A Nature Research Journal. The tribute is well deserved. Krige selected a fascinating subject for study: the Lovedu, living among the mist-covered mountains of northern Transvaal. Insignificant as regards numbers and the extent of their territory, 33, tribesmen occupying a reserve of square miles, their reputation was, and still is, great among the Bantu of South Africa; their queen was held to be the most powerful of all rain-makers, and even chiefs so distant and renowned as Chaka and Moshesh sought her aid in extremity.
Modjadji, The Rain Queen | Rain Queens: Female leadership traditions of Africa
Many foreign ambassadors and potentates gathered at her court, bringing cattle or daughters or sisters to win the favour of "Transformer of the Clouds". To Europeans she was a mystery; was reputed to be very light-coloured Was she really a white woman? Rider Haggard familiarized her as "She-who-must-be-obeyed". There is substance in the fantasies that gathered about her. A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu Society. By Dr.
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Jensen Krige and J. Reprints and Permissions. Home About Contact Twitter. Rain Queen Mothers. The Lobedu Kingdom comprises over villages Modjadji V the Rain Queen has mystical rainmaking powers. The Zulu have always feared Queen Mothers. For West Africa, one aspect remains consistent: the African people have a very different approach to power among women than the traditional western conception implies. When people in the West consider the concept of equality between the sexes, they think of men and women sharing equal roles in society The Golden Stool is a mysterious symbol of power and history of the Ashanti people.
The Restoration of South Africa’s Rain Queen
The kingdom of Dahomey, now called Republique du Benin is located in Western Africa, bordered by Togo on the west and Nigeria on the east. Dahomey has a unique feature in its history that reads like something out of Greek mythology - they had Africa's most well known corps of The Rain Queen is an integral part of Lovedu culture and history.
Oral traditions have the Lovedu being formed by Dzugudini — the daughter of the chief of the Monomotapa part of the Karanga Empire who were based near Maulwi in Zimbabwe. The Mudjadji is considered to be the living embodiment of the rain goddess and is also known by the title Khifidola-maru-a-Daja 'transformer of clouds'. She is considered the embodiment of the rain, guarantor of the yearly seasonal cycle, and her very emotions are said to be paralleled by the weather.
Claiming prophetic guidance, the last Balobedu king, it is said, impregnated his daughter to start a line of female leaders. Lacking military power, Modjadji I governed instead through the politics of mystique. The power of the chief and the power of the rainmaker were separate.
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Instead, their emissaries went before Modjadji to ask for rain. Modjadji I and II ruled unimpeded through most of the 19th century. Each October, the queen asked for rain through traditional rituals. According to Balobedu tradition, each holder of the title was fated to commit suicide by poison at the end of her reign—but the Rain Queen herself was held to be immortal. The Rain Queen also was not to show her face in public, even to her subjects, which led to a great deal of speculation when Europeans colonists began to arrive. In the s, H. Northern Limpopo was among the last places in modern-day South Africa to be occupied by Boer settlers coming up from the Cape.
Although missionaries and a handful of settlers arrived in the region earlier, things came to a head in the s, when Boer authorities started to parcel tribal land into farms. Uncharacteristically, the Balobedu were among the first tribes to fight back, but the resistance was swiftly and harshly put down by the white authorities.
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Modjadji II followed custom and committed ritual suicide. She was the last Rain Queen to do so. Although groups such as the Balobedu are ethnically diverse, settler administrators—followed, from , by the apartheid regime—aimed to lump them into homogenous, self-governing areas. The ANC saw traditional tribal leaders as repositories of votes and legitimacy—local power-brokers with influence and tangible roots in the precolonial past— according to a report from the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu Natal.
President Mandela personally courted Modjadji V and other tribal leaders. Modjadji VI, who doctors say died of chronic meningitis at just 27, was a figure both beloved and divisive, and she bucked many of the traditions associated with her position.
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One branch of the royal family still insists that her daughter, Modjadji VII, should not be permitted to take the throne. In , the government launched a commission to attempt to unwind the tangle of competing leadership claims left by colonial and apartheid-era policies, and determine which leaders should have what status. These leaders, he says, had been installed by white administrators on land that Modjadji traditionally oversaw.
Local leaders pressed their claims on President Ramaphosa during his April visit, and have listed nearly local farms that they see as their rightful property. No one knows if these wishes will be granted, but controversy is sure to continue. The fate of the land may not be determined by the time Modjadji VII officially takes her crown, but the restoration of the Rain Queen has been significant for the Balobedu—both financially and symbolically.
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