Nyaminyami, the river god of Lake Kariba

Kariba Dam

Kariba Dam

The building of Kariba Dam does not have a lot of information on it, except that people were shifted to pave way for the construction of one of Africa’s biggest electrical power stations in 1955, reports Zambian Eye Tourism Editor Chimuka Moono Hanyama.

One story remains profound in the history of Lake Kariba: the story of the Nyaminyami; the Zambezi River god.

According to the traditions of the Tonga people that live along the Zambezi Valley, Nyaminyami is a river god that lives in the mighty Zambezi River.

Nyaminyami - Zambezi River god

Nyaminyami – Zambezi River god

This legendary creature is believed to have the torso of a snake and the head of a fish. It is said to be very big such that it can cover the river on both sides at its widest point! The river god is also said to have powers to cause earth tremors along the Zambezi River.

The Nyaminyami is believed to have caused a lot of havoc during the first phase of the Dam wall construction.In 1958 part of the dam wall was swept by the rising water, thereby killing the whites and some few blacks who were working on the site.

The bodies of the white workers could not be seen even after 3 days until the Tonga elders killed a fat black calf, which they threw in the river to appease the angry Nyaminyami. It was only when the black calf disappeared that the bodies of the dead floated! What surprised people more was the fact that despite the river being infested with crocodiles, the bodies of the workers were not eaten even a bit!

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Apart from being responsible for the tremors that’s are experienced along the Zambezi Valley, the river god is also believed to have powers to provide food for the Tonga people along the valley during the time of draughts! According to Tonga elders, the Nyaminyamiis is still angry, and has the aim of breaking the dam wall so that he reunites with his female partner on the other side of the bridge!

Kariba Dam, whose name is derived from ‘Kariva or Karinga’, (which means trap), is believed to have been build on a rocky gorge where the Nyaminyami had his home. It is one of the largest power stations in Africa. The dam wall has a spectacular view one would ever have.

While one touches the water on the other side of the bridge, it is about 100metres down on the other side! The wall, which has a concave shape, houses tunnels where turbines are situated.

KARIBA DAM OPENS THREE FLOODGATES.During the opening of the spillway gates, when the other side of the bridge overflows, a lot of Tourists both from Zambia and Zimbabwe flock to the area for this beautiful scenery. That’s the beauty of the Kariba, the largest man-made lake.

Well, the tale of Nyaminyami may sound legendary, but the truth is that this tale is told even today. Curios depicting the river god are being curved and given as lucky gifts to friends. This has kept the story of the river god alive.