Mosi-oa-tunya! (The smoke that thunders). Sacred waters where the gods live. For countless generations, the Tonga people who lived on the Zambezi river, worshipped and prayed to Nyami Nyami, the mighty God of the river. He protected them and gave them sustenance in difficult times. The river was sacred, the falls were sacred and there was reverence for the mighty powers of Nature. Meanwhile in Europe, people believed that their God created Nature for their exploitation. They subjugated, enslaved and controlled Nature because they are “civilized” and they have to spread “civilization” to “lesser” parts of the world. Their God said so. In the mid 1800s, David Livingstone, a missionary from Europe, came to Africa to convince people to worship his God instead of theirs. He promised the chiefs that he would abolish slavery and was therefore given privileges. 20 out of the 25 “servants” who helped him “discover” the falls, died while protecting him from wildlife and other perils of Nature (abolish what again?). Little by little, the sacred river became a resource to be exploited. When the British wanted to build a bridge across the Zambezi river to facilitate their trade routes, the chiefs reluctantly agreed. The construction started on both sides and when it was time to join the 2 pieces, the heat of the day expanded the metal and there was a 2.5 cm overlap. The chiefs took it as a sign of Nyami Nyami anger and wanted to abolish the project. The engineers, knowing that the coolness of the night would shrink the metal, asked for a 24 hour grace period. They worked around the clock and when the chiefs saw that the pieces fit together perfectly, they took it as a sign of approval from their gods. Now Zambia is mostly Christian, the Zambezi river is getting polluted, the sacred Nyami Nyami pool is now Devil’s pool and Mosi-oa-Tunya is known as Victoria Falls.
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2 thoughts on “The Smoke that Thunders”
Africa is full of colonial history. It is shaped by colonialism.
How tragic! I’m very sad to hear this, though it is parallel to many other stories about how indigenous people have been treated.