The Story of NyamiNyami

Here is the story to be told about NyamiNyami, the river God. He has a body like a snake and a head like a fish and no one knows how big he is, for he never showed himself in full display. But he is very big!

The people of Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe were protected by NyamiNyami, their ancestral spirit (Mudzimu), who fed them from his own meat in times of hunger. The people pledged their allegiance to him by performing ceremonial dances.

For many years NyamiNyami and his wife stayed safely at Kariba, the spot which was their home and near that spot, that’s where it all began. One season when NyamiNyami’s wife had gone down the mighty Kariwa Gorge to other people of the Valley to answer their prayers and bless her people, the white man came to build a wall.

It took five long years to see it through because NyamiNyami did not want to be disturbed. He caused some floods and loss of life, but at last he was kind enough to let the wall to be all complete. It is also believed that the occasional earth tremor felt in the lake surroundings is caused by this spirit.

It was the work of the Tonga elders and their medium spirits to persuade the NyamiNyami to allow the Zambezi to be tamed. But Shame! NyamiNyami was separated from his wife.

Great bodies of water are considered sacred, for water is essential for the life of the village in an often arid land. Wherever there is water, the Africans find prosperity. The NyamiNyami is the ruler of water and his symbol is worn to ward of the forces of darkness and to attract wealth.

For kayakers, rafters and surfers, the metaphor extends to a wealth of perfect paddling, surf and the avoidance of injury from bad wipeouts.

Each part of the NyamiNyami walking stick represents something….



The Handle: represents “NyamiNyami” who the Tonga people believe is their spirit god (Mudzimu) and that the occasional earth tremor felt in the lake surroundings is caused by this spirit.

The Tree: is a Mopani tree which is found in the Zambezi Valley, the Spirals represent the waves on the Zambezi River, the fish is representative of the staple food of the Tonga people, who prior to the building of Kariba Dam, fished daily on the Zambezi River.

The Figures: represents people on the Zambezi River banks during their ceremonial dances.




The Wooden Rings: represents the bangles worn by the Tonga woman as a decoration during ceremonial dances.


The sign of the Hand: represents the holding of the “Magical Ball” used by the Tonga fortune tellers to guard against evil spirits.


Women’s Bubble Pipe (incelwa): is normally a long pipe made from a calabash and is used by the Tonga people for smoking tobacco. In the past these pipes where used for smoking “dagga” – Tonga tradition.