Saturday, 2 March 2019

Introduction : Introductory Grammar of the Ngoni Language

The Ngoni language, as presented in the present work, is spoken by the Ngoni under Mombera who live on the plateau on the west side of Lake Malawi (Nyasa). Their country may be defined as lying between 10 degrees and 34 degrees East longitude.

It embraces the country originally occupied by the Tumbuka and Chewa tribes, the former being now enslaved and living as servants of the Ngoni, and the latter - or as many of them as are independent - having removed further south. Those of the latter who are living at Kasungu under Mwase, are in subjection to the Ngoni and pay tribute to their chief, Mombera.

The Ngoni were until recent years constantly engaged in making raids on all the surrounding tribes, and carrying back whatever captives and plunder they could. This mode of life has made them the scourge of the plateau for many miles, and as in Livingstone's day, so still, the name Ngoni is a source of terror to the weaker Lake and plateau tribes.

They have made incursions into the Bemba country beyond the Tahambeze on the north west; and into the Bisa country onthe east side of Bangweolo. They have carried war into the country of the Marambo on the Loangwa to the south west, and have made attacks on Nkhotakota on the south-western shore of the lake.

They have compelled the Phoka people among the hills to the north to live in underground dwellings for safety; and those Tumbuka and Tonga who choose to struggle for an independent life rather than be slaves in Ngoniland, have been compelled to live high up Mount Waller, on bare rocky islets, or in villages on piles in the Lake, and inside stockades in unhealthy and almost inaccessible places on the lakeshore, Their predatory wars have even been carried into the country of the quiet Nkhonde people at the northern extremity of Lake Nyasa.

When, in the course of extending the Mission, the head station was removed from Cape Maclear to Bandawe in the country of the Tonga, it was found necessary to establish peace with the Ngoni in order that the work at Bandawe might go on without interruption. On various occasions the Ngoni marauders came to the neighbourhood of Bandawe, devastating the district and compelling the missionaries to prepare for flight.

To secure peace and embassy was sent to Mombera. It was eventually successful, and Ngoniland was occupied at first the Christian Kafir, William Koyi, who was subsequently joined by James Sutherland. Both of these brave and faithful men lived amid great personal danger and hardship, while the Ngoni were suspicious and evil-disposed toward them.

No direct work was permitted, but these men lived down opposition, and cleared away misapprehension, and laid a firm foundation for the work.

It is not necessary here to write much on the results of the Mission to the Ngoni. After years of waiting, schools, were opened and other work- medical and evangelistic - carried on without let. Hundreds of children are being educated in the schools which are carried on at five different points, and first fruits have been gathered in the formation of a native church.

The Ngoni are growing less inclined to make raids on other tribes. The Lake tribes are able to live in peace, and are consequently leaving the precarious existence on the mountain tops, or on rocks in the Lake; while the thousands who were confined in stockaded villages in the swampy low ground, are able to spread out and choose more healthy situation for their homes.

A formal treaty of peace between the Tonga (runaway slaves of the Ngoni) around Bandawe, and the Ngoni, was concluded through the efforts of the Mission staff at Bandawe and Ngoniland in 1887, and has been respected since. These general effects of the Mission were visible at a distance before the particular results were visible in Ngoniland.

To be continued: The History of the Ngoni

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