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THE LEGEND OF NYAMI NYAMI

One of the most powerful gods, Nyami Nyami is also one of the most mysterious. Known as the 'Zambezi Snake Spirit', Nyami Nyami is usually portrayed as a dragon-like creature with the body of a snake.

 

Legend has it that Nyami Nyami and his wife, the goddess of the underworld, once lived in the Kariba Gorge. During this idyllic time, the people of the river lived in isolation and had little or no contact with the world outside. However, by the 1940s the grasp of colonialism was extending to unexplored terrains and by 1956 the construction of the Kariba Dam had begun.

 

This disturbed the harmony of the river irrevocably and Nyami Nyami was deeply offended by the construction and the dam wall that forcibly separated him from his wife. The subsequent floods and deaths were attributed to his vengeful wrath and once the dam was completed Nyami Nyami disappeared completely from the world of mortals…

 

While some stories have labeled this elemental as a river dragon similar in appearance to a whirlpool, all accounts agree that Nyami Nyami protects and sustains the Tsonga people. Giving sustenance during hard times, a talisman of Nyami Nyami is often worn as a lucky charm.When Nyami Nyami is angered, it is the role of tribal elders and spirit mediums to communicate on behalf of the inhabitants of the river. Not to be taken lightly, Nyami Nyami controls life in and around the Zambezi River.

RONALD MUCHATUTA / Nyami Nyami

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