Queen Nandi- Mother of the famous warrior Shaka Zulu.

Queen Nandi- Mother of the famous warrior Shaka Zulu.

The African Queens Challenge is still on, today we highlight Queen Nandi- Mother of the famous warrior Shaka Zulu from South Africa.

Nandi whose name translates to “a woman of high esteem” goes down in history as Shaka Zulu's mom but the Queen had attributes that are not well known. 

She was born in Melmoth in 1760, her father was Bhebhe, chief of the Elangeni. Makhedama was then king of the Elangeni (Mhlongo) people. She had an illicit affair with Senzangakhona, the chief of the Zulu tribe, and gave birth to Shaka, who would later become one of the greatest Zulu chiefs and African military leaders. The Mhlongo people demanded Senzangakhona pay damages for his non-traditional act and approached the Jamas to settle the matter.

In all of Africa, women have played significant roles in nation-building and fighting, and winning wars. However, in Zulu custom, a woman is regarded as a child, even if she’s the eldest at home. A woman must never be seen as older than a man, so as not to be considered wiser, more experienced, or superior. It was thus a broad gesture for Nandi to be at the forefront of the case and discussion between The Mhlongo people and the Senzangakhona. She broke the cultural norms of the time by demanding 55 head of cattle as payment for damages done to her, a move that was respected and adhered to.

Queen Nandi was known as Ndlorukazi, translating to the great elephant, and was known to be fierce. She had a hot temper and didn’t hesitate to crush her enemies. It was this fierceness that enabled her to protect her sons from external attacks as children and from enemies within the kingdom when Shaka became king. 

While living with Senzangahhona’s people when Shaka was a child, When famine broke and her enemies assassination attempts started inching closer, the queen as a means of protecting her son moved to live amongst the Qwabe people.

When the going got tough, she still picked up her progeny and moved to reside among the Mthethwa, an instrumental move that would favor her son Shaka in the coming future. It was there he joined the elite……regiment and learned war strategies that made him successful in the wars against the Dutch/British. 

During the reign of Shaka the Zulu, women were revered and venerated because of his regard and relationship with his mother, Queen Nandi. It is said that she helped in gaining political grounds and shaped policies by her council. When he went to war, a council of women held the fort until his return. When she died, he honored her with the longest recorded mourning period.

Read about all the African Queens we spotlighted in this series: Queen Amina, Queen Nandi and Queen Asantewa and Queen Ririkumutima 

Back to blog


She sure was fierce! And yes, the movie – watched it years ago, don’t remember much, except for the stirring music. Need to find it and watch again.


I always loved the TV movie about


Leave a comment