JUST like iconic Queen Lozikeyi, former teacher Marieke Clarke was a woman who found herself oppressed by an African government.

After taking a teaching post in Matabeleland, now part of Zimbabwe, in the 1960s, she was deported after just four terms for discussing citizenship issues “too freely” with her students.

But Ms Clarke, 70, refused to be downcast and now, decades later, her book about the influential queen has just been published.

Queen Lozikeyi was senior queen to King Lobhengula, who ruled from 1870 to 1894 and was the last king of the Matabele nation. She is credited with leading her people while colonial powers occupied her country and was the intellect behind one of the most effective anti-colonial revolts.

Ms Clarke, of Crick Road, North Oxford, said: “Queen Lozikeyi ran the risk of being exiled and, in a way, I was exiled myself by Rhodesia’s Smith regime, the white minority government.

“After the queen’s husband was driven out by Cecil Rhodes in 1893 she led opposition from a distance to the white minority regime in Bulawayo.

“I came back to Britain and led a privileged and comfortable life but the queen could have been imprisoned and sent elsewhere before she died in a flu epidemic in 1919.”

After completing her modern history degree at Somerville College in 1962, Ms Clarke completed a diploma in education at Norham Gardens. In 1963 she went to teach at Inyathi School, in Matabeleland, 50 miles north of Bulawayo.

But she was deported in 1964 by the Smith regime under the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act.

Following her return to the UK, she worked for Oxfam for 35 years including 19 years as the firm’s educational materials editor, and retired 10 years ago.

In 1989, Oxfam paid for her to return to Zimbabwe to assess projects for funding through the European Commission.

The trip led to a growing fascination with Queen Lozikeyi, which has finally led to the publication of the biography.

Ms Clarke said: “An ex-student of mine, who by 1989 was the district administrator, took me to Queen Lozikeyi’s grave. He said he planned to establish a District Heroes’ Acre at the site.

“This inspired me to write the biography, and I researched it in Rhodes House library in Oxford, in the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, in the Archives in Harare, Zimbabwe, and in Matabeleland, especially in the queen’s own city of Bulawayo.”

The book’s distributor outside the Southern African region is African Books Collective.

The publisher of Lozikeyi Dlodlo, Queen of the Ndebele: A Very Dangerous and Intriguing Woman is Amagugu in Zimbabwe, and the co-author is Pathisa Nyathi.

About 100 people attended the launch of the book in Bulawayo in November.

Ms Clarke’s previous book is We are the Original People, the story of a development project in an Adivasi village, which was published 1991 by Ajanta Publications in Delhi, India. This book describes work that she and her former husband Suresh Awasthi did together in Gujarat.