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.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010


    The Date of The Crossing of the Zambezi by the Ngoni

  • Thursday, August 5, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • E.H. Poole
    Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 29, No. 115 (Apr., 1930)

    THE crossing of the Zambezi River by the Ngoni, a tribe of Zulu descent, on their northern migration after their dispersion by Chaka, has a certain historical interest on account of its far-reaching consequences. Geographically, this migration extended as far north as the Victoria Nyanza; ethnologically it introduced into that part of Central Africa, which they finally occupied, a tribe of patrilineal descent and pastoral customs among peoples matrilineal and agricultural by occupation; historically it led to the extermination or reduction to servitude of a population computed to be a million in number.

    The exact narrative of this migration is, therefore, not without interest. The best-known authorities give as the date of the crossing of the Zambezi the year 1825. It is determined by the Ngoni tradition that the crossing, under the leadership of their Chief Zongwendaba, coincided with a total eclipse of the sun. There is no reason to cast any doubt upon this tradition: it obtains both among the Ngoni of Mombera occupying the highlands of Nyasaland, and among the Ngoni of Mpeseni in the south-east corer of Northern Rhodesia. The occasion, moreover, has been recalled by the Ngoni at subsequent and recent solar eclipses.


    Wednesday, August 4, 2010


    Maseko Ngoni At Domwe 1870 to 19001

  • Wednesday, August 4, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Dr. Ian Linden, Professor of Biology, University of Malawi1

    When the Maseko Ngoni settled in Domwe c.1870 their society had already been shaped by almost fifty years of warfare and migrations. The army, organized on an age-set principle, brought together 'captives from the march' with different tribal backgrounds. To avoid bids-for power by close relatives of the paramount alumuzana and izinduna, who occupied the positions of political power within the state, were chosen not from the royal family but from members of the aristocratic Swazi clans.