Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana was a female spiritualist leader from Mashonaland and a key leader in the First Chimurenga uprisings against colonial settlers 1896-1897. Nehanda’s dying words, “My bones will rise again,” predicted the Second Chimurenga, which culminated in the independence of present-day Zimbabwe.
Nehanda was considered to be the female incarnation of the oracle spirit Nyamhika Nehanda. Nehanda’s heroism became a significant source of inspiration in the nationalist struggle for liberation in the 1960s and 1970s.Referred to as Mbuya Nehanda, she is commonly referred to as the grandmother of present-day Zimbabwe.
In the Shona society, it is believed that the spirits of the great-great ancestors of many generations past are still among the supernatural protectors. However among them were especially powerful and respected spirits, Midzimu Mikurukuru. Such great spirits were called mhondoro or lions. Spirits that overlooked the well-being of entire regions of different tribes are believed to reside in lions. These spirits were among the most powerful as they were responsible for giving advice to several tribes, ensuring peace among these tribes as well as presiding over rainmaking and other important ceremonies and rituals. At one time this spirit resided in Nyamhika, one of the daughters of Nyatsimba Mutota, who was given the name Nehanda at birth. Nyatsimba Mutota was the first leader of the Munhumutapa state.
Nehanda persuaded the Shona people to expel the British from the land, encouraging them to intensify the struggle and rallying them on. Using secret messages to communicate with each other, the mhondoro effectively coordinated their efforts.
After a putting up a long fight Nehanda was captured in December 1897. She was charged with murder—for the death of the Native Commissioner Pollard—and summarily sentenced to death by hanging. Nehanda’s dying words, “My bones will rise again,” predicted the Second Chimurenga, which culminated in the independence of present-day Zimbabwe.