Maqana Nxele (1790?-1820)

Maqana Nxele (1790?-1820), leader of the Xhosa, a Bantu-speaking people of southern Africa. He was the first Xhosa to become interested in Christianity and described himself as a brother of Christ. Nxele`s father died when he was young; his mother deserted him; and he wandered alone in the wilderness where he acquired a sense of mission.

In about 1815 Nxele started communicating

In about 1815 Nxele started communicating messages to the Xhosa that were contrary to their culture, and he blamed recent Xhosa reversesmilitary defeats and droughton their fall from grace. He denounced sorcery, adultery, polygamy, incest, and ox racing; he would not eat prepared food, which he said was unclean, and stopped drinking milk. Because of his denunciation of polygamy and his renouncing milk (anathema in a cattle-based society), he almost died at the stake, but a figure of authority intervened and said he should be saved. Nxele stood 198 cm (6 ft 6 in) tall and had an extraordinary physical presence. His preaching attracted large crowds of Xhosa, who were drawn to him more than to his Christian message.

Chief Ndlambe of the Rharabe Xhosa was

Chief Ndlambe of the Rharabe Xhosa was so impressed that he installed Nxele in a great place of his own. Nxele spent a considerable amount of time at Grahamstown, then the most advanced British settlement, where he learned about British military tactics. Ndlambe became Nxele`s patron and wanted to use him in a power struggle with Ndlambe`s nephew, Ngqika. When the British missionaries came to the area they offended Nxele by establishing their mission in Ngqika`s country rather than Nxele`s. By 1816 Nxele had also found that his religious teaching was not attracting many followers and began thinking of other ways to gain a following. He subsequently took three wives and reverted to the Xhosa customs he had earlier denounced.

By 1818 war was about to break out between

By 1818 war was about to break out between the followers of Ndlambe, including Nxele, and the followers of Ngqika. By mid-October of 1818 the chiefs of the Great Fish River were almost ready to attack the unpopular Ngqika. Nxele, a fervent Xhosa nationalist, urged the Xhosa to unite instead against the British. He claimed the existence of two godsThixo for whites and Malidiphu for blacksand said the black god should be worshiped through dance, enjoyment of life, and the reproduction of black children.

In April of 1819 Nxele led a force of about

In April of 1819 Nxele led a force of about 10,000 Xhosa against 450 British troops at Grahamstown. Once the Xhosa were losing the battle, Nxele tried to negotiate a peace for his people but he was taken prisoner when he arrived at the enemy`s camp. He was condemned to life imprisonment on Robben Island. However, on August 9, 1820, with some other prisoners, he stole a boat and escaped to the mainland. He drowned when the boat capsized on the breakers.

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