Amelia Giles grew up in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, and lived there for most of her early life. She moved to South Africa in her late thirties and to America in her late sixties, where she lives today.
“The Nyami Nyami is Zimbabwe’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, and he’s a river God who is believed to inhabit the deep waters of the mighty Zambezi and, um, at the foot of Victoria falls and lake Kariba, which obviously was dammed for hydroelectric power, and this mythical god-spirit has the head of a crocodile and the body of a snake, and he was dead against anybody, um, building lake Kariba, because he felt that he was separated from his lady-love who was a similar reptile, and who was believed to have been left on the other side of the river. So, anyway, he just swears that eventually lake Kariba is going to collapse and he’ll be reunited with his love, and um… also the Zambezi river is Africa’s fourth largest river, and even today, um, as a display of solidarity, you can buy the Nyami Nyami necklace at the foot of Victoria falls, and people buy it and they wear it, and hope it will protect them from it’s wrath, and, um it’s said because he’s supposed to control all the fish in the water and whatever happens in the water. And, so that’s the story of Nyami Nyami, and um, it was obviously… the Tonga people believe strongly in the Nyami Nyami, and somehow they’ve managed to get that belief to come through to even the generation of today. When people, when they go to Victoria Falls they seem to believe the story, and that stories been going through at least three generations. And so that’s the story of Nyami Nyami, and whether he ever breaks through lake Kariba and reunites with his lady love, we just wait to see what happens.”
Informant’s Background Knowledge and Relationship with this Piece:
Amelia remembers hearing this story throughout her childhood, but only paid attention to it and started to believe the legend when she visited Victoria falls for the first time in her late teens. She knows that Nyami Nyami merchandise is commonly sold around Victoria Falls, and that his legend is widely known and believed in across Zimbabwe.
Thoughts About the Piece:
I think it’s interesting that Nyami Nyami is viewed as a wrathful God, who only appeared in the last few generations. I also think it’s interesting that a God is so strongly associated with a modern, man-made structure.