Nongqawuse

Nonkosi (L) & Nongqawuse (R)1856 was a bad year for the Xhosa nation of the Wild Coast. Their lands had been taken by the British, drought had withered their crops, and their prized cattle were dwindling under a mysterious disease. The people were facing a hard winter when hope came in the shape of a young girl called Nongqawuse, the niece of a prophet. Nongqawuse claimed that the spirits of the ancestors had spoken to her from a pool in the Gxara River. If the people would only kill all their cattle and burn their crops, a day would come when new cattle and crops would arise along with an army of the ancestors who would drive the whites into the sea. The "vision" took hold among the desperate people, who followed her orders. By February 1957 more than 200 000 cattle had been slaughtered and left to rot. All the summer crops had been burnt.

The allotted day dawned and nothing happened. The weakened population began to starve and within a few months more than a third of the entire Xhosa people had died of starvation and disease. It was easy for the British to take over the remnants of the tattered Xhosa kingdom and imprison the chiefs for their role in this ??genocide??. Nongqawuse was taken to Robben Island for her own safety but her people were broken.

The 1856 cattle killing has receded into legend and its tragic manifestation is Nongqawuse's pool, which can still be seen on guided tours from the resort of Qolora Mouth on the Strandloper Coast.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nongqawuse for more info.

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Comments

I think it is vey appropriate to do more research on the subject and tell the the tale as it is. Nongqawuse confessed to actually seeing the ancestors, something that is unheard of in our culture (ancestors communicate in dreams, visions and other such paranomal manners).... which further leads to the belief that it was a set-up to disarm the Xhosa and lose all they had.

The theory (which I firmly believe), the English settlers pretended to be ancestors and told Nongqawuse to command the people of this great sacrifise. After all, why would she be protected at the end of it all?

I appreciate your input, and my intuition supports your theory; but I didn't find anything accessible on the internet to support it at the time. It would help a lot if you could cite a credible source.

Most Xhosa / South African history that I have researched is tied up in jstor or other subscription-based archives. It is immensely frustrating. However, with a bit more googling around I came across a snippet which is here quoted without permission:

"Brown thinks so, and he quotes Robin Winks's concept of "vital lies," "opinions so deeply ingrained that they will be adhered to no matter the weight of opposing evidence." Yet, once one has broken through the initial reserve, one finds that the Xhosa people talk eagerly of Nongqawuse and frankly admit the shortcomings of their forefathers. "The Xhosa are a superstitious people," one old man said to me. "They died by Nongqawuse on account of their superstition." And then he proceeded to tell me how Sir George Grey tricked Nongqawuse with the help of a mirror. Grey's intervention does not in any way absolve the Xhosa of responsibility in the matter. Yet it is Grey's role which is crucial."

From "Suicide or Genocide? Xhosa Perceptions of the Nongqawuse Catastrophe" by Jeff Peires

http://books.google.com/books?id=Wo7pml64Y0IC&pg=PA36&lpg=PA36&dq=Nongqa...

Sounds likely to me... Never forget that history is written by the victors, not the vanquished.

-J

You are corret in your thinking. The Brits were very brutal. Their avaris knew no bounds.

THE ASHAMED SILENCE?

“Oh! Nongqawuse,
The girl of Mhlakaza
Who killed our Nation.

She told the People, she told them all,
that the dead will arise from their graves.
Bringing joy and bringing wealth.
But she was telling a lie.”

On our way to Port Elizabeth the other day, having driven through Port Alfred from Kei Mouth, I remembered having heard that Nongqawuse’s grave was situated somewhere nearby. At Kenton-on-Sea a deserted Information Office proved not too bad a starting point to enquire about the actual location of the grave-sight. I was about to leave, when on impulse, I asked two painters working in the passage if they could help me in my search. “Why do you want to find Nongqawuse's grave?” said the one man. “Because I come from Kei Mouth, very close to the Gxarha River where the whole story began, and I have heard that she was buried nearby,” was my reply.

The man descended from his ladder and began with, “You pass Bushmans River turnoff, and the Coloured Peoples’ Location on your right, and soon after that you take the road marked Cannon Rocks on your left, and then you will come to an intersection, don't take the left turn.”

I held up my hand in desperation to stop the stream of information, because I cannot remember the sequence of two consecutive instructions, much less twenty. A piece of cardboard with directions scribbled all over, saw me leave the still deserted Office Complex, and we headed off on a route which would have tested the skills of a professional rally navigator. Twenty minutes later we were hopelessly lost, travelling along a gravel road reminiscent of home. A nearby herdsman confirmed that we were on the right track and pointed to a distant farmhouse, explaining that we would find the grave there.

The next conversation with two men at the farm still leaves me squirming with embarrassment and shame at my own stupidity. A farm signpost marked Glenshaw, with a collection of houses, sheds and two stocky thickset men standing nearby, saw me introduce myself to them with the following words of wisdom: “Goeie more meneere, kan julle my asseblief help, ek soek Nongqawuse se begrafinnis.”

“Begrafinnis meneer?” was the pointed question. “Dit was lank gelede. Jy soek seker haar graf.”

What an absolute idiot I had made of myself. I had asked for directions to her funeral and not her grave? One of the gentlemen, sensing my embarrassment, took me to his charming old Mother who asked us to sign a visitor's book, before directing us to the actual grave-sight. Our host Mrs. Fick, interrupted her conversation with us by greeting my first contacts, Paul and Stephen, her two Consulting Engineer sons who were on there way to Port Elizabeth for a meeting. My embarrassment had by now reached a really low point. Here was a highly educated, erudite and sophisticated family, whom I had seen fit to approach in my fractured inadequate Afrikaans, in their own backyard.

There are numerous accounts of the story, recorded by distinguished writers and historians alike, with knowledge and insight into the catastrophic chain of events leading up to and after 3rd January 1857, the prophesised date which set the seal on the enormous tragedy which befell the Xhosa nation. I will attempt to relate the sequence of events, and add my own interpretation of the roles played by the two main characters. This is a dangerous tactic, but I feel compelled to expose myself, because the more I learn of the story, the more I feel that the emphasis and blame has been wrongly placed. The chain of events focused no more than three kilometres from Kei River Mouth as the crow flies, at the Gxarha, the first small river in the Transkei that forms a lagoon most of the time, breaking out, discharging into the sea and becoming tidal only after persistent rains.

My main character is Willem Goliath, his “white man's name,” or Mhlakaza as he was known to the Xhosa people. Mhlakaza was living in Grahamstown, obviously an intelligent man, who had learnt to speak Dutch fluently and was baptised into the Methodist church. He had remained, whilst all around him the warring Xhosas were being driven ever eastwards during a series of encounters, stretching eventually over a period of one hundred yeas by the British juggernaut. Bloody battles occurred on a regular basis, the most famous of which was the 8th Frontier War. This lead to the eventual capture of the Xhosa strongholds in the Amathole mountains, when they were again driven Eastwards, away from the steep forested terrain, and eventually back across the Kei River.

Anglican Archdeacon Nathaniel James Merriman, newly arrived from England, was looking for a suitable man, one who could perform the dual role of gardener and interpreter. Mhlakaza was recommended to him and he was duly employed. Merriman soon began his evangelising with long trips into the countryside in search of Xhosa settlements. As that was his style of meeting the people, his gardener accompanied him, to act out his secondary role as interpreter and companion during trips into the wilderness, whilst the preacher introduced them to the Christian messages.

The Xhosa language is extremely rich with its delicate differences in shades, colours, nuances, meanings and feelings. A saying among Xhosas claims that “Xhosa never ends,” and that statement could well be true. Interpreters can easily, and do become carried away in their interpretation of someone else's messages, especially if they begin to believe that it is their rhetoric that is actually being reacted to by the audiences, and not the original speaker. The more enthusiastic and loudly the audiences respond, the more carried away becomes the language and gesticulations of the interpreter. Archdeacon Merriman, fresh out from England would not have understood a single word, although he perhaps felt proud and gratified while receiving such immediate and enthusiastic responses from his audiences. As Mhlakaza became more practised in Merriman's routines, he hardly needed to follow the script, because he knew what to expect from them with each sentence and gesticulation. His judgement began to blur with time, and in his own mind Merriman's messages actually became his messages.

Complications arose when they returned home to Grahamstown. Mhlakaza was employed primarily as a gardener in the Merriman’s opinion, and was expected to continue with those menial tasks. Mrs. Merriman complained about his sulky aloof attitude, and laziness. She even complained that he was ignoring her. Mhlakaza, on the other hand had become an important Preacher man in his own mind, and mundane gardening tasks such as weeding, digging and watering were definitely beneath his new-found self-image, and dignity. In any event, he was being expected to do (woman’s work). He had only accepted the job in the first place because he was hungry. The status quo could not be maintained and Mhlakaza was dismissed.

It's not difficult to imagine that Mhlakaza left Grahamstown in an enraged and bewildered state of mind. His hatred of white people would have been fanned by the unfair arrogant way in which he had been treated and dismissed. His undoubted value to his employer in his primary roll as Interpreter/Preacher had been overlooked completely, and his dismissal resulted from an unimportant part of his duties, when he was actually expected to take instructions from a woman which was below a Xhosa man's dignity in those times.

History gives no accurate account of Mhlakaza's movements after his immediate departure from Grahamstown, but it is rumoured that during his long journey Eastwards he met up with a young niece orphaned during a battle in the Amathole Mountains. He established a kraal sight in the Transkei, near the Kobonqaba River above the shipwreck of the disintegrating Jacaranda.

There has always been confusion over the relationship between Mhlakaza and the young girl Nongqawuse. Even the opening poem speaks of her as his girl or child. Whilst I was in conversation with an elderly inhabitant of the area the other day he was insistent that Nongqawuse was Mhlakaza's daughter. He did admit however that it is custom to refer to an uncle as one’s small father who would then revert to the term father, if she was orphaned and had become part of her uncle's family.

Mhlakaza abandoned Merriman's Christian teachings, maybe because they were too gentle and polite for his manner, tainted also by his experiences with those devious white people, and he soon began practising the art of being a tribal doctor and prophet to his people. His ability to communicate and draw reactions from audiences caused his reputation to grow to such an extent, and so rapidly, that Sarhili his King used him as a Councillor in matters of importance. His strong character soon saw him dominating Council meetings and he began overshadowing longer serving members.

In 1856 King Sarhili paid Mhlakaza a visit. He explained that he was feeling very depressed, because nothing was going right for the Xhosa nation. The British had previously murdered his brother King Hintsa, and subsequently a string of military defeats, and the loss of great areas of land and livestock at the hands of the enemy, were making him believe that he was losing credibility amongst his subjects. The once all-powerful King was feeling vulnerable and insecure because his power base was slowly disintegrating.

Momentarily taken aback, Mhlakaza intimated that he would speak to his niece and prophesying medium Nongqawuse, and try to make contact that evening through her with the ancestral spirits, to try and find some answers to the King's problems.

Hypnosis, mass persuasion and rhetoric are recognised as a very real way of dominating and making subjects obey commands, even in so called sophisticated society. Nobody disputes those powers. History tells us that certain people were even able to convince whole nations to follow their teachings, no matter how evil or twisted they may have been. The recent past is no exception. From America to Africa, charismatic sect leaders have convinced their followers to obey their teachings without question, often culminating in many deaths. Hitler led the German Nation into a war that stretched over a six-year period killing millions of his own people, as well as those from many other nations. I believe Mhlakaza was such a person, who firstly manipulated his niece, and through her, the Xhosa King and his subjects, along a road of no return.

Nongqawuse is described by historians as; “a simple girl with a silly look, who paid no attention to her dress and appearance.” All very unlike a normal girl of fifteen or sixteen, who pays great attention to their appearance, dress and behaviour, in order to impress her peers and attract attention amongst the boys.

That same evening - he'd made sufficient time for himself to consider his plot and in the presence of an entranced Nongqawuse, Mhlakaza hinted to his King that the ancestors were beginning to speak of better things to come for the Xhosa nation. A more bountiful future and a time of resurrection ahead were hinted at, with great herds of cattle and filled grain pits. Sarhili slept much more peacefully that night than he had for a long time, and went away the next morning uplifted by Mhlakaza's wisdom and spiritual messages. Before he departed Sarhili assured Mhlakaza that he stood at the head of all his doctors and advisors.

Shortly after the King's visit Mhlakaza moved his residence about five kilometres Westwards above the Gxarha River estuary, again establishing a kraal sight. His fertile, twisted mind led him to the next development in his tragic deception of his King and the Xhosa people. As with modern day cults, the results of his actions led to deaths of people who followed his instructions without question. His messages were so compelling and full of hope that people did not want to challenge his judgement. As in his previous situation with Merriman, Mhlakaza actually believed that his prophecies would take place. The consequences of his actions led the Xhosa nation into chain of events where there was no turning back. Events built up there own tragic momentum, accelerating to a climax that caused more deaths by so called suicide, than any event of it's type in recorded history.

In April 1856 Nongqawuse and a friend were sent down to a maize field near the Gxarha River, to chase feeding birds away from ripening grain. That evening she reported to her uncle that two strange men had appeared, coming out from the reeds by the river, claiming that they were risen ancestors with a message for the Xhosa people. She reported the same story the next day, adding that the strangers had instructed her to bring Mhlakaza to the river on the following day. During the course of the next few weeks the story took shape, with many people believing that they had also heard lowing cattle and strange sounds coming from the direction of the river, and some had actually seen the strangers. Visions were also conjured up from a pool in the upper reaches and strange appearances were observed out to sea. The strangers’ instructions were very direct and simple to understand. In any event it would have been stupid not to obey them, because they promised a complete turn-around for the Xhosa Nation with prospects of a better life, a land filled with milk and honey, culminating in the disappearance of the dreaded white people.

“Slaughter all your cattle - and feast upon them. Make beer and consume all existing grain. Stop tilling, planting and cultivating your lands.”

“As a result of these actions - on a given day - Xhosa ancestors - all in good health - would arise from the ground - together with great herds of healthy fat cattle - grain pits would be filled to capacity - and all whites would be driven back into the sea from whence they had originally come.”

The news spread like wildfire. People came from near and far to seek proof of the messages and they were always accompanied down to the Gxarha River by Nongqawuse and Mhlakaza. Although the original strangers did not appear in person to visitors, many went away convinced by prophetess Nongqawuse that they had seen visions, and heard voices. The similarity between Nongqawuse and Merriman, and the manipulative role played by Mhlakaza between those two people is uncanny. His hatred of white people gained from first hand experience of their deviant ways, the Xhosa nation's troubles at the hands of the British backed up by the troubles of the King himself, were more than sufficient reason within the fertile breeding ground of his crafty brain to hatch the great deception, and subsequent tragic consequences that resulted from his actions.

Not all Xhosas believed the messages, although that did not stop the general slaughter and feasting. Eventually the movement's believers in many cases overwhelmed the unbelievers and their cattle were slaughtered for them, as they stood by helplessly, unable to resist the power and momentum of the masses.

The movement gained in strength throughout the winter, spring and summer of 1856. Lands were left unploughed, in any case there were no more oxen to till the soil, and grain pits were emptied. On the brink of starvation they waited with great expectancy for the prophesised great day to dawn.

“D-Day” was named by Nongqawuse as 3rd January, 1857. The day dawned with the whole nation waiting expectantly for signs of the great uprising - and nothing happened. At first Mhlakaza told the people to be patient because there might have been a miscalculation and things could take place on the following day or maybe the day thereafter. During the period of confusion and final realisation that the world was not going to change overnight, Mhlakaza and his niece disappeared from Gxarha village, never to return again.

Disappointment turned to apathy, hopelessness and resignation as people finally realised how serious their situation was. They searched and scavenged for anything to eat. Wild berries, edible roots and thorn tree gum, were collected from the countryside and eaten. The end result was catastrophic. Mass starvation and malnutrition quickly set in and whole families, too weak to fend for themselves, died in their homes. The very old and the very young were the first to die, followed thereafter by others who had become too weak and dispirited to carry on. Many thousands poured across the Kei River into British Kaffraria, begging for food from those who could help, but the sheer numbers made the situation virtually impossible to handle. Footpaths leading to, and even the streets of Kingwilliamstown were littered with corpses of people who died along the way in their desperate search for anything to eat.

The authorities in Kingwilliamstown offered three to five year contracts to starving families and many were quickly dispersed as far away as the Western Cape where they were employed in near slave like conditions.

A petition sent to the Commander in Chief of Her Majesty's colony, signed by 308 inhabitants of the Uitenhage district, spoke of a large body of displaced Natives that had been allowed to settle during 1859 in that area of the Colony. It complained bitterly that no good government or controls had been established to administer such large numbers, resulting in many problems for the community. “They had been allowed to retail and practise all their native and heathen customs and laws, among which the petitioners particularly noticed the selling and buying of women, and the shameless exposure of the persons of men, and many other customs too disgusting to mention.” Stock theft and farm murders were rife and farmers were getting into trouble with the law when they retaliated.

Mrs Fick speaks of fugitives arriving in the Alexandria District, and the Fick family cooking large three legged black pots, full of whole mealies over open fires, trying to stave off starvation. To this day they are called the “Pekinkobe Family” by local people, or “The Cookers of dry Mealies.”

No accurate statistics exist, but starvation malnutrition and disease accounted for between 40,000 and 50,000 deaths amongst the Xhosas, with as many as 150,000 being displaced from their desolated homes.

I should earlier have mentioned another important fact, which contributed to, and compounded the Xhosa nation's woes. In 1850 a number of Friesland bulls were imported from Holland, and with those animals came lung-sickness. A general outbreak saw cattle slowly losing condition as foam and mucus streamed from their mouths and nostrils, and thousands died, or were slaughtered, to put them out of their misery. That slow debilitating and incurable disease had a profound impact on the Xhosas who believed it had been intentionally introduced by white people to kill off their beloved cattle, and by so doing further humiliate them.

The bond between Xhosas and their cattle was always, and still is extremely powerful. Cattle represented tangible proof of wealth for everyone to see. Those walking bank balances played a pivotal role in almost everything they did, including spiritual slaughter feasts and celebrations, bartering for brides, ploughing and planting, sleigh pulling, daily milk supply and as ordinary currency for goods and services, especially when they were faced with sudden unexpected costs. Even their hides were put to use in manufacturing strops, riems and shields

Accumulation of this wealth did not take normal current business practises or logic into account, but rather like “Scrooge”, the bigger the numbers, the more the owners wanted. Numbers built up to the point where nature had to intervene. Protracted droughts, overgrazing and disease evened out the numbers and years and years of sacrifice and saving came to nothing. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Lung-sickness combined with Mhlakaza's message to slaughter what animals were still left devastated the Xhosa people.

A combination of lung-sickness and wholesale slaughtering and feasting resulted in the loss of an estimated 400,000 cattle. I repeat a part of John Crouch's cynical letter to Sir George Grey in October, 1857, when he reported that Sarhili, who had once possessed more than 6,000 cattle of his own, was sharing the milk of seven cows with his brothers and sixty women and children. It was all he had. “You may guess he is hard up, for I know for certain there have been two horses eaten at Sarhili's place.” What made the message even more cynical was that eating horsemeat is taboo amongst Xhosa people, although some other African people have no problem with that practise.

Nobody really knows what happened to Mhlakaza. The story goes that his body was found washed up amongst the rocks near the Kei River mouth. Whether he drowned after being washed from the rocks whilst trying to gather shell food, died of starvation, or drowned himself, is a matter of pure conjecture. Nongqawuse on the other hand was later “captured” by the British authorities and from 9th April 1858, housed at Fort Murray near Kingwilliamstown, where their curiosity led them to try and piece her story together. Eventually they realised that she was unable to provide any accurate account of events because her confused mind wandered and statements made previously were denied soon thereafter. A stay on Robben Island where she had been sent for her own safekeeping was followed by repatriation to a farm in the Alexandria District. A sojourn in Port Elizabeth found her fleeing back to Alexandria because her life was in danger.

Nongqawuse’s grave lies amongst the neat pastures and flat rolling hills on the Fick's property, Glenshaw. They have preserved a small coppice with indigenous trees and shrubs, leaving it looking like a piece of State Forrest where she was originally buried. A large ironstone boulder and bronze plaque erected by an historical society stands at the head of a small mound of earth marking her grave. She died in 1897 aged about fifty-six years, and her two daughters are buried on either side of her grave.

Although this is a highly sensitive and perhaps embarrassing subject amongst Xhosa people, I say, “build a Monument at the Gxarha,” and their reply will surely be – “what on earth for? It's a place of shame for the Xhosa nation” They don't openly talk about the tragedy, although everyone seems to be acutely aware that terrible things emanated from there. There's even a theory that Mhlakaza was sent by the British to implement the tragic deception. The history of conflict between the British and Xhosas has been well documented for all to read. Conflict was inevitable because the British saw themselves as world conquerors, with an Empire stretching around the globe, ‘where the sun never set.’ They were determined during those times to stamp their authority on this part of our country with their military might, language, culture, religion and colonisation, using arrogance and deception to attain their goals. This area was only a small part of their drive to conquer and subdue many nations and territories around the world. Let us not forget that Britain fought the Boers on South African soil long after the frontier wars had taken place.

Pitted against them were the Xhosas, fiercely independent people with their own well structured society, their own language, culture and religion, all revolving around their powerful Kings, Chiefs and specialist Priest Diviners. Conflict was inevitable and the Xhosas faced insurmountable odds and superior weapons. They also used deception to try and defeat the British and regain their lost land. In many instances individual farmers and traders bore the brunt of their aggression.

From the depths of despair, hopelessness and shame of 1857/1858, the Xhosa people need to build a monument to remind themselves of their proud identity, also in celebration of their resilience and fortitude. The Afrikaners did just that, and so did the offspring of the 1820 British Settlers. They need to come to grips with a renewed spiritual identity. Their remarkable recent political triumphs and the awesome responsibility of ruling the most diverse country on earth needs to be coupled with a recognition of their difficult past. A monument designed and financed with British assistance would surely help to heal deep seated past wounds, because they were the original cause of incalculable hardship and sacrifice, suffered on both sides of the spectrum. My Great Grandfather's business and homes were burnt out twice, and my Grandfather and his brothers suffered the same hardship on another occasion. The truth is that everyone who lived here made sacrifices during that turbulent era.
The time for deception, senseless violence, judgement of the past and racism must not be left simmering in people's minds, because we all need to rebuild and go forward in this unique country. The noble spirit of “Ubuntu”, still so prevalent amongst Xhosa people, needs to come forward and dominate, because that alone will defeat the cancerous, destructive power of “Umona.”

I am acutely aware that my suggestion will raise many eyebrows, sounding something like The Truth and Reconciliation hearings, or trying to dredge up the past. My problem lies right there. The past has not been forgotten and I believe that many aspects of history are being repeated today. Hatred, and there's nothing more destructive to the human spirit, has simmered over more than two centuries between the races. The blame is currently being placed on the last fifty years - and apartheid. Everyone should know that my British ancestors were the cause of long bitter conflict, when they decided to conquer and usurp territory occupied by the Xhosa people, driving them ever Eastwards, and apartheid was a progression and refinement of those policies.

It all boils down to which viewpoint different people ascribed to. It is interesting to note that resident Missionaries, during the turbulent years of conflict, were despised by the Military, because they tended to report back to England in a different vein from military reports, and were judged as troublemakers. Heated debates in Parliament bore witness to those differences, and conflicting reports appeared regularly in the British press.

One should be disturbed to think that the Xhosas beheaded British soldiers, taking their heads back to their King as trophies. However it was all-out war, with no holds barred on either side. Sir George Grey, Governor and High Commissioner made it part of his strategy to undermine and destroy the power of Xhosa Chiefs in a more subtle, insidious way. Robben Island was used then, for the same reason as it was in the recent past, when Chiefs were banished for long periods. Grey displayed inhumanity and devious behaviour in a different sense.

Chiefs, summonsed to meetings with him, were expected to grovel on their knees, and kiss his feet in a supposed demonstration of their subservience to British authority. Imagine the bitter hatred that engendered amongst those proud people. Today, I thank my lucky stars as I go about my daily life, often in contact with Xhosa People, when I am treated with far more dignity, understanding and compassion than I perhaps deserve.

Surely, in this so-called enlightened age, we should learn more from the past, and those lessons must be used to build a better future for everyone. How dare we be smug and critical of the consequences of Mhlakaza and Nongqawuse's actions nearly one hundred and fifty years ago when, right now, Aids is taking a toll on human life that will make those casualties, although covering a much more limited area than today, pale into insignificance. A hundred times more so to date, if one looks at current statistics and we are still ignoring the consequences of our actions.

(Historical data on the so-called cattle killing movement is taken from Professor J.B. Peires’s book, “The Dead Will Arise”.)

Extracted from the book: - “The Absolute Border” by Alan Jefferies (Kei Mouth 043 – 8411023)

I agree with the previous comment. That was the plan of the colonialists. If you look carefully, the same thing still happens even now. Look at how much the so called mainstream markets (African people) are being researched and look at the products and brands that are being pushed into those markets. The majorities of the Africans; because of the way things are, they have to wake up early to go and 'slave' (work) for white people (that own almost all the wealth of the country 79%) only to come back and spend the same "peanuts" they earned on products and brands that they don't even need - brands and products that are relentlessly being pushed (indirectly enforced) upon them. How does this (Nongqawuse) work these days? Through creating needs that do not exist, certain lifestyles through advertising, giving some experiences through brand activations and promotional specials. For instance, there are more brands marketed to Africans than whites; how do you think Africans end up with more buying power/support that white people that have 79% of wealth in their hands as opposed to 9 that Africans have?

Nice read. I am more interested in Nkonki family who refused to kill their cows. Nkonki family is successful even today. I believe the Nongqawuse story will never be balanced if this family is not mentioned.

Please share more about the Nkonki family, Lwandiso. I am very interested to hear more...

Good Day to you I recently stumbled on the "Red Desert" stretch of land in the Banners Rest area close to Port Edward. I am trying to obtain more information on the arheological finds of the SAN People, in the area. I wonder if someone could point me in the right direction, or provide more info on the Red Desert historical data as well. Thanks debs

Hi thanks for this information. From which book did you get this quote from?

“Oh! Nongqawuse,
The girl of Mhlakaza
Who killed our Nation.

She told the People, she told them all,
that the dead will arise from their graves.
Bringing joy and bringing wealth.
But she was telling a lie.”

I'm planning to use the quote as an allusion in my major work and need it for referencing. You help is much appreciated.

I heard from some of the Nkonki family members. I wanted to verify it as well. Professor Nkonki who was my father's best friend would also tell us about the story.

Lwandiso, Morgan, and especially Allan:

I think it's vital to explore any family ties' historical information. We're already 4 or more generations away from the truth, and the last generation with any directly attributable hearsay is not here for long. My gut feeling is (and sorry if this is offensive) the influence was not so much from Nongqawuse, but from Mhlakaza. How could a young girl carry so much influence? Especially as, seemingly, nothing is known of her reputation or past doings?

An older man, perhaps in the sway of British bribes, however... seems more likely than fooling a young girl with smoke and mirrors.

Who really knows?

I think this is one of the most significant information for me.
And i'm glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things, The site style is ideal, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

Interesting indeed and greetings to all. I have to agree with Jeff on this one and further assert that it is quite important to study, understand and acknowledge history in order to effectively address the challenges of the present while proactively crafting the future of our nation. May I also add that I am one of those who believe that the origins of Nongqawuse's so called prophecy cannot be divorced from the British's efforts to defeat the resilient Xhosa Kings.

In saying the above I am driven by the realisation that while over time we have arrived at a point where we can say we have an agreed collective definition of ourselves as the South African nation, as it was during the historic times of Dr William Dunlop and Sarah Baartman, Mhlakaza, Nongqawuse and Sir George Grey and that of the Great King Hintsa, Sir Benjamin D'Urban and General Harry Smith, the competing interests of the various colours of us who make up our beloved Rainbow Nation are just as much an influence on our daily interaction with each other as they were back then.

As a middle-aged black South African, perhaps going through similar motions as Alan, I find myself confronted by this strong need to consider my cumulative experience and the historical accounts preceding my individual existence that identify uMshwai as an African by origin and a South African by birth. I am sad to say that the picture that culminates out of this exercise is not an inspiring one. I certainly do not feel any less subjugated, humiliated and dehumanised living in the so called constitutional democracy than I imagine I would have felt in those historical times.

Emotional as I think I am justified to be today, I also have to wonder if things will really be better tomorrow or that I could just be fooling myself. This as the sound of the infamous words of PW Botha justifying the Apartheid policy in the not so distant past start to reluctantly fade in my head, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the person of FW De Klerk comes out to amplify the same in 2012!

I have to wonder if there is realistic hope for the kind of South Africa that the Freedom Charter envisaged or was it all just a pipe dream of the subjugated African majority? A pipe dream, perhaps that being the inferior race that we ought to know we are, we were not even justified to dream in the first place.

I hope we can start as South Africans of all races, on genuine course to reconciliation as opposed to the slippery path we are currently on, which unfortunately is once again very much seems to feed on an a dehumanising and delegitimizing South Easterly political strategy emanating from bottom most tip of our continent. How unfortunate!

What is worrying about the history of the frontier wars are the numerous gaps in the narratives that attempt to give an account of what transpired between the British and amaXhosa:

I will start with the cattle killing then pose a number of questions in relation to other notable historical perspectives.

Noqgawuse claimed that she saw a strange man in the corn fields - remember during this era Xhosa mythology and spiritual beliefs would not have dismissed a claim of this nature. One must also note that the account of strange voices conveying a prophecy are mostly connected to Noqgawuse and nothing is said about Nonkosi in most accounts. The reason for this is clear - Nonkosi saw mouths relaying the same prophecy in a dam - one can assume that some people submerged themselves in the water and only their voices could be heard speaking and conveying the cattle killing prophecy. The important question in this narrative is - Who were good swimmers such that they could pull up a stunt like this? It is certainly the British. Remember an order was issued from Graham's Town that amaXhosa must be exterminated after the British were defeated at Fort Amstrong in 1850 by an alliance of Khoi and Xhosa warriors. When the British soldiers were marching to reclaim the fort they marched under a flag that had the following words written on it - " EXTERMINATED"

The way the history of the Frontier Wars (100 year war) is written by mostly South Africans leaves one with more questions than answers:
1. The area between the Fish and Kei Rivers is small why did it take 100 years to subjugate amaXhosa if it was that easy to do according to South African historical Society propaganda?
2. Why the British built so many military forts if subjugating amaXhosa was easy? The British built 44 identifiable forts, however, delabidated most of them, and 36 fortified posts and other military posts - when one comes accross facts like these - there are obviously questions that are left not adequately answered.

3. After the eighth Frontier war why did the British decide not to advance beyond Butterworth but to retreat and consolidate the hard won Frontier at the same time negotiating to offer a qualified vote to amaXhosa? (until 1910) Why did they bother to negotiate with broken and defeated Xhosas? A person like me, when reading about the history of how the Great House of Phalo conducted itself against the British, one is left wanting to dig in deeply because the content of most narratives tends to raise more questions than answers. That is the tragedy of how the story of such a protracted military encounter between amaXhosa and the British has been misrepresented. I am not a descendant or subject of the House of Phalo, but I am in awe of how they conducted themselves. They were not keen on fighting and went to war as a last resort that says a lot about the type of people they are.

4. The letters that were written by Sir Harry Smith acknowledge the Brilliance of the Xhosa leadership, intelligence of their subjects and their adherence to democratic practises - one can assume that it is the way Xhosa royalty conducted Imbizos (informal 'parliament'). The title of a book written by Robert Suresh on Thabo Mbeki is borrowed from an archival find of some contents of Sir Harry Smith's letters,titled - "Fit to govern: the native intelligence of Thabo Mbeki"

Hi Debbie

I am an archaeology intern at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. I have not visited the "Red Desert", but I have come across literature on the region during my studies. I have also undertaken archaeological surveys of the southern Transkei Coast. From what I know, most of the stone artifacts from the "Red Desert" actually predate the Khoesan period. Many date to the Middle Stone Age (250 000- 25 000 ya) while others date to the Acheulean period (1.5 million- 250 000 ya). The Transkei coast is particularly rich in archaeological material, but is unfortunately a very understudied region. I have published articles on Transkei archaeology in the past. If you are interested, You can find them in past issues of the Digging Stick, a publication of the SA Archaeological Society.

Regards
G. Angelbeck

I am not sure that I can help the person who once hinted me by this event was my late father whose education didn't go that far - We are the Matini's of Mntlane clan from Centane where this tragedy took place .His great grandfather was of Nkonki family ( He said he was Martin Nkonki )who he said they refused to slaughter their cattle - To cut the story short he fled from Qolora village and he established himself about 20-30 kilomters in a village of Amaqaba called Gcina along Mazeppa Bay . People of that village couldn't proniunce Martin properly , we ended up being Matini .Nantso into endayiva ngexhego lam laseMantlaneni ukuba ooNkonki aba , yayingaMantlane.

The story of Nongqawuse did not take place in the Wild Coast near a Gxarha river. This may be "Trans-Kei" story but not a real Nongqawuse story.

Nonngqawuse's grave, the daughter of uMhlakaza is in Alexandria. I was born in this small town, so are my parents and my great-great parents. My father, a respected member of the Xhosa Community (born in 1918) related to me and my siblings the story of uNongqawuse as his father did. This is a tradition to keep record of our history, tradition and culture - to know who we are as Africans.

I find it distasteful that such deep and important history about our ancestry is so carelessly misrepresented and dislocated.

Nondi