THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT AFRICA'S FANTASTIC RAIN QUEEN
Primitive as is her King-
dom, the Rain Queen's
Subjects Are the Hap-
piest in the World.
By WILLIAM SEABROOK
This article was occasioned by the publication (by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the Institute of African Languages and Cultures) of The Realm of a Rain Queen: A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu Society. The book was written by Dr. Eileen Jensen Krige and her husband, J. D. Krige. Mr. Krige happened to be nephew of Field-Marshall Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister of South Africa, who wrote the foreward.
The book is about the Rain Queens or Mujaji of the Balobedu, a semi-independent group within the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The Rain Queens have a rich history, though not a long one. The book (and therefore Seabrook's article) was written during the reign of Khetoane Modjadji III (1869-1959). Despite the many claims to the contrary, the Rain Queens do not appear to have been white or Arabic or anything other than African; however, one of the earliest queens appears to have been the inspiration of H. Rider Haggard's novel, She: A History of Adventure . (It's particularly interesting to contrast the photograph accompanying Seabrook's article with his text.) The last of the Rain Queens, Makobo Modjadji VI (1978-2005), died of AIDS-complicated meningitis.
And of course this article allows Seabrook to talk about his old companion Wamba, a major figure in his life whom he met on the Ivory Coast and described in his book Jungle Ways (1930).