What is in the name?
Nandi was a daughter of Bhebhe, a past chief of the Langeni nation and the mother of the famous Shaka, King of the Zulus. (c. 1760 – October 10, 1827) Before she became a Queen, Nandi was not treated like royalty. It is believed that after visiting relatives in the Babanango Hills, Nandi and the small caravan that she was with encountered Zulu warriors. One of those warriors was Senzangakhona kaJama, king of the Zulu people. Senzangakhona impregnated Nandi out of wedlock. When Nandi first informed the king of her pregnancy, village elders rejected her claims, stating that she had become infected by the Shaka beetle which causes the stomach to bloat. Nandi was, in fact, pregnant and when the child was born, she named him Shaka after the beetle; she birthed Shaka Zulu.
Nandi and the new-born Shaka were escorted to the Zulu capital where they were shamed. Senzangakhona initially denied paternity of Shaka but eventually married Nandi. She was then placed at the status of a lowly third wife. Not only was Nandi a mother out of wedlock but she was also in a forbidden inter-clan marriage.
It was forbidden for Nandi to marry a Zulu because her mother was the daughter of a Qwabe chief. Since the Qwabe and Zulu claim the same ancestry, intermarriage between members of either tribe was forbidden. They remained with the Mthethwa clan until Shaka made his way back to the Zulu people.
When Shaka returned to the Zulu tribe, he claimed the throne. He was now king of the people who tormented his mother. Shaka not only appointed Nandi as Queen of the Zulu people but also as his advisor. Shaka began to worship his mother, placing her on the same level as a god-like figure. Even in death, she had great power of the Zulu tribe.