Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle Killing

A collage of images created by Studio de Greef and Vanessa Chen for FHYA. It combines several images cited individually in this presentation.

Ibali lalenzwakazi selisaziwa kakulu emzin’ apa, nesiyikili esenzekyo ngokuteta kwayo. Ngenxa yokwaziwa kwebali eli selesuke ati elowo azityutelele eyake indawo ku Nongqause apa, asebenzise eyake ingqondo kweso sicwili, kungeko salelo. Wonke ofuna ukunyembenya into, okanye efuna ukutichita, uya eyitiye igama lokuba ngu Nongqause.

S.E.K. Mqhayi, 1912 1S.E.K Mqhayi, ‘U-Nongqause’, translated in Jeff Opland (ed.) Abantu Besizwe: Historical and Biographical Writings, 1902–1944 (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2009), 74.

Speaking with the shades

Nongqawuse was addressed by the ‘shades’, who conveyed to her the will of the ancestors. They gave instructions that amaXhosa were to kill their cattle and burn their crops.

The story of Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle Killing usually begins in April 1856 at the Gxarha River in what is now the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

According to most retellings, two girls named Nongqawuse and Nombanda arrived at the river after chasing birds from the fields.2William Wellington Gqoba, ‘Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause’, Isigidimi SamaXosa (Lovedale), 1 March and 2 April 1888. For translations of Gqoba’s text, see Helen Bradford and Msokoli Qotole, ‘Ingxoxo enkulu ngoNongqawuse (A Great Debate about Nongqawuse’s Era)’, Kronos Vol. 34, No.1 (November 2008), 66-105. Alternatively, see William Wellington Gqoba, ‘Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause (The motive for the Nongqawuse cattle killing)’, in Jeff Opland, Pamela Maseko and Wandile Kuse (eds.), William Wellington Gqoba, Isizwe Esinembali, Xhosa Histories and Poetry (1873-1888), (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015), 460-483 At the river they were approached by two people dressed in traditional Xhosa attire. The older of the two girls – Nongqawuse – recognised them as men who had recently died. While Nombanda could neither hear them speak nor see them, Nongqawuse was addressed by these ‘shades’, who conveyed to her the will of the ancestors.3Nongqawuse attested to Nombanda’s inability to see or hear the two men, shades, or ancestors in her deposition taken by Major John Cox Gawler. ‘Examination of the Kaffir Prophetess Nonqause before Major Gawler’,  27 April, GH 8/35 Schedule 69 of 1858 Enclosure 2, Western Cape Archives and Record Service, Cape Town.

They gave instructions that amaXhosa were to kill their cattle and burn their crops because they had been reared and grown by those who performed ubuthi . The people were to hide in their houses for eight days, waiting for the red sun.4Hence the title of Zakes Mda’s 2003 novel, Heart of Redness, centered on the cattle killing. Zakes Mda, Heart of Redness (New York: Picador, 2000). If they followed these instructions, fallen amaXhosa of previous wars would rise, coming across the ocean to defeat the Europeans who had invaded Xhosaland, and expel them into the sea.

This image was extensively adapted from a map published in Jeffrey Peires’ book The Dead Will Arise, published by Jonathan Ball Publishers. See J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 109.

The Scene of the Prophecies

Nongqawuse and Nombanda walked from their residence southward down the Gxarha river where they encountered two deceased amaXhosa who communicated to Nongqawuse the will of the ancestors.

There is no transcription of these instructions directly from Nongqawuse or Nombanda, even though they and various others were interrogated by colonial officials. The knowledge we have of the prophecy was collected by researchers like William Wellington Gqoba primarily from people who endured the cattle killing, and who described the circumstances and instructions of the prophecy afterwards. It is their understanding of the events that we use to look back at the circumstances of the prophecy. Their accounts, along with other kinds of research, allow us also to look at the events that followed the prophecy.

What did Nongqawuse do?

Nongqawuse first went to her uncle, Mhlakaza, to relay the information. Her parents had died some years before, during the preceding wars with European forces.

The historian, Jeff Peires, indicates that Mhlakaza was a Christian-influenced igqirha or itola with whom Nongqawuse served as an apprentice of sorts.5J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 61-69. Mhlakaza guided Nongqawuse through the events that ensued.

The young prophetess then went to tell her village of her experience but was met with disbelief and ridicule.6Gqoba, ‘Isizatu’. Gqoba in Opland et al, 462-3. Bradford and Qotole, ‘Ingxoxo’, 76.

She and Mhlakaza would not accept this. Using his political connections, Mhlakaza got word of the prophecy to Sarhili, paramount of amaGcaleka and highest-ranking leader among amaXhosa of the time.

Sarhili then instructed that a large delegation of amaXhosa notables should visit the prophetic pair to see what was going on.

Nongqawuse and Mhlakaza adopted a different strategy with this delegation. Rather than using only words as they had with the villagers, the pair led the delegation to the Gxarha river.

At the river Nongqawuse instructed them to drink the water from the river to prove that they were not performers of ubuti. At first the men were tentative. Eventually, Dilima, son of Phatho, who was the leader of amaGqunukhwebe, stooped down to drink from the river. AmaGqunukhwebe were a group who fell under the authority of the Gcaleka paramount, although many were of Khoi ancestry.

The others followed Dilima’s lead. Each drank and the group proceeded to the nearby beach. Some versions of the story assert that the men were thirsty and that it was they who asked to drink the river water.


When Nongqawuse led them to the river mouth in the dwindling light, the party observed what seemed to be figures coming across the ocean, amid the crashing sounds of waves and boulders. It was through these aural and visual experiences that many of the delegation came to believe the prophecy.

Kute kunjalo yati intombazana kanibekise amehlo enu elwandle. Bate bakuqwalasela emazeni olwandle kwanga kuko abantu okunene, kwanga kukonya nenkunzi zenkomo, kwa nenkabi, yasisibiba esimnyama esimane sibuyabuya, sade sabuyasemka sayakutshonela kwase lundini paya emazen olwandle, baqala bakolwa ke bonke abantu.7Gqoba, ‘Isizatu’

Then the girl said, ‘Cast your eyes upon the sea.’ When they gazed intently at the ocean waves, they seemed to see actual people, with bulls bellowing, and oxen, a shadowy concourse constantly moving in and out of sight, then disappearing under the towering ocean waves, and everyone then began to believe.8Gqoba in Opland et al, 462.

Once the sights and sounds had gripped the delegates, Nongqawuse gave her instructions. While there is no record of what she actually said, William Wellington Gqoba, who published the first isiXhosa history of the event, provides a version:

Ziti inkosi godukani niye kuxela zonke inkomo kungabiko nto niyifuyileyo, ukuze uvuko lukauleze. Maze ningalimi, yimbani izisele ezikulu ezitsha, niyakubona sezizele kukudla okutsha. Dimbazani nenninako eziseleni niye kukalahla. Yakani izindlu ezintsha, nenze nengcango ezininzi nizenze ngobuka, nize nizavalele ezindlwini, namhla ngovuko kuba kuyakuti ngosuku lwesibozo xa upumayo umzi omhle usiza nenkosi awo u Napakade into ka Sifubasabanzi, zonke izilo zehlabati nezemilambo, nenyoka, ziyakuba zizibadubadu kulo lonke ilizwe. Ukuze nisinde zenivale ngengcango ezininzi, niqamagele ukubopelela, nilahle bonke ubuti.9Gqoba, ‘Isizatu’.

The chiefs say go home and slaughter all your cattle leaving nothing that you have reared, to hasten the resurrection. Do not cultivate, dig large new storage pits, and you will see them filled with fresh food. Retrieve what is left in your cornpits and throw it away. Build new houses and make many doors from creepers, and shut yourselves up in your houses on the resurrection day, because on the eighth day when the resplendent nation emerges with its king Eternal son of Broadbreast, all the creatures of forest and stream, and snakes will roam the entire land. To protect yourselves, you must shut the many doors and bind them tight and cast aside all enchantments.10Gqoba in Opland et al, 464-5.

After meeting with Nongqawuse and Mhlakaza, Sarhili commanded that all those living under his authority were to follow the instructions of the ancestors. The killing of cattle and burning of crops began in April 1856. While the Nongqawuse stated that the dead would rise eight days after the sacrifices were made, the killings and burnings continued until June 1857.

Who dared defy the king?

While some did as the Nongqawuse instructed, many others did not.

Leaders like Sarhili, as well as Maqoma (amaNgqika second-in-command and older brother of Sandile), Mhala (chief of amaNdlambe) and Fadana (former regent of Thembuland) believed in and enforced the prophecy. Many other leaders did not believe it, like Sandile (chief and later king of amaNgqika) and his brother Anta.11Peires, The Dead Will Arise,17-20.

In some cases, houses were torn in two. For instance, amaGqunukhwebe were led by Phatho, who was a strong believer in the prophecy. However, his second-in-command, Kama, who had converted to Christianity, was an ardent non-believer who refused to conform to the commands of the prophecy.

Similarly, Maqoma’s Great Son (the eldest of his most senior wife), Namba, believed in the prophecy, while two of Maqoma’s younger sons, Kona and Ned, did not believe it. Sandile, who was Maqoma’s brother, did not follow the prophecy at first.

Sandile exemplifies the changing nature of attitudes towards the prophecy. He was younger than Maqoma but was his superior, serving as the leader of amaNgqika branch of the royal house. While he led amaNgqika in three wars during his leadership, at the time of the cattle killing he had a close relationship with Charles Brownlee, who was serving as the ‘Gaika’ (Ngqika) Commissioner at the time.12Sandile is a central and sympathetic figure throughout both Charles Brownlee, Reminiscences of Kaffir Life and History and other papers by the late Hon. Charles Brownlee, Gaika Commissioner, with a Brief Memoir by Mrs. Brownlee (Lovedale: Lovedale Mission Press, 1896) and John Aitkins Chalmers, Tiyo Soga: A Page of South African Mission Work (Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot, 1878)

The nation loves and is ready to die for me. The nation’s love leaves me lonely. The nation’s willingness to perish haunts me. To be loved by a nation – by crowds, means that no one enters your heart, rules, sympathises with, and understands it. I want to be loved by and to love one man. That is love, happiness and life. The love of crowds acts on one’s heart as water acts on an over-oiled body – leaving you dry and cold.

Nongqawuse speaking to an ‘Old Woman’ just after meeting with Kreli (Sarhili) and several other chiefs in the first scene of H.I.E. Dhlomo’s play, The Girl Who Killed to Save.13Tim Couzens and Nick Visser (eds.), The Collected Works of H.I.E. Dhlomo (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1985), 9.

During the early stages of the cattle killing, Sandile did not believe in the prophecy, refusing to follow the instructions.14Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 234. He only grudgingly followed the instructions of the prophecy very late into the event after some coaxing from Maqoma. But this was not the first time a close family member had tried to convince Sandile to comply with the prophecy. Prior to Maqoma’s intervention, Sandile’s mother, Sutu, had pleaded with him to follow the prophetic instructions in the hopes that she might be reunited with her deceased husband, King Ngqika.15Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 234.

Kuko nenye inkosi, ikwela kwihashe elingwevu, igama layo ngu Ngwevu, elinye ke ngu Satana. Wonk eke umntu ongazixelanga inkomo zake uyakuba ngoka Satana, akayi kububona ubungcwalisa beyetu inkosi u Napakade into ka Sifuba-sibanzi.16Gqoba, ‘Isizatu’.

There is another chief who rides a grey horse, whose name is Grey, otherwise known as Satan. All who have not slaughtered their cattle will belong to Satan, and will not see our sanctifying king Eternal son of Broadbreast.17Gqoba in Opland et al, 466-7.

Gqoba referring to Governor George Grey in his 1888 article. Translated by Jeff Opland (2015).

At this time, amaXhosa society was divided in two: amagogotya  (non-believers of the prophecy) and amathamba (believers of the prophecy). Of those who believed the prophecy, many only executed some of the instructions. Peires describes these partial followers as ‘soft believers’, while those who strictly followed the prophecy were categorised as ‘hard believers’.18J.B. Peires, ‘‘Soft’ Believers and ‘Hard’ Unbelievers in the Xhosa Cattle-Killing’, The Journal of African History, Vol. 27, No. 3 (1986), 443-461.

When antagonisms broke out between the groups of amagogotya and amathamba, it was sometimes argued by amathamba that the troubles faced by amaXhosa were because of those who did not follow the prophecy, or those who only partially followed the instructions.

Each blamed the other for the predicament amaXhosa found themselves in. This included the enormous loss of land and subsistence, particularly crops which were burned. There was also the loss of symbols of status and wealth, especially in the form of cattle, which provided meat and hide, but also performed a critical social role as bridewealth.

By June 1857, around 400 000 cattle had been slaughtered and 40 000 people had lost their lives in the direct aftermath of the cattle killing.  

Because of the food shortages that followed the cattle killing, raiding and theft became more commonplace. Many non-believers, like Soga (often referred to as ‘Old Soga’, who had converted to Christianity but served as a high-ranking councillor to Sandile), his son Tiyo (who at the time was in Britain but would return to the aftermath of the cattle killing), and Sandile, retreated further behind colonial lines, finding relative safety near prominent colonials like Brownlee.

Aid (particularly food) from colonials and missionaries alike were generally only afforded to those who were willing to submit to the political authority emanating from the Cape Colony capital at Cape Town. This meant that amaXhosa leaders had to give up much of their autonomy in order to ensure the survival of their people.

Hunting for ‘witches’

Let them kill me. Death is better than the pangs of uncertainty, than the misery of indecision. I help them because I honestly believe we shall get new cattle and grain, and that the dead shall arise. If somehow my doubts could be proved true, I would run now and tell the people that the whole prophecy is a lie, you hear – a lie. If only I knew the truth. 

Nongqawuse speaking to an ‘Old Woman’ in H.I.E. Dhlomo’s play The Girl Who Killed to Save.19Couzens and Visser (eds.), H.I.E. Dhlomo, 10.

In 1857, during these desperate times, Nongqawuse was apprehended by colonial forces and held by Major John Cox Gawler. It was at Fort Murray (in what is now the Buffalo City Municipality in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa) that the famous photograph of Nongqawuse and Nonkosi was taken.

Nongqawuse and Nonkosi

This photograph was taken by amateur photographer Michael Durney at the request of Major Gawler whose wife dressed the girls for the photograph. This photograph is housed at the National Library of South Africa in Cape Town in the Iconographic Collections in the Special Collections department.

This image was sourced from Wikimedia Commons where it is declared to be in the public domain. It was uploaded there on 10 June 2006. It is unclear where the image originates.

During this time Gawler took a deposition from Nongqawuse. Depositions were also taken from several others, including ‘Umgula’ (or, rather, Mgula), the brother of Nombanda. None of the depositions sought the true substance of the prophecy. Rather, questions were asked in the hopes of locating and arresting several prominent amaXhosa chiefs. Gawler asked Nongqawuse only three questions in the deposition:

Gawler: Do you know who the three men were, or where they came from, and how often did you see them?
Nongqawuse: I never saw the men before, nor do I know where they came from – I saw them often, but at intervals sometimes of several days.

Gawler: Did you really talk to them yourself or were you told to say you had?
Nongqawuse: I spoke to them myself.

Gawler: Do you know ‘Nombanda’ who lived near your kraal, and if so state all you know about her?
Nongqawuse: ‘Nombanda’ was sent for by the chiefs to bear witness to what I saw saying. Afterwards when I got ill she used to conduct the talking. She talked a great deal more than I did. The first day she went with me she could neither see the people nor hear them talk. I don’t know what the chiefs said to ‘Nombanda’ but she was told to be my witness.20‘Examination of the Kaffir Prophetess Nonqause before Major Gawler’, 27 April, GH 8/35 Schedule 69 of 1858 Enclosure 2, Western Cape Archives and Record Service, Cape Town

At the same time, the colonial authorities went on a hunt for certain chiefs who they believed to have propelled and popularised the prophecy among those under their authority. This included significant leaders like Maqoma, Anta, Kama, Mhala and Phatho. Some of these leaders, like Kama, were not actually followers of the prophecy, but were held accountable for the actions of their people.

Yayilishoba kwaloo nto,
Ukuqalekiswa kwesizwe sikaXhosa,
Kusuk’ umntw’ ebhinqile
Ath’ uthethile namanyange,
Uthethe naw’ ewabonile.
Azi babeye phi n’ abantu balo mhlaba?
Zaziye phi n’ izigwakumbesha?
Zaziye phi n’ izidwangube?
Bapephi n’ oogxalaba libanzi,
Ooxhentsa besombelelwa,
Bejonge kumaxhag’ eenkomo zabo?

The whole thing stank from the start,
a blight on this land of Xhosa,
for a woman to claim that the shades had addressed her,
that she’d met and conversed with them face to face!
Where were the thinkers in this land?
Where were the men of distinction?
Where were the nobles?
Where were the veterans?
Dancing to rhythmical clapping, besotted on cattle they mimed

Extract from D.L.P. Yali-Manisi’s isibongo entitled ‘Ingxaki eyasenzakalisayo’, which was orated in the car of Jeff Opland in December 1970.21D.L.P. Yali-Manisi, ‘Ingxaki eyasenzakalisayo (The problem that wrought our destruction)’, in Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko (eds.), Iimbali Zamanyange (Historical Poems), (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015), 204-213.

Many of the charges which they faced were trumped up. Phatho, for instance, was arrested for livestock theft. However, while he was in court, his brother apprehended the actual thieves, which caused the trial to fall through.22H Vigne-J Maclean, 3 October 1857, Letter, BK 83, National Library of South Africa, Cape Town. Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 252-4. Despite this, the colonial magistrate retried Phatho, which suggests that ‘justice’ and ‘truth’ were less important in the trials than the objective of removing high-ranking political figures from amaXhosa society. 

The chiefs, along with Nongqawuse, were imprisoned on Robben Island by late 1858. The chiefs were only released in 1869. Many took up arms against the colonials once they were released. It is uncertain when Nongqawuse was released.

Photograph of the chiefs and their wives imprisoned on Robben Island. The photograph was taken by the German photographer Gustav Fritsch. It was sourced from Robben Island Museum.

Bibliography

This Bibliography provides a list of resources on the cattle killing divided into six categories: 

  1. colonial documents, mostly located in archives 
  2. the works of the first published isiXhosa commentator on the cattle killing, W.W. Gqoba, and the debate which emanated from his contributions 
  3. academic studies 
  4. creative production including theatrical plays, novels and izibongo
  5. political rhetoric. Certain authors have works listed under multiple categories

This is an incomplete list. Public engagement would be much appreciated so that we can expand the list. Please send an email to 500yeararchive@gmail.com with your contributions.

Click here for the Bibliography

Credits:

Presentation prepared by Himal Ramji for FHYA in 2021. Produced by Vanessa Chen. Bibliographic support by Henry Fagan. ixiXhosa version by Lucia Gcingca. Editorial assistance from Carolyn Hamilton. Page designs by Studio de Greef. The image of Chief Maqoma was supplied by Robben Island Museum. The image for the end banner was provided by Amathole Museum, Qonce. Our presentations are archived here. If you wish to make a contribution, use this link.

Online from: 31 Mar 2022

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100 Years of War

The cattle killing occurred almost eight decades into a century of wars fought by amaXhosa against invading European forces. Historians usually refer to nine distinct wars, with the first beginning in 1779 and the last ending 1879.25John Laband, The Land Wars: The Dispossession of the Khoisan and AmaXhosa in the Cape Colony (Johannesburg: Penguin Random House, 2020). Eight of the wars had occurred by the time of the cattle killing.

 

This map is taken from the autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith. It depicts the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope in 1835. This later came to be known as the Cape Colony. The Great Kei River is located on the far western side of the map. Queen Adelaide’s Province was formerly amaXhosa territory. Albany was previously known as Suurveld. The area is now known as the Sarah Baartman District Municipality.

The first three wars were fought primarily between amaXhosa forces and Boer frontiersmen and were related to a tract of land known as the Zuurveld. The boundaries of the territory were the Bushman River to the west, and the Great Fish River to the east. Later, by 1835, it was renamed ‘Albany’ by the British. Today, the area is known as the Sarah Baartman District Municipality. This includes Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown.

During the wars, the area was of great strategic value, serving as a buffer between what would become the Cape Colony to the West and the amaXhosa territories of the East.

The initial conflict began in December 1779, when Boers who had settled in Zuurveld accused local amaXhosa of stealing their cattle. One such frontiersman – Adreaan Van Jaarsveld – retaliated by taking cattle from those he had accused of the theft, and drove them away from the area by July 1781.26Laband, Land Wars, 102.

The second war began in 1789 and lasted four years. AmaGqunukhwebe attempted to move back into Zuurveld, but were repelled by Boers who were supported by forces from amaNdlambe.27Laband, Land Wars, 108.

The third conflict began in January 1799 with a rebellion by amaXhosa against Boer authority in Zuurveld and the surrounding region. While the rebellion was suppressed at first, it was eventually supported by local Khoi forces. By February 1803, the Boers were forced to make peace with amaXhosa authorities and allowed them back into Zuurveld.28Laband, Land Wars, 124-139.

Seven years passed before the fourth war, by which time the British had arrived in the area. It was around this time that Zuurveld developed into a buffer zone between the Cape Colony (West) and amaXhosa territories (East). Around 1811, some amaXhosa began moving into the area, but were repelled by a colonial force under Colonel John Graham. After this, approximately 4 000 British settled near the Fish River, which eventually led to the establishment of Grahamstown around Colonel John Graham’s fort.29Laband, Land Wars, 140-152.

In 1818, new allegations of stolen cattle emerged, which soured relations between local amaXhosa and colonial settlers, British and Boer alike. To make matters worse, land controlled by amaXhosa had gradually been decreasing in size and so overcrowding was becoming an issue.

This resulted in a civil war between amaNgqika and amaGcaleka, with amaNgqika receiving military assistance from the colonials (as per agreements which had been reached after previous conflicts). It is also during this time that Makhanda (also known as Nxele, the Left-Handed) emerged as itola , who was believed to be able to turn bullets into water.30Julia C. Wells, The Return of Makhanda: Exploring the Legend (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2012). Makhanda and Mdushane (a son of Ndlambe) led a force of about 10 000 amaXhosa to attack Grahamstown, which held a garrison of only about 350 soldiers.31Laband, Land Wars, 161.

However, local Khoi forces aided the British settlers, and Makhanda lost close to 1000 of his soldiers. He was subsequently imprisoned on Robben Island. In the aftermath, the British and their African allies occupied the buffer zone, which became ‘Ceded Territories’. During this war, the Battle of Amalinde was fought between the amaNgqika and amaNdlambe. AmaNgqika were led by a young and inexperienced Maqoma, who lost the battle and about 500 soldiers.32Laband, Land Wars, 153-171.

The sixth war began in 1834 and lasted until 1836. From 1819 until 1834, amaXhosa territory shrank further and they were gradually losing their independence. Furthermore, the period marks the expansion of the Zulu Kingdom, and refugees and resistors of amaZulu (like amaFengu) were moving onto amaXhosa land.

On 11 December 1834, a Cape government commando killed chief of amaXhosa who was the brother of Maqoma, which led him to retaliate by attacking the frontier with great ferocity, killing many and destroying the homesteads of those who opposed him.

King Hinsta – paramount of amaGcaleka and father of Sarhili – was held responsible by the Cape government, who forced him to give up large tracts of land and weakened his political authority. This included the installation of colonial magistrates in amaXhosa territories.

At this time, Hintsa essentially became a hostage to the colonial authorities.33Laband, Land Wars, 205. See also Premesh Lalu, The Deaths of Hinsta. Postapartheid South Africa and the Shape of Recurring Pasts (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2009). He eventually attempted to flee but was shot in the back of the head. His ears were severed and his body mutilated.34J.B. Peires, The House of Phalo (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1981), 109. By the end of this war, approximately 7000 had lost their homes, and the British had begun arming their African allies like amaFengu.35Laband, Land Wars, 198-214.

The seventh war began in 1846 and is commonly referred to as the War of the Axe or the Amatola War.36Basil Alexander Le Cordeur and Christopher C. Saunders, The War of the Axe, 1847: Correspondence Between the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Henry Pottinger, and the Commander of the British Forces at the Cape, Sir George Berkeley, and Others (Brendthurst Press, 1981). On the one side, a force of newly-arrived British soldiers were allied with a mixture of Khoi, amaFengu and Boer fighters. This included ‘mixed race’ groups. On the other side were a combined force of amaNgqika, amaNdlambe and amaThembu groups. By this stage, amaXhosa forces were armed with guns, and both sides made use of ‘scorched earth’ tactics.37Laband, Land Wars, 226-244.

The eighth war, lasting from 1850 until 1853, preceded the cattle killing, and was the war in which Nongqawuse’s parents were killed. It is known as Mlanjeni’s War, named for itola who rose to inspire amaXhosa to attempt to take back the land they had lost.

This war also marks the arrival and departure of Lieutenant-General Harry Smith.38Keith Smith, Harry Smith’s Last Throw. The Eighth Frontier War. 1850-1853 (London: Frontline Books, 2012). While amaXhosa forces enjoyed victories initially, by 1851 the British had begun to gain the upper hand. Nevertheless, Smith was removed from his position at the head of the colonial forces in February 1852 and was replaced by the new Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, General George Cathcart. By February 1853, the warring chiefs, including Sandile, had surrendered. The war had resulted in a complete loss for amaXhosa of the Ciskei.39Laband, Land Wars, 255-280.

 

 

AmaXhosa land losses began in 1779. Sarhili’s territory shown here is as of 1866. By this time, the territories of many chiefs fell under colonial authority. The map provided here is based on the map provided in J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 338.

The cattle killing occurred towards the end of this period of anti-colonial war. For amaXhosa, this was a period of great dispossession and desperation. By 1856, amaXhosa had been forced to give up vast tracts of land to the British in particular. Their political authority had shrunk and some amaXhosa lived under colonial rule, some willingly and others under duress. Another effect of war is that there were major food shortages, which was tied to the lack of land, but also to a dwindling availability of labour due to the human loss of war, as well as the diversion of resources involved in such conflict. This is not to mention the fact that crops and livestock were destroyed. Thus, there were immense material, political and sociocultural ruptures occurring in amaXhosa land prior to the cattle killing.

 

AmaXhosa notables and other important figures 

AmaXhosa royal houses are said to be descended from the line of Ntu, who is the ancestor of all Africans originating in central Africa. It is this ancestor, Ntu, who provides the link between all abantu. The word abantu is often translated as ‘people’. The term is used to refer to people from central to southern Africa who speak languages with shared roots, including isiXhosa, isiZulu, and seSotho. The singular in isiXhosa is umntu. This history links many people from central to southern Africa who speak languages with shared roots, including isiXhosa, isiZulu, seSotho, and many others.

The current amaXhosa royal house comprises descendants of those who ruled at the time of the cattle killing. It comprises descendants of Phalo who ruled from 1736 until his death in 1775. Phalo’s most notable children were Gcaleka and Rharhabe, from whom the existing royal houses get their names.

Gcaleka’s son and successor was Khawuta, who fathered Hintsa. Hintsa was the father of Sarhili, who was the paramount of amaGcaleka and king of all amaXhosa during the time of the cattle killing.

Rharhabe had many sons, including Mlawu, who fathered Ngqika and Ndlambe. Ngqika was the father of Sandile and Maqoma, as well as many other significant figures, like Anta, during the cattle killing. While Maqoma served as regent of amaNgqika, it was Sandile who would ascend to the throne to become king of amaNgqika in the 1870s.

Prominent amaXhosa at the time of the cattle killing:

  • Sarhili: Son of Hintsa. Gcaleka paramount and king of all amaXhosa.
  • Sandile: AmaRharhabe paramount and chief of amaNgqika. He lived in close proximity to the colonial Commissioner of amaNgqika, Charles Brownlee. Sandile was the younger brother of Maqoma. He began as a non-believer, but eventually followed the prophecy.
  • Maqoma: AmaRharhabe chief and second-in-command of amaNgqika. He served as regent of his people until Sandile came of age. Known as a warrior with great military experience, he is often represented by colonials as a warmongering alcoholic. During his trial in the aftermath of the cattle killing, he famously hit a colonial officer with his stick. Maqoma was a Strong believer. Like many, his family was split between believers and non-believers. For instance, his eldest (Great) son, Namba, was a believer, but two of his other sons, Kona and Ned, were not.
  • Nongqawuse: First prophetess of the cattle killing. Her parents were killed in a previous war against colonials. After this, she was taken into the care of her uncle Mhlakaza.
  • Phatho: A strong believer and leader of amaGqunukhwebe. Phatho’s people were one of a few groups who had killed some of their cattle before the prophecy in an attempt to halt the spread of lungsickness. AmaGqunukhwebe leaders were of Khoi descent. Phatho’s clan began killing cattle before the prophecy in an attempt to curb the spread of lungsickness.
  • Dilima: Son of Phatho. The first to drink from the river when instructed by Nongqawuse to prove he was not a performer of ubuti.
  • Kama: Converted to Christianity. Non-believer. AmaGqunukhwebe second-in-command.
    Anta: Did not believe the prophecy. Brother of Sandile.
  • Mhala: Believer. Chief of amaNdlambe.
  • Old Soga: Councillor to Sandile and non-believer.
  • Tiyo Soga: Son of Old Soga, and famously known for his missionary work. He received his early education at John Aitkins Chalmers’ Tyumie/Chumie mission station. Soga was in Britain at the time of the cattle killing, but returned to the aftermath. He was well-liked by missionaries, although his mission school rivalled George Grey’s Zonnebloem College. Many amaXhosa elites preferred to send their children to Soga’s school rather than Grey’s.
  • Nombanda: Related to Nongqawuse and later became a prophetess. In her deposition, Nongqawuse said that Nombanda could at first neither see nor hear the men who spoke to her, but later became the preferred prophetess of the chiefs.
  • Nonkosi: Prophetess of the Mpongo River who rose to prominence soon after Nongqawuse.
  • Mhlakaza: Uncle of Nongqawuse. Thought by Peires to have been an apprentice to Archdeacon Nathaniel Merriman of Grahamstown, although this is disputed by Sheila Boniface-Davies. Primary conduit for the prophecy, and described by Chalmers and Brownlee as a ‘crafty prophet’.

Lungsickness

Beyond war, it is important to consider the conditions of the health of amaXhosa livestock. The 1850s was a time in which lungsickness was spreading among the cattle of the region with great vigour.

Lungsickness is a disease which is spread through droplets, usually of saliva. While cattle show visible symptoms, the presence of asymptomatic spreaders made it difficult to control. The epidemic, which began in 1853, is thought to have been the worst loss of livestock in the region until the rinderpest outbreak of 1896. The sickness was thought to have been brought into the region by Dutch cattle then referred to as mof, first at Mossel Bay.42Chris Andreas, ‘The Spread and Impact of the Lungsickness Epizootic of 1853-57 in the Cape Colony and the Xhosa Chiefdoms’, South African Historical Journal Vol. 53, Issue 1: Special Issue: Environmental History (2005), 50-72. Chris Andreas, ‘Preventative Inoculation of Cattle against Lungsickness in the Cape: Informal Technology Transfer and Local Knowledge Production in the Nineteenth Century’, South African Historical Journal, Vol. 71 Issue 4 (2019), 536-559.

 

Lungsickness entered Xhosaland in the early 1850s. Some, like Phatho’s amaGqunukhwebe, had already begun killing their cattle before the prophecy in the hopes of curbing the spread of the disease. Peires situates lungsickness as a major cause for the subsequent cattle killing. The map provided here is based on the map provided in J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 188.

Even before the Great Xhosa Cattle Killing, certain sections of Xhosaland had been forced to kill off their cattle because of the sickness. For instance, amaGqunukhwebe under Chief Phatho began killing their cattle some years before the prophecy of Nongqawuse in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.43J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 253. Phatho, who was of Khoi descent, would himself become a strong believer, and was one of the chiefs most sought after by colonial authorities who were seeking to imprison the most anti-colonial amaXhosa leaders.

During the previous century, a Khoikhoi group in the Overberg also killed many of their white cattle, following the instructions of Jan Parel, who presented himself as ‘Liewen Heer’ (the immortal).44Russel Viljoen, ‘Making sense of the Khoikhoi Cattle-Killing of 1788: An Episode of Millenarianism in Khoikhoi Society’, Kronos No. 24 (November 1997), 62-76.

Parel was in Swellendam, and in August 1788 predicted that the ‘world’ (which was thought to comprise only the territory of the Cape Colony) would be destroyed on 25 October of that year. He instructed his followers to slaughter all of their white cattle, build new straw huts with two doors, burn all of their European clothes, and attack the Swellendam Drostdy. The Drostdy was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747. It served as home and headquarters of the Dutch officials at Swellendam.45Beverley Thomas, The Drostdy in Swellendam: A pictorial history. Drostdy Museum, 1995.

In his analysis of the Khoi cattle killing of 1788, historian Russel Viljoen argues that the prophecy emerged as a resistance to both the cultural degradation and material dispossession suffered by the Khoi under the Dutch (or Boers). This is very similar to the case of amaXhosa of the 1850s.

A tale of two plots

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, two contesting theories emerged of why the cattle killing happened.

The first to be written and published is referred to as the ‘Chiefs’ War Plot’. This came from colonial authors like John Aitkins Chalmers and Charles Brownlee. It was taken up by militarists and politicians, including Governor George Grey.

The second was written and published later – although it had most likely been shared orally – and is sometimes referred to as ‘Grey’s Plot’. This was promoted by African intellectuals like W.W. Gqoba. It was published in response to the popularisation of histories which foregrounded the ‘Chiefs’ War Plot’.

The ‘Chiefs’ War Plot’

The ‘Chiefs’ War Plot’ is the idea that amaXhosa chiefs concocted the prophecy so as to force amaXhosa into a frenzied desperation and spur them to war to expel Europeans from the land. In some renditions, the war plot was thought to have been concocted by Sarhili and Moshoeshoe, the king of Lesotho and the Basotho people.48John Zarwan, ‘The Xhosa Cattle Killings, 1856-7’, Cahiers d’etudes africaines, Vol. 16, No. 63-64 (1976), 519-539.

The theory was rooted in an argument that Nongqawuse acted as ‘igqirha eliligogo’ (specifically an igqirha associated with foreseeing the future). This required her to be of the same profession as earlier prominent amaXhosa prophets, particularly Makanda/Nxele (famous for the Battle of Grahamstown against the 1820 Settlers during the Fifth War) and Mlanjeni (famous for the Eighth War, known as Mlanjeni’s War).

Just prior to the cattle killing, Mlanjeni had risen to fame by guiding amaXhosa to war with the British (1850-3). His powers were said to include the ability to turn bullets into water. In writings, Mlanjeni and Makanda are often titled as itola (literally translated as ‘mountain’), which is used to refer specifically to ‘war prophets’. IsiXhosa intellectuals like W.W. Gqoba and W.M. Philip argued that Nongqawuse could not have been igqirha eliligogo because she was too young and she was female. Up until that point, only a man could be igqirha.49Helen Bradford and Msokoli Qotole, ‘Ingxoxo enkulu ngoNongqawuse (A Great Debate about Nongqawuse’s Era’, Kronos Vol. 34, No.1 (November 2008), 66-105.

‘Grey’s War Plot’

The popularisation of the ‘Chiefs’ War Plot’ theory in histories which were being taught at institutions like Lovedale College and promoted in Britain led to the publication of a counter-theory which was produced by African intellectuals.

This theory said that Governor George Grey of the Cape Colony was behind the prophecy. The idea was that the prophecy was a colonial construction by George Grey and his cohort (including the likes of Gawler and Maclean), seeking to decimate the population of amaXhosa, weaken their political structures, and destabilise their society. Some went to so far as to say that the deceased men who appeared to Nongqawuse at the Gxarha river were actually white men in disguise.50J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 328-9.

This theory appeared in print after the ‘Chiefs’ War Plot’ theory. The first published instance is in Gqoba’s ‘Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause’ in the isiXhosa newspaper Isigidimi SamaXosa in March and April 1888. While Gqoba does not name the theory as ‘Grey’s War Plot’, he does provide the content for the theory.

In all likelihood, this theory existed from the earliest days of the cattle killing in oral forms. Grey was very much despised within amaXhosa circles. Orators and writers went so far as to refer to him as ihashe elingwevu . In the writings of Gqoba, he is bluntly referred to as ‘Satan’, or one who does the work of Satan.51Bradford and Qotole, ‘Ingxoxo’, 78.

An important facet of the theory that the cattle killing was a plot by colonials is how it represents the event. If the cattle killing was a plot by colonials, then the aftermath of the cattle killing – the mass death and dispossession – reads, in fact, as bringing about a form of genocide. It is extremely rare that an historian would refer to the cattle killing as a genocide. However, in the work of the twentieth century poet J.J.R. Jolobe, we find the event titled as ‘Ingqawule’, which is sometimes paralleled to ‘Holocaust’.52J.J.R. Jolobe, Ilitha (South Africa: Perskor, 1959). For an analysis of the text, see G.T. Sirayi, ‘The African perspective of the 1856/7 cattle-killing movement’, South African Journal of African Languages, 11:1 (1991), 40-45. In this way, we can see that thinkers of the 1950s were considering the ascription of the concept of ‘genocide’ to the cattle killing.

In contemporary times, even the most radical thinkers – like the political philosopher Achille Mbembe – have referred to the event as a ‘National Suicide’ of amaXhosa.53Achille Mbembe, ‘South Africa’s Second Coming: The Nongqawuse Syndrome’. Originally published in the Sunday Times, 14 June 2006. This label appears to remove all blame from colonials and rather place it all on amaXhosa themselves, as if the conditions of colonisation were not central to the occurrence. This notion of ‘national suicide’ has been heavily criticised by figures like Credo Mutwa, a prominent isiZulu isanusi  , published author and revered intellectual.54Credo Mutwa, Africa is My Witness (Johannesburg: Blue Crane Books, 1966).

Global Anti-colonialism

During the mid-nineteenth century, it was rare for southern Africans to travel abroad. However, this did not mean that news of what was happening around the world did not enter southern Africa.

Around the time of the Great Xhosa Cattle Killing, two important events occurred which played key roles in the increasing popularity of the prophecy among amaXhosa.

The first was the demise of General George Cathcart during the Crimean War in what is now Ukraine. The war began in 1853, three years before the rise of Nongqawuse.59Jennifer Wenzel, Bulletproof. Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 20-21, 201-205.

The second was the sinking of a boat belonging to the HMS Geyser in November 1856 at the Kei River mouth. This was about eight months after Nongqawuse was visited by the dead, and roughly midway through the cattle killing.

These two instances show a sense of global consciousness among amaXhosa, although it was limited by the information available to them. It is important to note their knowledge of the events abroad, and what they did with this knowledge. This allows us to gain a greater understanding of the belief and imagination of the time among amaXhosa.

The Black Russians of the Crimean War

It is useful to think chronologically about this ‘global’ thinking behind the cattle killing. This helps to understand how the thought developed.

We begin in 1853, with the War of Mlanjeni. During the war, General George Cathcart had been brought in to replace Harry Smith, who had suffered great losses during the war.60J.B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 105. See also Keith Smith, Harry Smith’s Last Throw. The Eighth Frontier War. 1850-1853 (London: Frontline Books, 2012). The war effectively ended when Cathcart led the British to victory against Mlanjeni-inspired amaXhosa and their Basotho allies.

Following his success in southern Africa, Cathcart was sent to Crimea in 1854 to fight in the Crimean War against the Russians. He was killed in battle only a year after his victories against amaXhosa.61Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History (London: Picador, 2012).
The story of his demise travelled back to southern Africa, presumably through colonial travellers, military officers, and missionaries. It was believed by amaXhosa that the Russians who defeated Cathcart were their allies.

AmaXhosa had allied with Basotho during the War of Mlanjeni. Similarly, they were aware of AmaZulu expansion which had resulted in the southward movement of groups like amaFengu. AmaXhosa were aware that other groups were in a similar situation to them, battling the British and other colonial forces. As such, the Russians who defeated Cathcart in Crimea were imagined to be Black and fighting the same struggle against the British as amaXhosa and other Africans.

The Crimean War ended in March 1856, which was just a month before Nongqawuse was visited by the dead. The Russians effectively lost the war, but most (if not all) amaXhosa were unaware of this.

The HMS Geyser

In November 1856, George Grey gave an order for a ship to attempt to travel up the Kei River mouth. He gave this order against the advice of other officers. The ship’s job was to assess whether or not it was possible to deliver troops and supplies via the river.

The captain of the Geyser is said to have been drunk at the time and ignored warnings of the danger of sailing too close to the shallows of the Kei River.62Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 144-5. A boat carrying members of the Geyser’s crew capsized with only one man surviving.

Many amaXhosa who had gathered to see the ship observed this occurrence. By this time the fervour of Nongqawuse’s prophecy had gripped many. It came to be believed that the boat was sunk by amaXhosa – led by King Hintsa – who had risen from the dead as per Nongqawuse’s prophecy.63Peires, The Dead Will Arise, 171.

A point of discussion

The theory of the ‘Black Russians’ became a point of interest for many.
It was debated, for instance, by Charles Brownlee and William Mbali Philip in their responses to Gqoba’s articles in Isigidimi SamaXosa in 1888.64Helen Bradford and Msokoli Qotole, ‘Ingxoxo enkulu ngoNongqawuse (A Great Debate about Nongqawuse’s Era)’, Kronos Vol. 34, No.1 (November 2008), 93, 95, 97, 100.

It features, too, in The Dead Will Arise by Jeff Peires. In his footnotes, Peires notes letters between prominent colonials of the time, including Grey, Maclean, Gawler and Brownlee. It also featured in the Argus newspaper on 3 January 1867, and the Grahamstown Journal on 28 July 1857.65The references provided by Peires: GH 22/8 H Trotter-G Grey, 15 Aug. 1856; GH 8/49 J Maclean-G Grey, 16 Oct., 10, 20 Nov. 1856; GH 30/4 G Grey-J Maclean, 18, 28 Oct. 1856; BK 81 J Gawler-J Maclean, 17 Oct. 1856; Grahamstown Journal, 28 July 1857. BK 70 C Brownlee-J Maclean, 11 Dec. 1856; BK 81 J Gawler-J Maclean, 20 Nov. 1856; GH 8/30 R Robert son-J Maclean, 23 Nov. 1856; GH 8/30 C Brownlee-J Maclean, 7 Dec. 1856; Argus, 3 Jan. 1857.

Millenarianism

Millenarianism is a concept used to describe a movement towards a fundamental and drastic change in a society.66Yonina Talmon, ‘Millenarian Movements’, European Journal of Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 2, On Suicide (1966), 159-200. Bonnie B. Keller, ‘Millenarianism and Resistance: the Xhosa Cattle Killing’, Journal of Asia and African Studies 13 (1978), 95-111. It is usually associated with Christianity but is not necessarily the property of Christianity. The appearance of ‘prophets’ is usually associated with millenarian movements. These prophets provide the instructions through which utopia can be reached. The movements are represented as self-destructive and believing in an eventual resurrection. This implies a coming utopia which is achievable through the violent expulsion of whatever is considered to be ill in the society.

In the case of the cattle killing, the argument that the prophecy had Christian roots is substantiated by Peires’ claim that Mhlakaza (Nongqawuse’s uncle) was the former apprentice of Archdeacon Nathaniel Merriman of Grahamstown. During this time, he is said to have gone by the name ‘Wilhelm Goliat’. Peires used evidence of the relationship between the two from the Archdeacon’s journal to substantiate the claim that the foundations of the prophecy were Christian. This includes the idea of sacrifice to bring about utopia, as well as the idea of resurrection.

This claim that Mhlakaza was Merriman’s apprentice has been disputed by Sheila Boniface-Davies. In her doctoral research, she could not find adequate evidence in the journals of Archdeacon Merriman to substantiate Peires’s claim that Mhlakaza was Wilhelm Goliat.67Sheila Boniface-Davies, ‘Raising the Dead: The Xhosa Cattle-Killing and the Mhlakaza-Goliat Delusion’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1 (March 2007), 19-41. Nevertheless, she does not dispute the Christian elements or influences of the prophecy. It is intriguing to consider what happens when we think about the prophecy as being of Christian influence, against thinking about it as something rooted in isiXhosa thinking.

In a contemporary South Africa so dominated by Christianity, there is a certain risk of imposing present-day beliefs on a past in which religious beliefs might have been quite different. The time of Nongqawuse was not a time of stable, uniform or agreed-upon Christianity among amaXhosa. Rather, the Christianity of Xhosaland in the 1850s was the product of an ongoing negotiated process between isiXhosa tradition and Christianity.

In her book Bulletproof, Jennifer Wenzel discusses several instances in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of colonised people elsewhere taking similarly ‘self-destructive’ strategies to fight against colonialism. Only a few years after the Crimean War, and in the second and final year of the cattle killing (1857), there was a major Seapoy Rebellion in India, which Wenzel draws into her analysis as a parallel and similarly self-defeating resistance to specifically British colonialism. Both the Seapoy Rebellion and the Crimean War are positioned as influences on the cattle killing.

Included in her list of parallel millenarian events are:
· Taiping Rebellion in China (1843-64)
· Pai Marire Massacre in New Zealand (1862-72)
· Ghost Dance Movement in North America (1870 and 1888-96)
· Birsa Munda Uprising in India (1895-1900)
· First Chimurenga in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe (1896-1900)
· Canudos Movement in Brazil (1896-7)
· Maji Maji Rebellion, Tanganyika/Tanzania (1905-1907)
· Several movements in the Belgian Congo (1921-60)68Jennifer Wenzel, Bulletproof. Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 3-4.

Wenzel also includes more contemporary instances like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda (1987–present) and the forces of Muqtada al-Sadr of Baghdad (2003–present). Of all of these instances, only the Taiping Rebellion began before the cattle killing.

The links made between the Great Xhosa Cattle Killing and these movements from across the colonised world are usually rooted in a Judeo-Christian tradition, hopes for utopia, and an impending apocalypse which is only avoidable through a sacred resurrection.

All of the societies within which millenarian movements appeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were in the process of being colonised.69Michael Adas, Prophets of Rebellion. Millenarian Protest Movements against the European Colonial Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979).

In all cases, the political authority of the indigenous elite was being displaced by colonial power, including the institution of colonial law, courts and judges. With the introduction of colonial bureaucracies, local leaders were being shown to be incapable of working or mastering these new systems.

Much land was lost to colonial might, and with this subsistence was lost. This led to increasing dependence on colonial aid (including jobs and food). Taxation and tolls were introduced to live and move in colonised territories. As such, local people fell into debt with colonials. This meant that local independence was being lost, and dependence on colonial power increased. The local population was falling into a state of great material desperation.

Beyond these material and political changes, indigenous religions were being displaced by Christianity. The religion was taught at mission schools which were established across the colonies. With the displacement of local religions came the erosion of behavioural norms and controls. Rites of initiation related to professions were also losing power. So too were indigenous customs and types of law and order, which were often tied to religion. As such, the legitimacy of indigenous authorities was disappearing.

Such conditions provided the environment for the emergence of prophets who foresaw the possibility of a brighter future for the indigenous people. This future was usually associated with the resurgence of a lost ‘Golden Age’ from before colonial times. This Golden Age usually called for a resurgence of ‘precolonial’ beliefs and practices, which were most often imagined since the millenarian generation usually had not experienced a time before the arrival of Europeans.