Muhumusa and Kaigirwa were feared leaders of the East African Nyabingi priestesses group that was influential in Rwanda and Uganda from 1850 to 1950. In 1911 Muhumusa proclaimed “she would drive out the Europeans” and “that the bullets of the Wazungu/colonizers would turn to water against her.”
She organized armed resistance against German colonialists and was eventually detained by the British in Kampala, Uganda, from 1913 to her death in 1945. She became the first in a line of rebel priestesses fighting colonial domination in the name of Nyabingi, and even after being imprisoned she inspired a vast popular following.
In August 1917, the “Nyabinga” Kaigirwa followed in Muhumusa’s footsteps, and engineered the Nyakishenyi revolt, with unanimous public support. British officials placed a high price on her head, but no one would claim it. After the British attacked the Congo camp of Kaigirwa in January 1919, killing most of the men, Kaigirwa and the main body of fighters managed to evade the army and escaped. Kaigirwa attempted another uprising, then went into the hills, where she was never captured.
Although the Nyabingi movement was quelled by the 1930s in East Africa, it inspired the Rastafarians in Jamaica, who were attuned to the region because of their allegiance to the king of Ethiopia. They adopted Queen Nyabingi as a spirit of liberation whose power would overcome the oppressors.The Order of Nyabingi became an important cultural touchstone. Drumming and chanting Nyabingi took on the meaning of overcoming oppression and destroying those who committed injustice.