Nestled on a lush hillside in Northern Zambia, about 1.5hrs drive from Mpika on the highway to Nakonde, lies the marvel that is Shiwa Ngandu. A few kilometres away from the main highway, heading toward the estate, I was greeted by a long stretch of neatly aligned trees almost planted like they were meant to provide rite of passage to see this landmark. Plus, the little map at the entrance was a good touch as it attempted to scale the size of the entire estate.
Also called the Africa House, Shiwa Ngandu’s design and architecture was largely influenced by the British roots of Sir Stewart Gore-Browne who was the mastermind and force behind this building which will be 100 years old in the next couple of years. The first portion of the three-storey house was built in 1928 but with the growth of Sir Stewart’s entrepreneurial efforts in the area, the second section of the house and a chapel followed in 1932 and 1934 respectively.
I actually begun my tour of the estate in the chapel and was amazed to see some of the original artefacts still preserved. This chapel can seat up to 30 people and it is still used every Sunday for mass by local staff who live and work at the estate.
Walking through the main door on the ground floor of the house, I was greeted by a Rhino on the wall. Sir Stewart was known to be quite motivated to make his mark in life but he was also known to be bad tempered like the Rhino and he was even nicknamed Chipembere, so I suppose this had a lot to do with this choice of artwork.
A few steps from the main door towards the left foyer, I saw photographs of Sir Stewart’s family and friends, which included some notable faces of influence, like our first Republican President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. Dr Kaunda even awarded Sir Stewart the medal of Grand Companion of Freedom and on his death in 1967, Sir Stewart was also honoured with a full state funeral.
Leaving this foyer led me to the sitting area that was laden with paintings of family members, books, fabrics and artefacts from all over Africa. In addition, I saw a plaque that was used when a tree was planted in the courtyard following the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, this tree still stands today. I quickly understood why Shiwa Ngandu and Sir Stewart Gore-Browne hold a unique place in Zambia’s history. Right outside the sitting area was a hallway of grand animal trophies and more photographs of Sir Stewarts family and friends.
The last phase of my tour was a visit to the library on the second floor that had several hundred books from different disciplines, some over 100 years old. The library also had special artefacts which Sir Stewart brought from his many travels, including a very interesting silver centre piece from the Australian subcontinent. I also saw a collection of medals that he received in his life time. Immediately outside the library was a balcony that provided a good view of the lake in the distance. Standing on this balcony made me appreciate why Sir Stewart chose this spot to build his home: location! location! location!
Shiwa Ngandu is a testament to the lasting legacy of one man’s dream, a reminder that with dedication and tenacity we can all create our own havens in the middle of the thickest of forests and truly call it, home.
- Guided tours of the main house only happen between 09:00 – 11:00 on Monday to Saturday so ensure you start off from Mpika early enough.
- Guided tours cost ZMK 200 ($20) so ensure you have cash in hand as there is no atm or swiping facility on site.
- Ensure you carry your own snack and beverage as the nearest food outlet is over 13 kms away from Shiwa Ngandu.
- Ensure you have comfortable shoes to aid movement on the tour as there are some stairs to climb.
For more information about this historical landmark, you could visit their website.