#WOTW: Nehanda Nyakasikana

Nehanda Nyakasikana, born 1840-1898, was one of the major spiritual leaders of African resistance to white rule during the late 19th century in what is now Zimbabwe. She was considered to be a medium of Nehanda, a female Shona mhondoro, who is a powerful and revered ancestral spirit. The British South Africa Company came searching for gold, they demanded requirements of forced labour and heavy taxation upon Mashonaland’s inhabitants, which spurred rebellion. Nehanda Charwe, along with the mediums of two other mhondoro—Mukwati in Matabeleland but especially Kagubi in western Mashonaland—found herself organizing and directing her people’s resistance to foreign assaults. Nehanda Charwe allowed herself to be taken into captivity to avoid further African bloodshed and deaths. Her trial opened in March 1898, and she was found guilty of having killed H.H. Pollard, a European commissioner who had become notorious for his cruelty. She was executed by hanging the next month. Nehanda Charwe refused to convert to Christianity and before she was hanged, Nehanda Charwe announced to the British that her body would rise again to lead the second, and this time victorious, struggle against them. Stories of her resistance efforts became legendary, and she was an inspiration to later nationalist movements in what is now Zimbabwe.

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