Verdite stone Nyami-Nyami pendants
Verdite stone Nyami Nyami pendants
Nyami Nyami pendant carved from Verdite stone
The African Nyami Nyami is a mystical creature that is said to be living in the Zambezi river of Zimbabwe and the local people of Zimbabwe have high respect for the mystical creature. The Nyami Nyami has the ability to take the lives of the people that live along it's river banks and many stories have been told about the lives that have been lost in the river for lack of respect to the creature.
Said to be half snake and fish head, these pendants are worn around the neck as respect to Nyami Nyami river God. The pendants are handcrafted out of soapstone, wood, horn and bone and a leather strap can be attached to hang around the neck.
Below we have a selection of some of the Nyami Nyami Pendants available. All sizes listed are approximate. The Nyami Nyami Pendants you purchase and receive may differ just slightly in size, look, and/or color from the Nyami Nyami Pendants shown in the picture because each Nyami Nyami Pendants is hand carved by individual artists. No two Nyami Nyami Pendants are exactly the same.
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African Wood Nyami-Nyami Pendant
African Horn Nyami-Nyami Pendant
African Bone Nyami-Nyami Pendant
African Stone Nyami-Nyami Pendant
Information on the Nyami Nyami myth
The Nyami Nyami, otherwise known as the Zambezi River God or Zambezi Snake spirit, is one of the most important gods of the Tonga people. Nyami Nyami is believed to protect the Tonga people and give them sustenance in difficult times. The River God is usually portrayed as male. 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! It is believed that the creature is no less than three meters wide and none knows his length. 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.
This river spirit is affectionately known as Nyami Nyami a colonial corruption of Nyama yamaninga ninga which means pieces of meat, it is believed that during times of famine Nyami Nyami would expose his belly and the Tonga people would cut pieces of meat of his belly.
Legend has it that Nyami Nyami and his wife stayed in the Zambezi River near Kariwa gorge, (Kariwa means trap and Kariba is a colonial corruption of Kariwa) where the present day Kariba dam wall is situated. One season when Nyami Nyami's wife had gone downstream of the mighty Kariwa Gorge to other people of the Valley to answer their prayers and bless her people, the white men came to build a wall thus separating Nyami Nyami and his wife. The Tonga's way of life in the valley came to an end, they were told to leave their homes and move away from the valley to avoid the flood that the dam would cause. Reluctantly they allowed themselves to be resettled higher up the bank, but they believed Nyami Nyami would never allow the dam to be built and eventually, when the project failed, they would move back to their homes.
In 1957, when the dam was well on its way to completion, Nyami Nyami struck. The worst floods ever known on the Zambezi washed away much of the partly built dam and the heavy equipment, killing many of the workers. Some of those killed were Italian dam builders whose bodies disappeared mysteriously, and after an extensive search failed to find them, Tonga elders were asked to assist as they knew the river better than anyone. The elders explained Nyami Nyami had caused the disaster and in order to appease his wrath a sacrifice should be made. The Europeans mocked the Nyami Nyami story and did not take the Tonga elders seriously, but, in desperation, when relatives of the missing workers were due to arrive to claim the bodies of their loved ones, the search party agreed in the hope that the Tonga would know where the bodies were likely to have been washed to. A white calf was slaughtered in accordance with tradition and floated on the river. The next morning the calf was gone and the workers’ bodies were in its place. The disappearance of the calf holds no mystery in the crocodile infested river, but the reappearance of the workers’ bodies three days after they had disappeared has never been satisfactorily explained. There are many more stories surrounding the Nyami Nyami but the legend still lives strong in the Tonga people who respect and fear it at the same time. 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 wipe-outs.
Tonga Chief Sampakaruma claims to have seen Nyami Nyami on two occasions many years ago, but the river spirit has been in hiding since the white men arrived in the country. Whether the Nyami Nyami indeed exists or is merely myth remains a mystery.