Nandi (mother of Shaka)

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Nandi kaBhebhe eLangeni
Born c. 1760
Died October 10, 1827 (1827-10-11)
Spouse(s) Senzangakhona kaJama
Children Shaka
Parent(s) Bhebhe

Nandi (c. 1760 – October 10, 1827) was a daughter of Bhebhe, a past chief of the Langeni tribe and the mother of the legendary Shaka, King of the Zulus.

Birth of Shaka[edit]

Shaka's father was Senzangakhona kaJama, chieftain of the Zulu clan, which was small and insignificant at the time. Senzangakhona apparently impregnated Nandi during an act of uku-hlobonga, a form of coitus interruptus allowed to unmarried couples at a time known as "the fun of the roads" (ama hlay endlela), but the lovers became carried away.[1] After giving birth to her illegitimate son, Nandi spent many hard years being shuffled back and forth between the Zulus and her own tribe. During that time she also had to protect her son from famine, assassination attempts, and his own destructive temper.


Despite the hard times they endured together, or perhaps because of them, Shaka loved his mother almost to the point of worship.[2]

When Nandi died of dysentery on October 10, 1827, Shaka put on his war regalia and proceeded to scream his anguish. The entire tribe of 15,000 Zulus erupted into wailing and shrieking.[citation needed] On Shaka’s orders, several people were executed on the spot, and a general massacre broke out. Tradition held that upon the death of someone of Nandi’s stature, several servants and attendants would be wounded or killed, but in this case, the event became a cover for many people to settle old scores. An estimated 7,000 people died in the massacre.[3]

Shaka himself was killed later that year by his half-brother Dingane.

Her grave can be found outside Eshowe, off the old Empangeni road. The grave is marked Nindi. On March 11, 2011 the Mhlongo Committee met at Eshowe with the Office of the KZN (kwaZulu-Natal) Premier and Amafa about the finalisation of the plans for Princess Nandi's grave near Eshowe. It was agreed that there would be an officially opening day in May 2011 to present queen Nandi’s grave after the approval of the designs suggested by abaHlongo. Nandi was born in Melmoth in 1760 into the Mhlongo people and for that reason it was also agreed that the name on the grave shall be "Princess Nandi Mhlongo, mother of King Shaka".


  1. ^ E. A. Ritter, Shaka Zulu: The Rise of the Zulu Empire, Longmans Green, London, 1955, p.11.
  2. ^ Nandi
  3. ^ Sheldon, Kathleen (2005). Historical Dictionary Of Women In Sub-Saharan Africa. Lanham (Maryland): Scarecrow Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-8108-5331-7. 

Further reading[edit]