Showing posts with label M'Mbelwa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label M'Mbelwa. Show all posts

Friday, June 24, 2011


Cullen Young, Yesaya Chibambo and The Ngoni

  • Friday, June 24, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Dr Peter G. Forster

    The Revd T. Cullen Young is well known as the authority on the history, speech and customs of the Tumbuka. He has also made broader statements on the pattern of African culture2.In his discussion of the conquest situation in northern Malawi, Young is constantly concerned to defend the Tumbuka against the Ngoni intrusion: this comes through particularly in his discussion of Tumbuka chieftainship. Young wrote on the history of northern Malawi in 1923, revising his account in 1932. Even in his revised work, he says nothing of the Ngoni viewpoint of the situation. None the less, in 1942 he helped the Revd Yesaya Chibambo to produce his own account of the events from a Ngoni viewpoint.3

    The issue of bias is particularly important in oral history, and both Young and Chibambo relied mainly upon oral testimony. It is therefore useful to examine the contributions of these two writers, in relation to their sources and to the interest they both had in making their findings public. The authors' own probable biases will be presented, and after comparing and contrasting their work, their historical findings will be placed along side those of their critics.

    Cullen Young was born in 1880. A son of the Manse, he soon developed an interest in Scottish mission fields, especially those in Africa. He originally trained as an accountant, and while studying become involved in the 'Student Volunteer' movement, which aimed at evangelising the world in one generation. On completing his accountancy training he decided to enter the mission service, first embarking on theological studies. His destination was to be Livingstonia, where he arrived in 1904. His particular tasks were to put the mission accounts on a professional basis, and also to teach a course in Commercial Studies. While on furlough from the mission field, he attended further courses in theology, and was eventually ordained in 1914. His vocation was thus in full accord with the ideal of 'Legitimate Commerce and Christianity' that Livingstone had expounded. This will be seen to be significant for his historical studies.

    A further relevant consideration is his attitude to military activities. In common with many other missionaries, Cullen Young was called up in the German East African Campaign, where he could put his knowledge of African languages to good use. He seems to have accepted the military exigencies of the situation at the time: and the war made a deep impression on him4. But in the 1930's, after his retirement from the mission field, he began to attend Quaker meetings regularly. It is not certain how pacifistic he was before or after such involvement. The only recorded evidence is in a magazine article in 1940, where he discussed the problem of Christian duty in a period of compulsory military service. He commented here that it was a sign of progress that there were now two answers to this question: no doubt quite a controversial opinion for the time. The same article also hints indirectly that he had experienced conflict with his brother (the Revd William Paulin Young) on this matter. William Young had a distinguished record in the First World War, and nearly decided to remain in the armed forces afterwards5. The Ngoni were a warrior people till the turn of the century, and Young's attitudes to them could have been affected by this. The matter is not however conclusive, especially since Young's historical and anthropological writings on northern Malawi were largely complete by 1931, when he left the mission field. But it seems safe to say that while Young probably never became a complete pacifist, he was certainly hostile to militarism.

    Young kept a low profile in his early years at Livingstonia. He was deferential to age, experience, and seniority, and did not wish to be seen to speak out of turn. This is a relevant consideration since senior missionary opinion tended to prefer the culture and political system of the Ngoni to that of the Tumbuka. Walter Angus Elmslie had in 1899 published a full-length study Among the Wild Ngoni. This was highly critical of their customs, and at times even sensational. Yet at the same time, Elmslie admired the Ngoni authoritarian, centralised state system: he saw it as the most appropriate kind for uncivilised peoples6. He clearly had a higher regard for the Ngoni conquerors than for theTumbuka and Tonga, though it was the subject peoples that had welcomed the protection of the mission. Such a standpoint is also evident in the work of Donald Fraser. In 1901, Fraser delivered an address on 'The Zulu of Nyasaland' before the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, which was subsequently published in its Proceedings. This dealt with the march northwards to Malawi of the Ngoni, extolling their aristocratic and military virtues in contradistinction to the 'degradation' of the Tumbuka. A similar theme is continued in his longer study Winning a Primitive People, which appeared in 1914.7

    Young's own writings, however, were clearly pro - Tumbuka and depicted the Ngoni as unwelcome imperialists. His first source of inspiration forthis standpoint was undoubtedly an anonymous manuscript that he received in the post in 1909. This contained a history of the Tumbuka, and was particularly concerned to press the claims of the Tumbuka chiefs against those of the Ngoni invaders. The author turned out to be Saulos Nyirenda, a former teacher who had left the North to work for the African Trans-Continental Telegraph Company. In 1931 Young had the manuscript published in Bantu Studies, as a parallel text in English and Tumbulca.8

    Young's subsequent exposition of Tumbuka-Ngoni relations follows Nyirenda very closely, and he nowhere contradicts Nyirenda on any important matter. Nyirenda is concerned to stress the relatively peaceful existence enjoyed by the Tumbuka before Ngoni intrusion; thus he comments:

    before the Ngoni came while our chiefs were still (over) the land here, Chungu (sic), Chikuramayembe, Kanyenda and his father Karonga, we do not hear that people fought at random. There were the poison ordeals and small village quarrels; in the morning they would be friendly in the very place where they had wounded each other, there was no carrying the matter on.9

    Young notes that there were some military engagements before the Ngoni, but likewise stresses that these were not on a par with post-Ngoni disturbances:
    ....they were, if ancient tales regarding communal strife are true, much more of the nature of public tests of strength than what we would understand as battles. The death of one or more invariably brought the proceedings to an end and the following day usually saw some sort of payments made to square losses.10

    Young found that Nyirenda supported the impression obtained by comparing Livingstone's accounts of the area with those of previous writers, especially Bocarro. Thus Young commented:
    The more investigation is pushed it will the more probably be found that it is upon this period (i.e. relatively recent times] rather than upon any prehistoric African tendency to empire, rapine, and organised strife, that we must look as the origin of these ills that have been too loosely held to be natural in early human development. We may couple with the Arab period that of the great military despotisms in South Africa as being jointly responsible for the rise of fighting tribes and the lust of conquest; for the spread of the slave trade and the creation of that state of fear and suspicion as between man and man, which is so marked a characteristic of Central Africa even today.11

    Thus Young sees firstly the Arab slave traders and secondly the Ngoni invaders as responsible for devastation. The implication is that indigenous Tumbuka society was basically ordered and peaceful when left to itself.

    It was not however true that the indigenous Tumbuka had been left to themselves before the arrival of the Arabs and the Ngoni. An important episode in Nyirenda's account, which is followed closely by Cullen Young, is the arrival in about 1780 of the Balowoka, or those who crossed the Lake. They introduced the Tumbuka to external trade: especially in ivory, which had not previously been considered by them as valuable. The commercial expertise of the Balowoka led to the designation of their leader, Mlowoka, as paramount chief over most of Tumbuka territory. The seat of power was known as Nkhamanga, and lay between the Dwangwa river and the Rukuru valley; and the dynasty became known as Chilculamayembe. Mlowoka was able to divide the various districts of Tumbuka territory among his followers; he alsonominated various headmen as chiefs, and strengthed his political influence by making strategic marriages.

    This was a disturbance of the original condition of the Tumbuka; but the invasion had been peaceful. Cullen Young clearly admired Mlowoka. He saw him as showing in his personal qualities the 'African beau ideal'. He is reported to have been kindly, skilful in hunting, and generous at all times. He was in no way connected with slaving, but built up Nkhamanga as a successful trading centre, known over a wide area. Young appears to have seen Mlowoka as a precursor to the idea of legtimate commerce' that Livingstone was later to advocate. He therefore did not oppose disturbance of the aboriginal Tumbuka in principle. He was hardly in a position to object, since Livingstonia Mission, and all other missionaries' activities, were external agencies committed to change. But for Young the Balowoka were acceptable because they came peacefully and their influence was progressive. They were seen as having converted the Tumbuka to patrilineal descent and virilocal marriage, a development which Young also saw as progress.

    The situation was quite different when the Ngoni arrived. They succeeded in deposing the Chikulamayembe, and left considerable disruption. The only development brought by the Ngoni which Young saw as progressive was the introduction of bridewealth payments in marriage. This innovation became general when insisted upon by a British magistrate who was familiar with it from his previous work among the Zulu.12

    Nyirenda's account, which was the starting-point of Young's historical investigations, was openly partisan in purpose. It expressed appreciation of the British for having restored the Chikulamayembe dynasty (in 1907). There is detailed discussion of succession in this dynasty; Young follows Nyirenda closely here, while also relying on other informants. The account goes on to show how the Ngoni had passed through Nkhamanga but had then moved on to Tanzania. They had engaged in cattle raiding among the Tumbuka, who were relieved at their departure. But after the death of their leader, Zwangendaba, fisson had occurred;Tumbuka territory was remembered favourably, and two of his sons, M'mbelwa and Mtwalo, went back there; a third son, Mperembe, was later to join them. They were met with resistance, but succeeded in conquering the pre - existing Tumbuka authorities and installing their own chiefs.

    Nyirenda goes on to relate how in the unfamiliar, settled situation, the Ngoni found their traditional policy of assimilation of alien elements difficult to sustain: they did however follow such a policy in the case of the young. This was sometimes counter-productive; certain young Tumbuka men, notably Kanyoli, Mwendera Wadokota, and Kambondoma, learnt Ngoni military methods so successfully that they were eventually to use them against their former masters. Rebellious tendencies among the subject peoples gradually gained ground; but the principle that the young but not the old could be trusted was reaffirmed. A plan to massacre the old was devised; a meeting was called at Mtwalo's kraal, the ostensible purpose being to administer war medicine. A surprise attack was to be launched, but the plan was foiled because a sympathetic Ngoni had warned of the plot. Rebellious tendencies continued, and the Ngoni were in the end able to quell such movements only by virtue of their alliance with the Chewa chief Mwase Kasungu, who had acquired firearms from Arab sources. This led to flight northwards by the Tumbuka of the Henga valley, who subsequently had military engagements with the Nyakyusa. By the mid-1880's, the situation in the far north was complicated by the presence of two non- African elements, the Europeans and the Arabs. After further fighting, the Europeans became the dominant force and in 1889 Sir Harry Johnston arrived as the first British Governor.

    Although Cullen Young was again heavily dependent on Nyirenda's account for the post-Ngoni period, he did have other written sources to draw upon. Elmslie and Fraser have already been mentioned. Other European commentators included Archdeacon Johnson of the UMCA, Sir Harry Johnston, Frederick (later Lord) Lugard, Low Monteith Fotheringham, and Frederic Moir13. Also, and particularly important,the Ngoni period was sufficiently recent for Young to be able to draw upon eye-witness accounts. His general perspective follows Nyirenda's portrayal of Ngoni interference with a stable, viable, and on the whole peaceful polity. Some of his material of Henga rebellion is practically a verbatim quotation of Nyirenda's account. Young notes that some initial military successes against the Ngoni would only have been temporary had it not been for the arrival of the Europeans.

    Of particular interest is the greater detail supplied by Young about the succession disputes following the death of Zwangendaba. Nyirenda mentions only the return to Malawi of Zwangendaba's three sons, but Young provides much more detail. He notes that in about 1830, Zwangendaba's chief wife, Munene, gave birth to M'mbelwa. Before his death in Tanzania, in Fipa country, Zwangedaba had indicated the house of Munene as the one from which his successor would be drawn. But M'mbelwa was not yet of age; and Zwangendaba's brother, Ntabeni, secured the nomination of Mpezeni, from a different house. He was influenced in this choice by the fact that he had quarrelled with Munene. This move was opposed by Gwaza Jere as Chief Councillor. He was of the royal family but not in line ofsuccession. GwazaJere's views carried weight, but his opposition was unsuccessful. Ntabeni made himselfvery unpopular by overruling Zwangendaba's choice. He punished his enemies further on his death, by leaving instructions that he should be buried in secret.

    Quarrels did indeed result from exclusion from the burial, and eventually precipitated the division of the Ngoni into five different sections. One section, that ofM'mbelwa, came to settle in northern Malawi: the Ngoni presence was thus established, in about 1845. The elders supported M'mbelwa as the legitimate heir, though Mtwalo (from another house) was his rival.

    Cullen Young's exercises in historical study, after their publication in 1923, found a ready audience among many northern Malawians who were now literate in English. His findings provoked considerable controversy and, fascinated by the debates which he had provoked,Young produced a revised edition of his historical work in 1932. The issues were of political as well as personal significance to their authors; Indirect Rule was now being implemented by the British in Malawi, and the time was evidently ripe to press claims for succession. In the new text, the general account is revised, and there are also three totally new chapters. Two of these press Ngonde claims, while the third puts the view of the Tonga. In all cases the concern is to criticise exaggerated claims made by Young for Nkhamanga sovereignty. Conspicuous in its absence is any representation of the Ngoni viewpoint. Although he lists a few Ngoni collaborators, they are heavily outnumbered by the non-Ngoni. Many Ngoni would no doubt have wished to take issue with a number of claims made by Young, but his pro-Tumbuka stance is unchallenged.

    In the main body of the 1932 text, there is more detail on the post-Ngoni situation. There is a fuller description of the movement northwards, but this is to be expected as more had been published on this topic. There are some important corrections of dates. He had previously stated the date of the Ngoni crossing of the Zambezi as having been in 1825, coinciding with an eclipse of the sun. But information from the Cape Town Observatory enabled this to be corrected to 1835. Young had fixed the date of the Ngoni return to Malawi in relation to this, and it was accordingly corrected to 1845.

    Young changed the name ofthe people about whom he was writing from Tumbuka-Henga to Tumbuka-Kamanga for the 1932 edition. He stated that this was more accurate and that the source of the confusion had lain with the Ngon i. The Henga were the Tumbuka-speakers first encountered by the British; and they had been the first to rebel against the Ngoni. But by 1932, Young wanted to stress that Nkhamanga was an important seat of power, having been only temporary obliterated by the Ngoni.

    Finally, it is noteworthy that Young closes the main text by deploring the tendency of some Tumbuka to `Ngoni-ise' themselves. He comments:

    It is to be hoped that the mistaken policy of the old Tumbuka families, who hide their true race in the foolish dream of being taken for `Ngoni',may not long delay the appearance among them of a reliable historian.15

    This was not, however, the end of the matter. After leaving Malawi, Young had succeeded in obtaining employment with the Religious Tract Society (which in 1935 became the United Society for Christian Literature). He performed a wide range of administrative duties, but was particularly involved with the supply of literature to Africa and the administration of the Africa Fund. His duties included the encouragement of African authors, and one of those whose work appeared under the imprint of the United Society for Christian Literature was the Revd Yesaya Mloneyi Chibambo. His book, translated as My Ngoni of Nyasaland, was published in 1942 with some footnotes by Cullen Young.

    Chibambo was the son of one of the original Ngoni families who had travelled north. His father had held the position of mouthpiece for the view of big chiefs; and his father's elder brothers had been famous warriors. Chibambo's impeccable aristocratic connections were combined with a modernising out look. He thus became a Christian and entered mission employment. In 1920 he received the Honours Diploma for Schoolteachers, awarded by Livingstonia. In 1921 he complained to the Livingstonia Mission council, regarding inferior conditions of service for African employees of the mission; he received a courteous reply, but almost nothing was conceded. He did however remain in the mission, and in 1929 he was ordained. He worked for many years at Ekwendeni with Revd Charles Stuart, who translated the text of his History. Chibambo developed a strong historical consciousness, and was very systematic in his investigations. He wrote on both customs and history, and his Tumbuka-language account Midauko16
    became recognised as authoritative throughout Ngoniland. Only the historical part of this appeared in Stuart's translation. Chibambo performed the task of systematising Ngoni history, just as Young had done for the Tumbuka. But the Ngoni had the advantage that their exploits were more immediate in living memory; and it was easier to draw a picture of a glorious tradition from the events in Ngoni history than was the case with the Tumbuka.17

    Chibambo was systematic but far from impartial. His concern was to defend the value-system of the Ngoni, against potential critics both African and European. He realised that some Europeans would deny any value in Ngoni tradition, simply because it was African. Chibambo was rather concerned to expound the view that a certain amount of eclecticism would be appropriate in European attitudes to African culture. He resented the tendency of some Europeans to lump all Africans together as savages. He himself was conscious of a feeling ofNgoni superiority, and as has already been seen, some of Young's missionary colleagues (though not Young himself) shared this view. The Ngoni had shown themselves to be relatively resistant to absorption of European values, especially in respect of material culture. At the same time, they had welcomed the religious and educational insights that had been provided by the mission. It is significant that the Mombera Native Association, founded in 1919 by the new educated Ngoni elite, made one of its first tasks the restoration of the old powerful Ngoni chieftainship.

    Chibambo's historical account advocates the Ngoni view of events in northern Malawi. He rejects Saulos Nyirenda's argument, which Young supported, to the effect that the Ngoni had 'spoiled the land'. He also provides information on many events in much more detail than is found in Young. In some cases there is a different interpretation, in a manner more favourable to the Ngoni. But more often Chibambo provides information on matters which Young hardly touched upon. He begins by outlining the quarrels in South Africa, the subsequent move north, and the Zambezi crossing. He shows that one split had already occurred before the crossing was made, the fissiparous group eventually settling in Dedza area of Malawi. But much of this information was by now already widely known from other accounts. On other questions Chibambo is more original. There is useful discussion of the northward journey; of the problems surrounding the paramountcy, and the dynastic disputes which followed the death of Zwangendaba; and of eventual settlement in northern Malawi, with its attendant rebellion. Finally Chibambo considered the impact of foreigners, both Arab and European, paying particular attention to the consequences of arrival of missionaries.Chibambo shows how, after crossing the Zambezi, the route taken was through the Luangwa valley until Chewa country was reached at Kasungu. He notes that captives were easily taken from both the Chewa and the Tumbuka: but that as movement northward continued, the passage became less smooth. Thus at Mawiri Zwangendaba fell ill, and at this point the tight discipline characteristic of Ngoni political organisation began to show signs of collapse. Chibambo reports that this was particularly true of the Thonga section, which had been formed south of the Zambezi. The Tumbuka and Chewa captives now began to accuse their Thonga masters of witchcraft, maintaining that this was the cause of Zwangendaba's illness. As a consequence many older Thonga were killed at Mawiri. But Zwangendaba insisted on pressing on northwards; Nkhamanga country was bypassed on the way, and the Ngoni eventually arrived at Mapupo in Fipa country. Here Zwangendaba died peacefully, in 1848.

    Zwangendaba's death precipitated the succession crisis and subsequent dispersal. Nyirenda recognised this, but did not provide a detailed account. Young had more information available, as noted earlier. But the wealth of detail provided by Chibambo on sucession following Zwangendaba's death adds considerably to our understanding of the events. A simplified version of the set-up shortly before the division is shown in the diagram. Only those relevant to the dispute have been included; Zwangendaba had, for instance, numerous wives, but only a few of them are significant in this particular context.


    Chibambo's account goes on to relate how, when Zwangendaba became paramount chief, he set up his own chief-place, known as Emveyeyeni. This was separate from Elangeni, the village of his father Hlatchwayo. In Emveyeyeni he placed his head wife, Lompetu, together with her sister, Soseya (who was also one of his wives). However Zwangendaba became suspicious of the people of Emveyeyeni, since one day he discover a hair in some beer that they had prepared for him. He saw this as a sign that they wanted to bewitch him, and therefore ordered the destruction of Emveyeyeni. Soldiers were sent there; they were led by Gwaza Jere, the principal headman of Elangeni. Zwangendaba's instructions were carried out, except that Gwaza Jere decided to spare Soseya, since she was in childbirth.

    Soseya gave birth to a son, Mpezeni. The mother and son remained in hiding for a long period. But when Mpezeni was fairly well grown, he and his mother were shown to Zwangendaba. The paramount chief's anger had now gone, and he received them well. He did not, however, give them a village of their own, preferring to keep them in his father's village, Elangeni. This was a way of showing that he did not wish Mpezeni to inherit his own position. Since Lompetu had been killed, his head wife was now Munene, in Ekwendeni. Her son was M' mbelwa, but he was not automatically indicated as successor. Zwangendaba's own choice was, according to Chibambo, Ngodoyi (not mentioned by Young). Ngodoyi was the son of Zwangendaba's younger brother Ntabeni. Zwangendaba indicated this choice before his death: Ntabeni followed Zwangendaba as regent, and it was expected that Ngodoyi's succession would be confirmed. He was intelligent and well-grown, and would have appeared suitable. But the men of Elangeni, together with Gwaza Jere, argued that Mpezeni was the real heir even though Zwangendaba had not nominated him. Surprisingly, Ntabeni agreed that his own son should be passed over in favour of Mpezeni. Ntabeni also suggested that Mtwalo, son of Qutu, should be second in succession. Whereas he liked Mtwalo, Ntabeni made no mention of Mmbelwa, son of Munene. He had frequently been rude to Ntabeni and had cursed him and was now punished as a consequence. Thus secession returned to thehouse of the original head wife. Munene was turned out of Ekwendeni empty-handed. These decisions did not receive universal assent: some felt especially that M'mbelwa should have succeeded, since Munene had become the head wife after Soseya was killed. But frustration was kept in check while Ntabeni was still alive.

    These details differ from those reported by Young in one very important respect. Young states clearly that Zwangendaba nominated his successor from the house of Munene, and makes no mention of Ngodoyi. But Chibambo confirmed Young's account on the matter of Ntabeni's wish to provoke confrontation after his own death, by insistence on a secret burial. Chibambo relates that after this event, several wives and children of Ntabeni's younger brother Mgayi were killed.

    Following such incidents, partition occurred. Ngodoyi and his supporters went northwards, while the rest left to settle at Malindika, near Isoka (Fife) in Zambia. Mpezeni was among them but was not of age, so the regency continued. Gwaza Jere was now a cripple but he accompanied Mpezeni. A further division occurred: after raiding from Malindika, those originally from Ekwendeni returned there; but those from Elangeni settled at Makukwe, near Tulcuya in Tanzania. Mpezeni was among the later, but when there was famine in Makukwe he was brought back by the Ekwendeni section. He had by now been made paramount chief, by Gwaza Jere. Those who had settled at Malindika subsequently moved to Luanda. This place became renamed Chidhlodhlo (head-ring) because of the assumption of this decoration by Mpezeni and the regiments.

    Chibambo goes on to recount further divisions. One rebellion was led by Zulu Gama, whose supporters went to the east of Lake Malawi. After his death, his sons Gwazeya and Mharule continued the leadership. They encountered some other Ngoni east of the Lake: these were the Maseko Ngoni, who had broken away before the crossing of the Zambezi on the march northwards. Fighting occurred with them, and Gwazeya returned westwards with some of his followers. But Mharule remained; he continued the dispute with the Maseko Ngoni, who had insisted on keeping cattle captured on joint raids for themselves. This time, theMaseko Ngoni were defeated, and were forced to flee to the west side of the Shire river.

    Another secession from Chidhlodhlo was led by Chiwere Ndhlovu. He was of Senga origin, but took with him many Ngoni, and eventually settled near Dowa. But more relevant for the present account are the details of the split of Mpezeni from Mtwalo and M'mbelwa. Mpezeni began to revive the old enmities; he was repeatedly rude to M'mbelwa, though remained on good terms with Mtwalo. Mpezeni also disliked Gwaza Jere, and blamed him for the secession by Chiwere Ndhlovu. But Gwaza Jere now obtained sufficient support for a rebellion, and he left Chidhlodhlo for Matako, with M ' mbelwa, Mtwalo and their supporters. Mtwalo and M'mbelwa were still under age, so the leadership went to Gwaza Jere. But on reaching Elangeni, he called a meeting to propose Mtwalo as paramount chief of the Ngoni. But Mtwalo insisted that the title should go to M'mbelwa; his decision was praised, and he thus attracted a large following.

    Mpezeni decided to leave Chidhlodhlo at this point, and set out westwards. He was accompanied by Mperembe, another son of Zwangendaba, who was still too young for political office. But after arrival in Bisa country, Mperembe's section split off, and turned towards Ekwandeni again. They attempted to settle in Bemba country, Mperembe was treated there like a chief and received royal salutation, Bayete. But he and his people soon fled and returned to live among M'mbelwa's Ngoni, the royal salutation for Mperembe now being dropped. Mpezeni and his people continued, eventually settling in Chipata (Fort Jameson) in Zambia. They remained in this area, and subsequently became the subject of Barnes's anthropological studies.

    In Malawi, M'mbelwa and Mtwalo left Matako; they crossed the Rukuru and reached the Henga valley. Here M'mbelwa was made paramount chief officially. There was nearly another split at this point, between him and Mtwalo: but Gwaza Jere succeeded in persuading the people to stay together. Mtwalo and M'mbelwa did however build separate villages and cross the river in different places. Mtwalo's people settled southeastof Mount Chima, while M'mbelwa's people settled at the place known today as Ekwendeni.

    In summary so far, it can be maintained that Chibambo's account of the succession and division following Zwangendaba's death tends to amplify rather than to contradict Young, and that it is based on more information. There are however important differences on the matter of Gwaza Jere's attitude to Mpezeni as the choice for Zwangedaba's heir: and on Zwangendaba's actual indiction of an heir.

    In Chibambo's subsequent discussion of settlement and conquest, the account differs from that of Young mainly because the two authors support different sides: factual discrepancies are not the main issue, but Young supports the Tumbuka, Chibambo the Ngoni. Chibambo argues that the tribes into which the Ngoni penetrated were subdued with very little difficulty. He supports the contention that the indigenous tribes were scattered and lacking in centralised authority. His version would imply that Young's claims for the extent ofauthority of Chilculamayembes were exaggerated, though Chibambo also exaggerates Ngoni authority by claiming that they conquered the Ngonde.

    Chibambo draws an explicit comparison between Ngoni methods of government over their subjects, and the British policy of Indirect Rule. He also discusses the policy ofassimilation ofyoung people from among their subjects. He maintains that one effect of the policy was that some of those so assimilated began to perceive the limits of Ngoni power. He suggests that, especially after some of their success in battle, many ofthe young Nkhamanga men began to get out of hand and to belittle the Ngoni. Chibambo maintains that it was in accordance with this development that a review of fighting men took place at Ekwendeni; but he denies that there was any intention to massacre the old, since large numbers of women were also present in the village and the cattle kraal. Rather he insists that the sole purpose of the exercise was to administer war medicine. He goes on to report the breakaway of the Tumbuka subjects, which was completed by 1879, making the comment that not all chose to leave. He shows that the Chewa under Mwase gaveimportant military assistance to the Ngoni. Most of the remaining rebellious activities are reported in similar terms to those of Young. Chibambo also notes the continuation of operations in the Siska country after the Henga had fled, leading to eventual Siska surrender. However, he maintains, with the end of the rising there was peace; and this had all taken place before the arrival of the missionaries, who were only just beginning to build, at Bandawe. The clear suggestion is that the Ngoni rather than the missionaries had secured the pacification of the area.

    Arabs as well as Europeans were encountered by the Ngoni, but Chibambo argues that the Ngoni engaged in very few dealings in slaves; rather, their main commodity was ivory. By contrast, he maintains, the chiefs of the Tonga, Siska, Nkhamanga and Chewa all engaged in extensive slave trading. Since the Ngoni did not support the Arabs, he maintains that the cause of the Europeans and that of the Ngoni was the same; it was merely unfortunate that they knew little about one another. This leads Chibambo to his main propaganda piece on behalf of his own people. He notes that there had been the prophets of Israel; he sees God as having been slowly revealing himself in every nation, even among the backward and despised. He states that Ngoniland also had its seers (izanuzi) who foretold of something great coming from the water, and who advised that the new foreigners be received courteously. He suggests that this prepared the way for the reception of missionaries, and that the chiefs in particular showed themselves to be friendly. At first, he admits, theNgoni wanted the Tonga to be left alone by the missionaries so that they could be raided; but eventually schools were permitted after Christian prayers appeared to be successful in producing rainfall. He also comments that though the Gospel eventually succeeded in shaking the power of the Ngoni, this did not take place immediately, and that raiding did not cease completely until 1893. He notes that M'mbelwa's children did not attend school, but Mtwalo's did so; also that British annexation of Ngoniland in 1904 took place without bloodshed.

    Chibambo's contention, then, is that there was another side to the story that the Ngoni brought no good by settling in northern Malawi. In the first place, he sees the Ngoni as having unconsciously prepared the wayfor the Gospel. In the second place he argues that the Ngoni showed betters ways of government, law and discipline: he deplores the few instances where Ngoni adopted customs of their subjects. He argues further that the missions had been a civilising influence: Mtwalo died in 1890, and M'mbelwa a year later, but there was no dynastic strife since people knew the Gospel. He suggests that the missions also helped the Ngoni and the British government to come together in friendship.

    It is difficult to speculate as to how Cullen Young evaluated this account. He provided footnotes to Chibambo's text, but these merely explain points of detail and do not dispute his claims. But previously he had always taken a pro-Tumbuka stand, and had not given the Ngoni viewpoint a hearing in the revised edition of his History. Three factors seem however to have some relevance. In the first place, Young was often concerned to have all points of view properly represented. In the case of the Ngonde and the Tonga he had done this in his 1932 text, but merely presented the versions side by side without attempting serious evaluation. Yet he might well in 1942 have seen Chibambos account as a useful corrective to any bias that might have perpetrated. In the second place, he would certainly have approved of Chibambo's comments about the activities of the Ngoni seers in preparing the way for the Gospel, and of the comparison with ancient Israel. One of his favourite themes was that of the Christian message of 'completion'. He was concerned to stress that there was something of Jesus among those who did not yet know him, and he quoted with approval Jesus's words, 'I have come not to destroy, but to fulfill'08). In the third place, political conditions were now different. The Chikulamayembeship had been recognised by the British government, and there was no longer any danger of Ngoni interference with this claim.

    Chibambo's work was highly influential. The Ngoni themselves responded very favourably to his support for their belief in their own superiority. Midauko became widely used in schools. Ngoni aristocratic consciousness persisted, and became strengthened by labour migration to South Africa and Zimbabwe: this enabled them to meet linguistically and culturally similar peoples, thereby lending support to their ethnicpride. On a more academic level, their distinctiveness was stressed also in the work of the anthropologist/educationist Margaret Read. Chibambo served as Read's guide in her field studies, and had an important influence. Read noted that Chibambo was recognised throughout Ngoniland as an authority on tradition; and it was clearthat he encouraged Read to think well of his own people. Read emphasised Ngoni aristocratic distinctiveness, and maintained that her ethnographic material justified such a stand point. She studied Ngoni methods of socialisation, which served to preserve Ngoni identity through songs, folktales, and the development of a strong historical consciousness.19

    It appears that, while Cullen Young was pleased to enable Ngoni claims to be heard through Chibambo and later through Read, he remained personally sceptical of them. He seems to have regarded Read as having been over-influenced by key informants. There is evidence of direct contact between them on the subject, and Young seems to have felt that he had been treated in a patronising fashion. In his correspondence with W.H.J. Rangeley, he remarks ofRead's `Malinowske smile ofsuperiority when referring to such controversy.20

    Rangeley was an administrator in Malawi who had risen to the position of Provincial Commissioner. He wrote numerous historical articles, in one of which is to be found a continuation of the discussion of Ngoni succession. This is his contribution `Mtwalo', to the Nyasaland Journal21. Rangeley's article is more sophisticated than many earlier writings on the subject, and relies mainly on the testimony of living informants. A greater attempt at objectivity is evident, though Rangeley did confess a strong admiration for the then incumbent of the Ngoni paramountcy (Mtwalo II). His main focus of attention is on the interregnum, the succession disputes after the death of Zwangendaba, and the subsequent dispersal and settlement pattern.

    Rangeley does not directly suggest, with Young, that M'mbelwa was nominated by his father as heir, nor with Chibambo that Ngodoyi was chosen. Rather he comments that the choice was made implicitly: when Zwangendaba died, his body was carried to Ekwendeni, and M'mbelwa'ssister Lomangazi stood by the grave. There was tension; warriors were present and ready to fight, but in the events there was no direct challenge. Rangeley examines in detail the dispute between Munene and Ntabeni, and notes that Ntabeni had attempted unsuccessfully to claim the Edwendeni wives in levirate: but they all opted for Mgayi, the son of Ntabeni's brother Mafu. This incident exacerbated the conflict surrounding the secret funeral of Ntabeni.

    Rangeley's discussion of the settlement pattern follows similar lines to that of Young and Chibambo, but is more detailed and less partisan. This fissiparity is shown to have ended with the public recognition of M'mbelwa as chiefby Mtwalo. Some more recent events are noted, such as the movement of the site of Ekwendeni until it was established at its present location in 1891. M'mbelwa died in that year, and Mtwalo a year later; there was much raiding to avenge the death of M'mbelwa, and this continued till 1897 (not 1893 as Chibambo had suggested), though this activity was steadily undermined by missionary and other European influence. In 1895 Chimtunga was confirmed as paramount chief, and in the following year Mtwalo's son Muhawi was appointed chief of Ekwendeni. He became a Christian, and worked as a teacher using the name Amon. He became Mtwalo II in 1944, and was still alive when Rangeley wrote on him.

    Rangeley notes that his findings do not differ from those of Cullen Young to any marked degree. He also sees his conclusions as supporting those of E.H. Lane Poole, who had been a provincial commissioner in Zambia, and who also published some historical findings about the Eastern Province of what was then Northern Rhodesia("). He relied mainly upon oral tradition, though he had been influenced also by Cullen Young. Unfortunately he did not consult the 1932 revised History and failed to take account of some amendments such as the date of Ngoni crossing of the Zambezi. On the whole, Lane Poole sees Young as the best authority on the northward movement of Ngoni, and most of his critical comments are on points of detail. Unlike Young (and later Rangeley) he maintains that Mgayi was a brother of Zwangendaba, not the son of Mafu. He then maintains that Ntabeni and Mgayi both claimedthe paramountcy when Zwangendaba died. He is aware that adelphic succession does not accord with Ngoni custom, but speculates that the situation might have changed since age and experience would be important for the paramount in a situation of war. Other possibilities that Lane Poole considers are that the brothers merely claimed guardianship; that they were thinking in terms of military rather than political leadership; or that, in Ntabeni's case, his claim had been on behalf of his son. He indicates that eventually Ntabeni and Mgayi both led separate sections northwards, leaving the dispute between Mpzeni, Mtwalo and M'mbelwa. When M'mbelwa was appointed, there were further splits initiated by those who disapproved of this choice.

    Some recent commentary by historians is also relevant. Thus Rennie23 is concerned to stress that the Ngoni were in no way beginning to lose their grip on their subjects by the time that the Europeans arrived; on the contrary, they were consolidating their power. Only the European arrival altered the balance of power, especially when backed up by the force of the colonial government and its superior weapons. Rennie makes no reference to Young, and does not dwell on the complexities of the succession dispute. He does howevercomment that though Chibambo maintained that Ngoni rule was enlightened and beneficial, this view was not shared by their subjects in particular, they suffered greatly through land alienation. Rennie also observes, however, that missionary writers such as Elmslie exaggerated the picture of Ngoni cruelty so to ensure pacification of the area and to stress the need for the mission.

    Drawing partly on Rennie's account, the historian Thompson24 supports the idea that Ngoni power was not declining before the Europeans arrived. Rather he suggests that this was true only in relative terms, since neighbouring peoples were beginning to improve their defence. Thompson also maintains that the movement north was a gradual process, only partly due to defeat in war. On the question of the succession dispute after the death of Zwangendaba, Thompson sees the various alternative versions as little more than attempts to justify the claims of the various disputants. He sees segmentation and eventual fragmentation as endemic to the dynamics of Ngoni political structure.Here he draws upon the analysis of another investigator of Ngoni history, the anthropologist Barnes25. Barnes had noted that the various versions reflect the place from which they had been collected: a matter of which Read was also aware.

    Barnes did field work among the Ngoni, but relied also on historical material, including that of Young, Chibambo, Rangeley and Lane Poole. Barnes notes numerous differences in detail in the accounts of his predecessors. His own research led him to depart from all previous accounts in one important respect. Earlier accounts had suggested that Zwangendaba had rebuilt Emveyeyeni on discovering that Mpezeni and his mother survived. Barnes could not find a village of that name during his field work. He suggested rather that Emveyeyeni itself had certainly been destroyed, but that three constituent inferior segments (Emcisweni, Ekwendeni, and Emsizini) had survived the destruction of the superior agnatic lineage section.

    Barnes also raised a point of interest regarding Mgayi. He doubts Rangeley's suggestion that Mgayi was Zwangendaba's brother's son, maintaining rather that he would have been Zwangendaba's patrilateral parallel cousin. He points out that adelphic succession was not a Ngoni practice, and suggests rather that Ntabeni and Mgayi acted as regents in turn, on behalf of the younger sons of Zwangendaba. This is broadly in accordance with Cullen Young's version, and bears similarity to some of Lane Pole's speculations. Barnes also notes some difficulties arising from Chibambo's account. He comments that Chibambo does not explain why Ntabeni supported claims of Mpezeni against his own son, or why Ntabeni was passed over.

    Barnes has stated in more general terms that there is a specific problem when there is no written history, and only oral evidence can be taken. In such a situation, only legend is available though legend also occurs in literate societies. Ngoni legend is clearly concerned with praise of their past.26

    The same, of course, is true of all legend. Both Nyirenda and Chibambo clearly wrote with a partisan purpose, and neither claimed to be doing Cullen Young, Yesaya Chibambo and and neither claimed to be doing other-wise. Young sponsored the work of both, and it appears that his main concern was to encourage African writers to put pen to paper; accuracy was only a secondary consideration. He realised that there were distortions and particular axes to grind, but lacked an overall perspective. This is hardly surprising, because the techniques of collection of oral testimony have only recently been developed. Young's anthropological writings were somewhat more sophisticated since by the early thirties Malinowski was beginning to provide the appropriate model for presentation of field data.

    Bias, however, is not the same as deliberate falsification, there were no doubt some inaccuracies, and information varied according to its source: but Nyirenda (and Young following him) and Chibambo do not directly contradict each other on important matters of fact. Indeed, where the issue was irrelevant to the relative merits of Ngoni and Tumbuka claims, there was a surprising amount ofunanimity considering that reliable data was so hard to come by. This is seen clearly in the discussion of the succession disputes after the death of Zwangendaba.

    1. This article contains a more detailed discussion of the Ngoni than I was able to include in my T Cullen Young:missionary and anthropologist (1989).
    2. His main Tumbuka studies are: Notes of Speech and History of the Tumbuka-Henga People (1923); Notes on the Customs and Folklore of the Tumbuka-Kamanga Peoples (1931); Notes on the History of the Tumbuka-Kamanga Peoples (1932); and Notes on the Speech of the Tumbuka-Kamanga Peoples (1932). His chief broader discussions of `African culture' areAfri can Ways and Wisdom (1937); and Contemporary Ancestors (1940). See also T.C. Young and H.K. Banda (trans. and eds.), Our African Way of Life (1946). For a complete list of Young's publications seem my T. Cullen Young, 204-12.

    3. Y.M. Chibambo, My Ngoni of Nyasaland (1942).4. Young wrote two articles on his war experiences: `Zovu', Nyasaland Journal 6 (1953) 53-9; and 'The Battle of Karonga', Nyasaland Journal 8 (1956) 27-30. There is also unpublished typescript by Young entitled Nyasaland Operations during the World War, 1914-18', in the Society of Malawi Library, Blantyre, Malawi

    5. My informant for Cullen Young's Quaker activities is his daughter, Margot Moffett. The article in question is 'The Padre's Talk: what do you think?, Boy's Own Annual No. 62 (1939-40) p.73. He comments that opposite choices could divide families, but that Jesus had come to do this. W.P. Young had written a book on his First World War experiences, entitled A Soldier to the Church, in which he expressed regret that the churches had not spoken with a corporate voice in support of the war.

    6. W.A. Elmslie, Among The Wild Ngoni (1899).

    7. D. Fraser, 'The Zulu ofNyasaland', Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow 32 (1900-01) 60-75; Winning a Primitive People (1914). European respect for authoritarian rule in Africa was quite common; cf H.A.C. Cairns, Prelude to Imperialism (1965) 107-8.

    8. S. Nyirenda, 'History of the Tumbuka-Henga People', trans. and ed. by T.C. Young, Bantu Studies 5 (1931) 1-75.

    9. Ibid., p. 74.

    10. Notes on Speech and History, p.83; Notes on History, p. 100 (slightly different wording).

    11. Ibid., 147-8 (earlier ed.); 22-3 revised ed. (slightly different wording).

    12. T.C. Young, 'Tribal Intermixture in Northern Nyasaland', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 63 (1933) 1 - 18 at p.12.

    13. W.P. Johnson, Nyasa, the Great Water (1922); H.H. Johnston, British Central Africa (1897) F.D. Lugard, The Rise of our East African Empire Vol. 1 (1893); L.M. Fortheringham, Adventures in Nyasaland (1891); F.L Moir, After Livingstone (1923).

    14. Notes on History, p. 9.

    15. Ibid., p. 136. This is not the only occasion on which Cullen Young

    Complained of `Ngoni-isation' of the Tumbuka. See also his letter to the Mzimba DC, 13 Mar. 1931 (In Mzimba District Book, 1907, Malawi National Archives, Zomba); also D. Fraser's letter to Young, 19 Nov. 1929 (National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, MS 7690 no. 284).

    16. Y.M. Chibambo, Midauko (1946).

    17. For Chibambo see J. McCracken, Politics and Christianity in Malawi. 1875-1940 (1977) 246, 251, 263-4; L. Vail and L. White, `Tribalism in the Political History of Malawi', in L. Vail (ed.), The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (1989) 151-92 at 160-2 and 182; T.J. Thompson, 'Fraser and the Ngoni' (Edinburgh University Ph.D, 1980).

    18. See, for instance: 'The New African', Other Lands 7 (19270 47-50 at p. 48; The Christian Message of Completion (pamphlet, 12pp.; 1939); `Understanding the Old', International Review of Mission 40 (1951) 450-5 at p. 454: 'I can never forget the illuminating experience of a colleague down among his Lakeshore fold he was told "Sir, don't

    think that the things you are telling us contradict what we used to believe, no, but they complete what the old folk taught us".

    19. For Read's bias towards the Ngoni see L. Vail, 'The Making of the "Dead North": a study of the Ngoni rule in northern Malawi, c. 18551907 'in J. Peires (ed.), Before and after Shaka; papers in Ngoni history' (1981) 230-267 at 231-2. Read's principal writings were; The Ngoni of Nyasaland (1956); Children of their Fathers (1959); 'Songs of the Ngoni People', Bantu Studies 11 (1937) 1-35; 'The Moral Code of the Ngoni and their Former Warrior State', Africa 11 (1938) 1-24; 'The Nguni and Western Education' in V.W.Turner (ed.), Colonialism in Africa 1870-1960 Vol. 3 (1971) 346-92.

    20. T.C. Young, letter to W.H.J. Rangely, 11 May 1952 (Rangeley Papers, Society of Malawi Library, Blantyre, Malawi).

    21. W.H.J. Rangeley, `Mtwalo', Nyasaland Journal 6 (1952) 55 - 70.

    22. E.H. Lane Poole, The Native Tribes of the Eastern Province of Northern Rhodesia (1949)23. J.K. Rennie, 'The Ngoni States and European Intrusion' in E. Stokes and R. Brown (eds.), The Zambezian Past (1966). Johnston, H.H., British Central Africa (London;. Methuen, 1897).

    24. T.J. Thompson, 'Fraser and the Ngoni'; and 'The Origins, Migration and Settlement of the Northern Ngoni', Society of Malawi Journal, 38 (1985) 6-35. Lugard, F.D., The Rise of our East African Empire. 2 vols (Edinburgh; Blackwood, 1893).

    25. J.A. Barnes, Politics in a Changing Society (1954) McCracken, J., Politics and Christianity in Malawi, 1875-1940: the Impact ofthe Livingstonia Mission in the Northern Province (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1977).

    26. J.A. Barnes, 'History in a Changing Society'. Rhodes-Livingstone Journal 1 1 (1951) 1-9. Moir, F.L., After Livingstone; an African trade romance (London; Hodder and Stoughton, 1923).

    Nyirenda, S., 'History of the Tumbuka-Henga People' trans. and ed. by T.C. Young, Bantu Studies 5 (1931) 1-75.

    Pieres, J., (ed.), Before and after Shakes; papers in Ngoni history' (Grahamstown; Rhodes University Press, 1981).

    Poole, E.H., Lane, The Native Tribes of the Eastern Province of Northern Rhodesia (Lusaka; Government Printer, 1949).

    Rangeley, W.H.J., `Mtwalo', Nyasaland Journal 5 (1952) 55-70. Read, M.H., Children of their Fathers (London; Methuen, 1959).

    Read, M.H., 'The Moral Code of the Ngoni and their Former Military State', Africa, 11 (1938) 1-24.

    Read, M.H., 'The Ngoni and Western Education', in V.W. Turner (ed.) Colonialism in Africa, 1870-1960 vol.3 (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1971) 346-92. 1980)

    Thompson, T.J., 'The Origins, Migration and Settlement oftheNorthern Ngoni', Society of Malawi Journal, 38 (1985) 6-35.

    Vail, L., (ed.) The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (London; Currey, 1989).

    Vail, L., 'The Making of the Dead North; a study of the Ngoni rule in northern Malawi', in J. Peires (ed.), Before and after Shaka, 230-67.

    Vail, L., and White, L., 'Tribalism in the Political History of Malawi', in L. Vail (ed.), The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa 151-92.

    Young, T.C., African Ways and Wisdom (London, United Society for Christian Literature, 1937).

    Young, T.C., 'The Battle of Karonga', Nyasaland Journal 8 (1955) 27- 38.

    Young, T.C., The Christian Message ofCompletion (London; Universities Mission to Central Africa, 1939).

    Young, T.C., ContemporaryAncestor (London; Religious Tract Society, 1940).

    Young, T.C., 'The New African', Other Lands 7 (1927) 47-50.

    Young, T.C., Notes on the Customs and Folklore of the TumbukaKamanga Peoples (Livingstonia; Mission Press, 1931).

    Young, T.C., Notes on the History of the Tumbuka-Kamanga Peoples in the Northern Province of Nyasaland (London; Religious Tract Society, 1932.

    Young, T.C., Notes on the speech of the Tumbuka-Kamanga Peoples in the Northern Province of Nyasaland (London; Religious Tract Society, 1932).

    Young, T.C., Notes on the Speech and History of the Tumbuka-Henga Peoples (Livingstonia; Mission Press, 1923)>

    Young, T.C., 'The Padre's Talk; what do you think?', Boy's Own Annual 62 (1939-40) 73.

    Young, T.C., 'Tribal Intermithe Royal Anthropological Institute 63 (1933) 1-18.

    Young, T.C., 'Understanding the old', International Review ofMissions 40 (1951) 450-5.

    Young, T.C., `Zovu', Nyasaland Journal 6 (1953) 53-9.

    Young, T.C., and Banda, H.K. (eds), Our African Way of Life (London; Lutterworth, 1946).

    Young, W.P., A Soldier to the Church (London; SCM, 1919). Archival Sources

    Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland: United Free Church of Scotland, MSS 7556-7980

    Blantyre (Malawi), Society ofMa lawi Library: T.C. Young, ' Nyasaland Operations during the World War 1914-18' (typescript: n.d.) Rangeley Papers.

    Zomba, Malawi National Archives: Mzimba District Books, 1928-32
    Read, M.H., The Ngoni of Nyasaland (London; Oxford University Press, 1956.

    Read, M.H., 'Songs of the Ngoni People', Bantu Studies, 11 (1937) 1- 35.

    Rennie, J.K., 'The Ngoni States and European Intrusion', in E. Stokes and R. Brown, (eds), The Zambezian Past, 302-21.

    Stokes, E., and Brown, R., (eds.), The Zambezian Past: studies in Central African history, (Manchester; Manchester University Press, 1966).

    Thompson, T.J., 'Fraser and the Ngoni' (Edinburgh University Ph.D.,


    Barnes, J.A., 'History in a Changing society', RhodesLivingstoneJournal, 11 (1951) 1-9.

    Barnes, J.A., Politics in a Changing Society (Cape Town; Oxford University Press, 1954).

    Cairns, H.A.C., Prelude to Imperialism (London; Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.

    Chibambo, Y.M., Midauko (Livingstonia; Mission Press, 1946). Chibambo Y.M., My Ngoni of Nyasaland.

    Elmslie, W.A., Among the Wild Ngoni (Edinburgh; Oliphand and Ferrier, 1899).

    Forester, P.G., T. Cullen Young; missionary and anthropologist (Hull; Hull University Press, 1989).

    Fotheringham, L.M., Adventures in Nyassaland (London; Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1891.

    Fraser, D., Winning a Primitive People (London; Seeley Service, 1914).

    Fraser, D., 'The Zulu of Nyasaland; their manners and customs', Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow 32 (1900-1) 60- 75.

    Johnson. W.P., Nyasa, the Great Water (London; Milford, 1922)

    Thursday, August 19, 2010


    Ngoni Politics and Diplomacy 1848 - 1904 (part 2)

  • Thursday, August 19, 2010
  • 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, July 25, 2010


    War Songs of the Ngoni People

  • Sunday, July 25, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By Margaret Read. It also includes youtube videos and some explanations provided by the moderator of this blog.

    To the Ngoni war was man's work. Throughout their history as a separate people they were a nation under arms, and on the success of their arms depended their existence as conquerors. Their life was organised in every detail to make them efficient as warriors, and in the preparations for war, songs and dances played an essential part. There was one group of war songs, imigubo, sung before going out to fight, another, imihubo, sung on the return from the war. The imigubo are danced today in Gomani's country in full war dress with shields and spears, and only in the Paramount's village, the place of mobilisation of the army in the old days. The Ngoni women join in the dance, some inside the circle of men, some outside, and the tempo of the dance works up and up as it did in old days to inspire men with the lust of battle.

    It is in the group of war songs that I have found those which are common both to Gomani's and M'mbelwa's country, and which therefore point to a common source in the south. Though the songs appear brief in their wording, much of the tune is sung to 'sounds' such as inyo ho, zi, oya ye yayo, and accompaniment is varied with stamping the feet and knocking the shields either with spears or against the knees.


    Wednesday, April 7, 2010


    Inkosi Mtwalo of Northern Ngoniland in Nyasaland

  • Wednesday, April 7, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
  • By W. H. J. Rangeley

    This article is based entirely on information given to the author by numerous Africans, with the following exceptions:

    (1) The site of the battle between Zwide and Shaka is no longer remembered by the Ngoni and is quoted from "Olden Times in Zululand and Natal" by A. T. Bryant. Bryant says that Nxawa was one of the Mbekwane clan. The Ngoni say he was Nqumayo. Bryant is more likely to be correct. So also quoted is the route east of the Lubombo hills. The Ngoni merely record that they went north to the lower reaches of the Limpopo river. Bryant states (chapter 44) that Zwangendawa was "but a commonplace squire at home". The Ngoni agree that he was of humble birth but insist that he rose to be General of Zwide's army. The fact that Zwide gave him two daughters in marriage would indicate that Zwangendawa was a man of importance. Bryant states that Zwangendawa clashed in battle with Soshangane (chapter 44) With heavy losses on both sides. The Ngoni admit heavy losses in battle against Nxawa, and the names of many who died are remembered to this day, but they deny any clash with Soshangane. There is, however, evidence that there was a minor clash with Soshangane, according to Ngoni now dead.