A Zimbabwean delegation dispatched to the United Kingdom to repatriate the heads of Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi and others has located 13 heads among them, those of the two most prominent First Chimurenga icons.
Nehanda and Kaguvi were captured and executed by the British during the height of the country’s occupation by settlers in the 19th century.
The heads are believed to have been taken to Britain and displayed as war trophies.
Over a century later and 40 years after Zimbabweans reclaimed their independence from Britain, government has instituted an attempt to repatriate the heads of the pioneers of the liberation war.
A team headed by National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe executive director Godfrey Mahachi left the country last week at the invitation of the British government, to go and finalise the repatriation process.
The Handa Project, which is led by its pioneering director Ottoman Magaya, said in a telephone interview with NewZimbabwe.com, the main purpose of this first visit was to locate all the 27 heads and where they are being kept as war trophies in London museums.
“Mahachi, who heads the delegation is currently in the UK at the invitation of the British government to formalise the process,” said Magaya.
“13 heads have so far been located and we suspect that Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi’s remains should be on that list because they are known unlike all the other remains of these pioneers.
“All the researches to ascertain the origins of these 13 remains have been done and it is confirmed they are from Zimbabwe.”
The Handa Project has since assembled eight families of the First Chimurenga heroes, whose skulls are believed to be still in the UK, to push for their repatriation.
“Chief Makoni will lead traditional leaders on the repatriation committee and is deputised by Mr Weston Mandere Chawonza of the Hwata clan from Mazowe, will also leave for the UK when the repatriation process is ready,” added Magaya.
Also expected to be repatriated with the late freedom fighters of the First Chimurenga Revolution are the other 25 skulls of early revolutionaries and a sacred talking rod.
Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were hanged in 1898 at the height of the white colonial occupation, which they fiercely fought against.
Magaya also said since the preparations to finally bring back the remains are at an advanced stage, his team is also planning to prepare for the declaration of the National funeral so as to bid proper farewell to the iconic heroes.
“Preparations are underway, to declare a day of national funeral soon,” he said.
Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi’s remains are at the Westminster Abbey and the National History museums both in London.
Their heads were shipped as souvenirs to the UK, where they have been kept for the past 122 years.
Contacted for comment, Minister of Home Affairs Kazembe Kazembe directed NewZimbabwe to put their questions in writing saying he feared being misquoted.
He had not responded by the time of story publication.