Empire of Kitara
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Empire of Kitara
|Religion||Traditional African religion|
• Dynasty between
|1300 - 1500 AD|
|Today part of||Uganda|
The Chwezi dynasty or the Empire of Kitara was a legendary dynasty in East Africa. It was said to have existed in the African Great Lakes region, within the modern day countries of Uganda and north-western Tanzania from c. 1300 - 1500 AD.
According to the oral history of the Nyoro people, the Chwezi (alternatively written Abachwezi, Bachwezi or Omuchwezi) were a dynasty of kings. Most accounts of the Chwezi agree that there were 2 or 3 Chwezi kings.
A story of the origin of the Chwezi begins with the "king of the ghosts", Nyami-yonga, who proposed a pact with a local ruler, Isaza. Isaza, after consulting with his advisors, did not want to enter the pact, but did not want to offend Nyami-yonga by refusing. Isaza instead sent his advisor Bukuku to pretend to be him, which would make the pact not valid. Nyami-yonga soon realized he had been tricked, and was furious. He sent his daughter Nyamata, known for her beauty, to seduce Isaza and bring him to Nyami-yonga's realm. They were soon married, and Nyamata told Isaza that she needed to return home to bear their child. Isaza, unwilling to leave his cattle, told her to go alone.
Nyamata returned to her father and told him of what had happened. Nyami-yonga then sent two cattle, which quickly became Isaza's favorite. Nyami-yonga called the cattle home to his realm, and Isaza set out to search for them, leaving Bukuku to rule in his stead. Isaza eventually came to the kingdom of the ghosts, where he found his wife, the two cattle, and Nyami-yonga. Not forgiving his trickery, Nyami-yonga would not let him return home. Isaza and Nyamata soon had a son, Isimbwa, who was raised in the kingdom of the ghosts.
Bukuku had a daughter, Nyina-mwiru. A prophecy predicted that if she ever bore a child it would result in bad things for Bukuku. As a result of this, Bukuku kept her locked away, but rumors of her beauty spread far and wide. Isimbwa found her and stayed with her for three months, without Bukuku taking notice. Nyina-mwiru then bore a son, Nda-hura. Due to the prophecy, Bukuku ordered Nda-hura be thrown in a river, which he survived after being found by a potter near the river. The potter told Nyina-mwiru that her son was safe, but kept it a secret from Bukuku. Nda-hura grew up to be strong and defiant, more loyal to the potter than his grandfather, and eventually, in a dispute over cattle, Nda-hura killed Bukuku and in effect made himself king – the first of the Chwezi. Nda-hura, as the descendant of ghosts, was lighter skinned, and the rest of the Chwezi were as well.
Stories of the Chwezi often end with their mysterious disappearance. Another story tells of the reign of the last Chwezi king, Wamara, whose reign had been going badly. Seeking guidance, Wamara performed divination by examining the intestines of an ox, which revealed that the times of the Chwezi among the living were over, and that soon they would rule over the living through influence from the spirit realm. The Chwezi would then be succeeded by a new, darker skinned dynasty of rulers from the north.
Most historians agree if a Chwezi dynasty did exist beyond the myths, it was likely around 1300 - 1500 AD.
Legends of the Chwezi were often used to give legitimacy to later dynasties in and around Uganda.
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