Zimbabwe’s President is upping the pressure on the United Kingdom to return the skull of Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana (better known as Mbuya Nehanda.)
Nehanda was a spirit medium who led a rebellion against British occupation in the 19th century. Mbuya Nehanda translates to “grandmother Nehanda” in Shona.
She was charged with murder and for commanding a rebellion against white occupation by Britain and was hanged in 1898. Last week, Mnangagwa unveiled a ten-foot-tall bronze statue of the anti-colonialist freedom fighter. He vowed to bring her remains home.
“The unveiling of the statue of Mbuya Nehanda Nyakasikana is the manifestation of the bold commitment to reconstruct our country’s rich past history. It equally stands as a symbol of unity, identity and an inspiration to present and future generations on the importance of patriotism, loyalty, fortitude and determination to defend and work for our beloved country against any odds,” said Mnangagwa.
He added, “We shall however continue to discuss to bring back her skull which was taken to United Kingdom alongside others.”
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe also weighed in on the issue.
“Sadly, the remains of Mbuya Nehanda are yet to be repatriated so that proper burial can be accorded in line with our cultural norms and values. However, I am happy to advise that our efforts to ensure that the remains are repatriated to the country are in progress,” he said.
Mnangagwa is not the first president to put Britain on blast for delaying the return of the skulls of Zimbabwe’s fallen heroes.
In 2015, then-president Robert Mugabe demanded that London’s Natural History Museum return the skulls of freedom fighters murdered by British colonizers. Mugabe said the missing skulls belonged to leaders of “the first Chimurenga,” who revolted against white settlers in the late 19th century.
“The UK has since invited Zimbabwe to appoint technical experts to meet their museum counterparts in London to discuss some remains of Zimbabwean origin,” said the British embassy wrote in response to The Herald at the time.