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Nyaminyami

Zambesi River Spirit

This is a bone carving of the BaTonga river spirit given to me by my friend Hanri just before we set off down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls.  Nyami Nyami has the head of a snake and the body of a fish and is said to rule this stretch of the water, embodying the river’s strength.  Failure to respect him was said to be the cause of the 1,000 year floods and multiple deaths and disasters that attended the building of the Kariba Dam further downstream in the late 1950’s.  


This amulet is hung from a piece of the cord used to strengthen car tyres.  The cord is tied with two sliding knots so you can get it on and adjust it.  Given as a gift it is said to offer Nyaminyami’s protection on the river and he certainly had his work cut out with us as we were hurled through the monster class V rapids.


Incidentally, at University in the 1980s I had a Biff cartoon (created by Chris Garrett and Mick Kidd) on my wall.  This phrase perfectly sums up what it was like to go through ‘The Devil’s Toilet Bowl’ on a river board (which was immediately ripped from my grasp) leaving me completely at the mercy of the maelstrom.

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