NyamiNyami, the Zambezi river god, and the Italian car

Charles Frizell writes in to say images in stone sculpture and drawings of NyamiNyami, the legendary river god of the Zambezi, look like the logo of  Italian carmaker Alfa Romeo.

The Italians who built the Kariba dam in the 1950s brought the first Alfa Romeo cars to the Zambezi valley. The Alfa logo first appeared in Italy 1924 and shows a giant snake eating a man. Alfa (Anonima Lombarda Fabricca Automobili) Romeo designed it using heraldic symbols associated with the city of Milan since the Crusades in the imageMiddle Ages. The imagecross is the Christian symbol and the snake apparently represents the all powerful Milanese Catholics fighting off infidels with all their power. Such a violent symbol wouldn’t be chosen to sell cars today.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg,  NyamiNyami or the Alfa? In Tonga legend, NyamiNyami goes back hundreds of years. The descendants of one of their traditional leaders, Chief Sampakaruma, tell how he saw the giant fish-serpent twice and described it as such in oral lore that has been handed down ever since. And when the first Alfa Romeo rolled into the Italian construction cantonment at Kariba local elders gasped to the effect of: ‘hey, that’s NyamiNyami!’

The elders say NyamiNyami was so enraged by the arrival of the Italians, and the failure of his efforts through storm and tempest to stop dam construction on the sacred Zambezi, he went into hiding and has never been seen since.

(See previous post: God giveth what ZANU PF hath taken away)

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