(c. 1840–c. 1900), prophetess of the great Xhosa cattle-killing of 1856–1857. Nongqawuse was an orphan living with her uncle Mhlakaza at the Gxarha River in independent Xhosaland, close to the border of the recently colonized territory of British Kaffraria in South Africa. One day in April 1856, she informed her household that she had encountered two strangers, spirits from another world, who told her that the entire nation would rise from the dead provided that the Xhosa slaughtered all their cattle and destroyed all their corn. The reason given was that people and animals alike had been defiled by witchcraft, and that the living must cleanse themselves from all contamination so that new people and pure cattle could rise.
From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History in Oxford Reference.