The Ngoni Migration
The Ngoni migrated from South Africa to Tanzania between 1820 and 1840
.In twenty years they travelled over a thousand miles.The migration was called the Mfecane.
This means the "great scattering
".Not much was written about the Mfecane. What we know is from the diaries of missionaries and travellers from Europe, and from the stories passed down from generation to generation.
(1) Shaka and the Zulu Wars
It all started with troubles in South Africa. They began at the start of the 19th century, around 1800
. At this time the Zulu kingdom was led by a powerful warrior
(or Tchaka). The Zulus became rich and defeated many other tribes. The different Zulu tribes were called the Nguni
. In 1818
the Nguni started to fight among themselves for land and power. Different people wanted to be in charge. It led to the Zulu Wars. They fought each other for power. The ones that lost the the battles were forced to leave the Zulu lands. This was the start of a long migration to find somewhere else to live.
was one of the defeated leaders. He fled north after his defeat in 1819
. Zwangendaba's followers started to use the nameNgoni.
Over the next 20 years they had to find ways to survive. How could they get food to eat? One way was to steal food and cattle from villages they came across. They killed people who tried to stop them. As you can imagine, they were disliked by the tribes they stole from. None of the other tribes wanted the Ngoni to live near them, so they forced them away. Each time the Ngoni were pushed further and further north. Until, eventually, they reached Southern Tanzania.
(3) Ngoni Fighting Methods
As they moved north they came into conflict. They fought the other groups who were living on the lands they crossed. Because they knew Zulu fighting methods the Ngoni could usually defeat groups that opposed them. The Zulu warriors were well trained
. They planned
how they were going to fight their battles. Their trick was to try and surround their enemy
. They went forward to battle in a horn formation
and closed around their enemy. They used assegais,
which were short stabbing spears and they were trained in man-to-man fighting
. Most other tribes used throwing spears. Often the Ngoni would make a mock charge
, get their opponents to throw their spears and then stab them with their assegais. After the battles they would force the young men to join their army and take young girls for wives. Other people, including the old people, were often killed.
The Ngoni specialised in fighting. That was all they knew. They could not produce their own food. They had to keep moving to find new villages they could plunder
. In 1835
they crossed the Zambezi River. They were becoming tired of battles. Around 1842
, they settled in the region between Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika. The king of the Fipa people
, who lived in that area, made peace with the Ngoni. This saved his kingdom from being destroyed. Zwangendaba built his own capital called Mapupo
, which means "dreams". For two more years they raided neighbouring people, the Sukuma and Msafwa, to get food and cattle. Then they settled down with their animals and families, and started to grow crops.
(4) Break up of the Ngoni
in Mapupo in 1845
. He was buried in an ox hide at Chapota, near the Nyinaluzi River. He fled
from the Zulu Wars in South Africa. But he spent the rest of his life fighting other tribes for survival. He was a great warrior and leader. He is still considered to be the father of the Ngoni
.After Zwangendaba's death his family fought over who should succeed him. His group divided in two. Then each of these groups split up. In the end there were 5 separate groups. Three went back to cattle raiding, in Malawi and Zambia. Two groups went north as far as Lake Victoria. There they found Arabs who were taking local people as slaves. The Ngoni sold some of the people they captured to the slave traders.Other groups learned the fighting methods of the Ngoni, and started to defeat them. Many Ngoni moved back to Southern Tanzania. Others were either killed or settled down to live with local people.Another Ngoni group, called the Maseko, reached Songea in Southern Tanzania from the eastern side of Lake Malawi. There they settled and intermarried with the local people called the Yao.
(5) Effects of the Ngoni migration and the Mkecane
The Ngoni migration and mfecane caused trouble for 20 years, in central and east Africa. Thousands of people were killed by the Ngoni. Villages were destroyed and people were forced offtheir land. Many of them starved due to the lack of food. The main problem was that the Ngoni knew only one way of life and that was fighting. The only way they could feed themselves was to plunder and kill. They even sold many of the people they captured to slave traders. This caused more misery throughout East Africa.Eventually the groups the Ngoni fought banded together for protection. One of the Sangu chieftains, Mwakawangu, united the people to defeat the Ngoni invaders. This gave the Sangu control of the rich, farming area of the Southern Highlands. Other groups also realised that they had to be strong to protect their livelihoods.At the end of the 19th century
, Germany colonised Tanganyika. The Ngoni were one of the groups that fought hard against the Germans. But in 1907
all the Ngoni chiefs were hanged for fighting. Today the Ngoni have married into the tribes they conquered. It is now difficult to know who is Ngoni and who is not. But their traditions and way of life continue the Ngoni and the Zulu
Where the Ngoni live
The Wagoni are Bantu people. They live in south-west Tanzania.They live in over 100 villages around the town of Songea.
Their Zulu origins
The Wangoni have a strong story-telling tradition. Their elders tell stories about the tribe to the younger generation.They are called "Hearing Tales". They are repeated often so the young can learn the stories. They then pass them on to their children.This is how the history of the tribe is passed on from one generation to the next.According to these "Hearing Tales" the Ngoni believe that the tribe is related to the Zulu.Their stories tell of how they migrated to Tanzania from South Africa, from the area between Natal and Swaziland.There are 12 branches of the Ngoni tribe. Other groups are in Northern Malawi, Eastern Zambia, Southern Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
How the Ngoni are like the Zulu
The Ngoni in Southern Tanzania have a lot in common with other Ngoni groups and with the Zulu of South Africa.
Their villages have a similar design.
Ngoni villages are built around the cattle enclosure. This is called a kraal
. It is made from thorn bushes, to keep out wild animals. Cattle are the Ngoni's wealth. When they eat cow's meat they believe they are sharing with their dead ancestors.
The important buildings in a Ngoni village are the houses of the clan head, his chief wife
and the hut for the boys. In the boys' hut they are trained in the Ngoni traditions. They also learn to hunt.There is a separate area where the men of the village talk. The huts of other people are spread around the kraal. You can see from this that protecting the cattle is very important to the Ngoni. They also have some fields where they grow food crops. This settlement pattern is found in all the Ngoni groups as well as in traditional Zulu society. Below is a picture of the Ngoni men sitting inside the kraal
2. Customs and rituals.
As well as having similar settlements the Ngoni and the Zulu had similar customs and rituals.a. Girls had initiation ceremonies where they are given sex education, taught family planning and house management.b. Boys had similar circumcision ceremonies and they were taught to hunt, other skills, tribal beliefs and some were taught witchcraft.c. Both boys and girls were taught the arts of painting, modelling and crafts.d. The groups had similar traditional dances, which date back to their warrior past.
They share many common words in their languages.(But the languages of each group have merged with the languages of the people they live near, so they cannot any longer speak to each other in a common Ngoni language.)
4. Ngoni and Nguni
. The Zulu belong to a group of tribes that are called the "Nguni" in South Africa. This is a very similar name to Ngoni, and another reason why many Ngoni believe they are related to the Zulu.
Please Note: The way of life of the Ngoni in East Africa and the Zulu of South Africa are similar. They could be related to the Zulu. On the other hand, they may have just picked up their customs after being conquered by the Zulu.
Do you believe that the Ngoni are related to the Zulu? Explain why.
THE NGONI MIGRATION
The Zulu and the Mfecane
The Zulu peoples were an important tribe in South Africa in the late 18th century
(around 1790). They lived around the areas called Natal today. There were many small groups of Nguni,
which was the old name for the Zulu. The groups lived separately and were not organised under one leader.The Zulu were cattle herders but they also grew some crops. They came into contact with Portuguese farmers living in Mozambique. The Portuguese grew maize
, which they brought to Africa from the Americas. Maize was a good crop to grow, because it produced more food from the same area of land. The Zulu also started to grow maize. This gave them more food and allowed Zululand to support more people. The Zulu became better fed and stronger and their population increased greatly.
was the leader of one of the smaller Zulu chiefdoms. Because there was plenty of food he was able to have an army. The food for the warriors was provided by others. This allowed them to be a full-time army. They developed better weapons. One of these was the assegai
, a short stabbing spear. The assegai was feared by enemies. Using his well-trained warriors Shaka took over neighbouring lands.
The Tribute System
He force other tribes to pay him tributes
in exchange for protection. The tributes were gifts. They included cattle, furs, feathers, and carved wooden sculptures. He took control of all the precious metals
. At this time they were copper and brass. The metal was used to make wooden clubs stronger. It was also used for ornaments, like neck rings and armbands. The more of these you had, the greater your importance in the tribe.
Drought and Crop Failure
The problems for the Zulu started after 1800
. By then most of the good land was being used. As the population grew, the extra people had to fight for land in order to survive. Things were made worse by 10 years with much less rain. The period ofdrought
meant that crops failed. This led to food shortages
The Zulu Wars
The Zulu started to fight among themselves for land and water. This led to the Zulu Wars
from about 1815 to 1820
. Many people were killed and many others were forced off the land. The survivors had to move out of Zululand.
This led to the great migration called the Mfecane
, which meant the "great scattering
". The Mfecane lasted from 1815 to 1840
. The people could not move south, because the Dutch settlers
had lived there since the 17th century. They could not move east because Portuguese farmers
were there and there were also slave traders. So they moved north toward East Africa.
led the Ngoni group that made their way north as far as Southern Tanzania. This was what we now call the Ngoni migration.