The River Spirit from the Back of Beyond


Nyaminyami The Spirit of the Mighty Zambezi River will be at WAFA World Flower Show in Boston MA at Seaport World Trade Center June 15-19 2011

River Spirit from the Back of Beyond Enters the World Flower Show at the World Trade Center in Boston.

Nyaminyami the BaTonga Spirit of the Zambezi River with the head of a fish and the body of a serpent ruled peacefully for centuries from Mosi-0-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) (Victoria Falls) all the way downstream to Kariba Gorge (the Trap) until…

River Spirit from the Back of Beyond Enters the World Flower Show in Boston.

Damn it!  Yes, the white man came in 1955.  They wanted to dam it.  Not just a small dam, but the largest dam in the world was proposed in the remotest part of Africa.  The Batonga said Nyaminyami would be angry.  He would not allow it.

The BaTonga people were forced to resettle.   Nyaminyami was separated from his wife trapped on the other side of Kariba dam wall.  The BaTonga warned Nyaminyami was enraged.

Raging floods, roared down the Zambezi River destroying the dam’s foundations, equipment and road access and took the lives of eighteen men.   The bodies of the five white men were only recovered after sacrifice on the river of a white calf to appease Nyaminyami.

The experts agreed it was a once in a thousand year flood.  Construction resumed.

Again, the following year unprecedented floods, the water rising six meters in one day, destroyed access bridges, the cofferdam and parts of the main wall.

Again, construction resumed.  The dam wall was completed.  The valley forest drowned.  Hilltops turned into ever decreasing islands.  The sky was black with birds as they gorged on swarms of insects, rats and snakes flushed from their burrows.  Animals of all kinds were marooned.  Seven thousand animals were rescued ranging from bush babies to rhinoceros in ground breaking Operation Noah.

Nyaminyami was appeased.  In 1960 the mighty generators were switched on. Hydroelectric power from Kariba Dam lights Central Africa today.  A statue of Nyaminyami overlooks the lake that stretches 280 km (174 miles) upstream of the gorge, and 40 km(25miles) at its widest point.

But, earth tremors felt since the wall was built portend that Nyaminyami and his wife will one day be reunited and the BaTonga returned to the valley…

A totem is a natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.


Nyaminyami, spirit of the Zambezi River, tangled in drowned wood and flame lilies, the national flower of Zimbabwe, will be a totem entry in Class Two, Beast at the World Flower Show, themed This Glorious Earth in Boston, on June 15-19th at the Seaport World Trade Center.

Please join us there if you can!  If not I’ll report back on how Nyaminyami fared next week and post a picture of my entry.

Then seriously, its back to writing, with sincere apologies to Andrew for the diversion.





  • betty

    Reply Reply June 12, 2011

    Good luck, Diana! The statue is beautiful and the story comes right out of a Grimm’s fairy tale….you can’t mess with Mother Nature!! Have a wonderful and fun time with Andrew and seeing the city….remember to eat a bowl of clam chowder at Falafel (sp.) Hall for lunch….I am so jealous! Love, Betty

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 28, 2011

      Betty, Had a blast! Unfortunately the judges chose not to put a whole lot of emphasis on the myth (only three of us had one). They judged on the beastlyness of the entry in a generic way. You never can tell what the judges are going to look for. Its all very subjective, but you do know that going into it. My class had two US judges, one Argentinian and one Belgian. It was an interesting mix, the different nations do have different perspectives which was reflected int the show itself. You could approach an entry and pretty much tell if it was from Pakistan, Japan, France, England, or the Caribbean etc. they all have their particular style.
      The food was fantastic with Andrew and Liz. They know all the best spots, and ate harbour side many times. Its a beautiful city.

  • Mar' Sue

    Reply Reply June 12, 2011

    Diana…..Create from your heart……that will be the winner.
    Mar’ Sue

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 28, 2011

      Mar’Sue, I did! Thanks for all the advise and support from you and Perry. Didn’t win but it was a really memorable event beautifully staged. There was much discussion through out the convention on “If in doubt leave it out” verses “If you want to win stick it in.” Went to see the Chihuly Installation, an exercise in excess if ever there was one at the Boston MFA and his quote there was “if one is good then twelve must be better.”

  • Andrew Davis

    Reply Reply June 13, 2011

    Good luck Diana at the World Flower Arranging Show! I’m sure your entry will be well received! Thanks for the wonderfully written story!
    Looking forward to see the pictures of your entry!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 28, 2011

      Andrew, Thanks for all the support and good wishes. I so appreciated all your support which never waned. Back to the book (and the blog)

  • Chris Duckworth

    Reply Reply August 25, 2011

    Interesting, the aqua flow beneath Johannesburg is six times the size of Kariba…

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 25, 2011

      Wow! Now thats a statistic!

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