Along the waters of the Zambezi river, there was once a place where only birds could fly and serpents creep. The nature around these waters was so dense that the local Tsonga people lived lives in relative isolation, determined by Nyami Nyami the river god, a central element of their system of belief.
When the colonist David Livingstone took a liking to Gwembe Valley in the 1860s, he dreamt of a utopian paradise and spoke of it as a hidden garden of Eden. He aimed to vanquish the wild waters, con- vert the Tsonga people to Christianity, and establish a society that he believed would be divinely inspired.
While his vision would have stripped the Tsongas of their cultural heritage, the government of South Rhodesia stripped them of their lands. They constructed a massive damn in 1959 and flood- ed the valley, forcibly removing all indigenous people. Families and friends, which lived on opposed sides of Nyami Nyami, were torn apart and relocated to mountainous regions with dry farming lands.
Over the span of 100 years, the Tsonga people of Gwembe Valley were at the center of two opposing colonial perspectives. They were viewed as empty vessels, ready to be filled with Western ideology and as mere obstacles, standing between the colonisers and theirsuccessful exploitation of Africas resources. The flood- ing of Gwembe Valley tells a story of forced migration and drowned heritage.