendaba) Kumalo, son of Hlatshwayo of theNgoni tribe and his wife, Mquamache Nzima, was born near St. Lucia Bay in 1780 circa.

    Zongendaba, when a young man, appears to have shown great promise as a military leader. Hlatshwayo, his father, and Ziwide, uncle of his wife, Loziwawa Nqumayo, appear to have been close neighbours and friends, and with other local clans for some time resisted Tshaka. The date of Hlatshwayo’s death is not known, but Zongendaba broke away from the district or tribal area with a large following, after the second attack by Tshaka on the Ndwandwe Tribe, whom the Ngoni were assisting. Mzilikazi, a younger member of the Kumalo, after this defeat served Tshaka as an Induna for approximately two years, during which time his bravery and leadership, under the eye of Tshaka, brought him promotion. Zongendaba and Gwaza Tole broke away with a followingin the year 1823 ; Mzilikazi followed towards the end of the year 1825.


    Sunday, August 8, 2010


    Interesting Oral History of The Maseko Ngoni Under Mputa

  • Sunday, August 8, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By William Perceval Johnson, Archdeacon of the Universities Mission to Central Africa

    Note from The moderator: I am of the opinion that the Zulu in paragraph 5 onwards was not the successor of Zwangendaba but rather broke away from the Zwangendaba's ngoni after his death. There are also other areas besides this where the author differs from the position of other historians. I guess it is all because all these are oral histories, It is therefore difficult to tell who is right or wrong.

    The Angoni were the first aggressors. They came up from the south with another clan, allied or akin, which was under a famous chief called Mputa, i.e. the Smiter, and the two parties separated near what is now Bulawayo. Mputa crossed the Zambesi low down — this is the Angoni account of him — and wandered about, going up to Mtonya and on to the Rovuma river and finally to the north end of the Lake, where he seems to have settled not far from Songea.

    As he went he brought desolation to the Lake side. The old men in various villages can remember this time of terror, and bring before us how the news flew from village to village that the Smiter was coming and how each village waited its turn in trembling. 'At Chilowelo,' said one man, ' we were well out of the way; not many of his people came down here.' An old man of Losefa said : ' When Mputa came we had heard that the Angoni cannot bear water and that if you are in the water,even up to your knees, they will not touch you. This was true, for we went in and Mputa passed us in the water ; but he burnt our village.' A headman of Mtengula told us : 'He took my mother as a slave, but I was a mere child.'

    Where there were no stockades built, the people could only escape to the reed-beds or to the rocks in the Lake. The village of Msumba, which had reeds and a marsh at the back, made a good stand. Mputa stayed some time near it, this gave the Nyasas time to gather, and after a battle or so he moved away. An old Ngoo man, still alive, is proud of having killed an Angoni on this occasion, and tells how he took his shield, his feathers, and his name, and Maendaenda of Pachia has the scar of a wound as a memento of the fight.

    It is certain that Mputa brought a rude awakening to the villages in the hills as well as to those on the Lake. Several old men tell of the good old days in the hills before he came to afflict them : 'We lived in our own villages quietly; each had its own burial ground and its own place for burning witches,' — and now their security was gone. Mputa, terrible as he was, did not stay long; he passed through the land like a comet. In judging of the resistance that the people of the Lake made to him, we must remember that they had no weapons but bows, while the Smiter had spears. Their archery was good — witness the fact that a man at Msumba had the reputation of having killed three Angoni with one arrow in the old days — but they were outmatched in arms.1

    Meanwhile the party of Angoni with whom Mputa had started on his travels had been going up the west side of the Lake and round the north end. On the west side their chief died and was succeeded by another called Zulu. Their progress was marked by destruction. 'We came by Waya to Sukuma, where we found people whom they call the Wa-Mapangwa continually playing the bamboo vilumbo (a musical instrument), said our Angoni authority. The Angoni soon put an end to this peaceful playing of the vilumbo.

    They settled near Mputa, at a place afterwards called Songea or Songela on the bend of the Rovuma river; the place chosen later on by the Germans for their headquarters and now occupied by our Government. The hill Ngolo'olo, where the Adonde (or Adendauli) seem to have lived before their coming, figures in any account they give of their country. Finding themselves near Mputa, they submitted to him.

    These Angoni were akin to Mputa, as we have said, but they were not of the same family. It is a custom among the Angoni to cry out some family name after sneezing or when they are excited, after drinking for instance. Zulu's people at such times shouted the name Gama (and the women Zinjama); Mputa's shouted Jere, both names of ancestors.2

    Mputa treated the Angoni with great severity and feeling against him grew. Nevertheless they went to raid with him near the river Lihuhu, by the place which is now called Wiethaven. The inhabitants drove them back and Mputa was killed.

    His funeral seems to have been the last united act of his people and the Angoni. It must have been impressive. They blocked the water of the upper Lihuhu with stones, put the body of the chief in the skin of a newly killed bull, and burnt it in the dry bed of the river. The Angoni stood in crowds on the banks, all silent till the heat of the fire made the bones of the corpse crack ; then together they beat their shields with their spears.

    A new chief was chosen. The candidate, apparently Mputa's next of kin, had to go through the ordeal of standing on one leg with his spear poised over his head from sunrise till the sun went down. (This is the only instance in which I have heard of this ordeal.) But the patience of Zulu's people was exhausted and they drove Mputa's people south to the hill Ngango, near the Rovuma river.

    There had been a little respite by the Lake, but now the raiders returned, driven south by the Angoni, Their leader was again named Mputa, and the Lake people believed him to be the same Mputa as before and assumed that he had met with a reverse, which was indeed the case.

    With this second Smiter, or following close behind, came Kaindi and other headmen. Kaindi made himself a name. He seems to have crossed the Lujenda river and to have attacked the clans on the river Meto, nearer the coast ; these Meto people had probably got gun-powder up from the coast,and Kaindi came back from the Meto with the name of 'Powder Eater'. He did not go away after raiding as the first Mputa did ; he lingered in the hills by the Lake, now here, now there, and everywhere he raided. 'We were after the time of Mputa,' said a man at Mbamba, 'but Kaindi caught me when I was keeping the herds, and killed my mother.' 'He meets, he kills,' it was said of him. At last he settled at Chisindo, the hill straight inland from Msumba, and made the Lakeside people pay tribute to him to escape being murdered by his men as they worked in their fields. The present chief at Chiwanga remembers carrying up food to him.


    1. The archery deteriorated; it was very feeble when we came to the Lake.

    2. The custom has spread to other tribes who have come under Angoni influence and extends south into Msumba and other villages where men from the north have married. It varies in different places, all who come from the west by the north using, apparently, only one name, while others say : 'Son of so and so, grandson of so and so'. Sometimes, as above, the name of one ancestor is uttered (the Chiongwe or Chiongo), sometimes the family name of the father or the maternal grandfather (the Chilawa). The natives from the south and east, who trace through the female line, lay most stress on a man's maternal male relatives. There is not infrequently one Chilawa for the men of a family and another for the women.