Zambia's artistic traditions and rich cultures are derived from its 73 tribal groups. These traditional ceremonies are a reflection of this and a celebration of traditional Zambian culture. The ceremonies, celebrate the customs, social life, rituals, oral history, material and spiritual culture of the people. They provide a valuable opportunity to a traditional culture to be passed down from generation to generation. The ceremonies are open to visitors who can watch and learn the significance of ancient times, when the kingdoms were founded by ancient chiefs and are usually splendid, colourful affairs with much symbolism in their dancing and drumming.
The country is divided into regions called provinces, each with a Provincial headquarters where the provincial political administration is located. A province is then divided into Districts administered by a local authority headed by an Executive Mayor which is an elective position to carry the political vision but administratively the town clerk is the most senior officer followed various departmental heads.
The regions are identified more by the tribal groupings which are further broken even more to ethnic tribes by the district. However, because of political administration and inter marriages the country and tribes are actually fused and Zambia is difficult to identify by tribe when followed to the individual, as one person would be a combination of 2 to 4 Tribes.
Going by the regions, Zambia has a Paramount chief per region helped by several chiefs to manage his people and land at customary level. Of all the provinces the Western Province of Zambia is the only province with historical identity to be under a King, 'Barotse Land, .Read more
The political Government works with these platforms to manage the Country. At least each of these regions has one major Traditional Ceremony at a respective time each year but dates are only given at an opportune time. Zambia has close to 30 traditional ceremonies and below are a few of those major ones
Kuomboka Traditional Ceremony
Kuomboka is a word in the Lozi language; it literally means ‘to get out of water’. In today's Zambia it is applied to a traditional ceremony that takes place at the end of the rain season, when the upper Zambezi River floods the plains of the Western Province. The festival celebrates the move of the Litunga, king of the Lozi people, from his compound at Lealui in the Barotse Floodplain of the Zambezi River to Limulunga on higher ground.
The ceremony is preceded by heavy drumming of the royal Maoma drums, which echoes around the royal capital the day before Kuomboka, announcing the event.
The King's state barge is called Nalikwanda and is painted black and white, like Zambia's coat of arms. On the barge is a replica of a huge black elephant, the ears of which can be moved from inside the barge. There is also a fire on board, the smoke from which tells the people that the king is alive and well. Read more
For his wife there is a second barge. This one has a huge cattle egret (Nalwange) on top. The wings move like the ears of the elephant, up and down.
According to oral tradition, it was a legendary King by the name of Mboo, who in the early 18th century decided that something needed to be done. He started experimenting with the art of building boats, or barges, which unlike the traditional dug-out canoes were large enough to carry people and property in larger numbers.
Likumbi lya Mize Traditional ceremony
The Likumbi Lya Mize is celebrated by the Luvale people of North Western Province
Likumbi lya Mize ceremony is a world Heritage Ceremony, which is characterised by the Makishi Masquerading. Usually the ceremony is held during the last week of August unless there is something to cause change of dates. Come and watch how this colourful and well organised Makishi dancing ceremony is performed. Usually the ceremony takes five (5) days as stated under the ceremonyThe Ceremony starts with the resurrection of more than 100 different types of makishi from the Graveyards on the eastern side of the Great Zambezi River.
The procession starts as early as 06 hours and lasts for more than 3 hours. The procession is usually colourfully supported by the huge crowd of people from all walks of, Read more
In the afternoon of the Resurrection day the Makishi host a Chilende Chamuchana (a Makishi dancing arena in the plain) a dancing Show of the Makishi on the flat low plains of Zambezi River).
The makishi dance to the sounds of traditional drums from about 14 hours until sunset, the Makishi then cross the Zambezi River. The following day the Makishi hosts a Chilende Chahausekeseke (a dancing show on the Sand Beach of the Zambezi River).
This is one of the great countdowns to the Likumbi Lya Mize because the beautiful sand beach and waters of the Great Zambezi ignites the people to great jubilation that are memorial.
This point of the Zambezi is very shallow and free from crocodiles. The performances starts about 14 hours up to 18 hours and thereafter the makishi proceed to the Mize Capital of His Royal Highness Senior Chief Ndungu.
Some Makishi dance is performed on a mattress placed on the mighty Zambezi River without it sinking or being carried by the water current. The makishi sleep over at the camp and the following day they conduct another Chilende Chamumize (Dancing Show at the Mize Capital, Chief’s Palace).
This proceeds to an overnight performance to welcome the official Day of the ceremony which is usually on a Saturday.
Umutomboka Traditional Ceremony
Umutomboko means a dance of victory or dance of conquest. In narrating the origin and importance of Umutomboko, one has to link this important ceremony with days when the Lunda crossed the Luapula River into Zambia, fighting their way through and in the process conquering weaker and smaller tribes. It has been recorded in several history books that the Lunda crossed the Luapula River into Zambia near chief Matanda's village of Mansa district.
The Umutomboko ceremony is held annually in Mwansabombwe district, Mwata Kazembe's headquarters on the last Saturday of July. The passionate dance of conquest performed by His Royal Highness Mwata Kazembe every last week of July of each year is the mirror through which the history and cultural heritage of the Lunda Kingdom is reflected. Read more
Although to a certain extent Umutomboko seems to highlight only the wars exploits it's also exhibits other cultural heritages and traditions of the Lunda Kingdom. The ceremony is not only paraded at Mwansabombwe but similar localized celebrations take place in other chiefdoms selected by Mwata.
From Mwansabombwe to Katuta Ka Mpemba in the south and Mwatishi in the north there are certain chiefdoms like Lukwesa, Lubunda, Kashiba (Namwala), Mulundu, kaniembo and Kambwali where Mwata performs the dance of conquest. By performing the dance of conquest in these areas, Mwata seeks to re-assert his authority, rule and clear any doubts about it in the minds of the tribes he defeated.
The dance of conquest did not start with modern day kingdoms but only popularized when the Lunda crossed the Luapula River to settle in their present day area. Umutomboko is sometimes also viewed as Mwata's harvest period for it is during this time that he receives 'Title' from his subjects. It is also the time of reckoning for erring chiefs and village headmen who appear before Mwata for disciplinary action.
The Lunda people join the Mwata with traditional dances like Chilumwalumbwa, Chinkwasa, Amalepeka and others expertly performed by very agile and gyrating adolescent girls.
Umutomboko ceremony includes acts of observing traditional rituals at various sacred places within and outside the palace. On this occasion, Mwata is obliged to pay homage to the spirits of his ancestors. In Nakabutula a sacred hut in the palace grounds, he is smeared with Inkula, an ochre-coloured dust, by the keeper of this small hut. Outside the western gates of the palace, at the Miyombo trees Mwata is again smeared with Ulupemba, white dust by the Lunde grave care takers and at the shrines of Chinyanta and his brother Kasombola at the bank of Ng'ona river near his village, he pours beer, hurls foodstuffs into the river in a serious mood and says, 'What your fathers died for should follow you,' Chinyanta and Kasombola were drowned in the Lualaba river. The Umutomboko is a spectacular event, especially towards the end. At this time all members of the royal family, traditional chiefs and councilors in the Lunda hierarchy are elegantly dressed in their colorful traditional costumes.
The occasion reaches a crescendo when Mwata rises from the throne to participate in the dancing, having been ceremonially attired and seated in a 'Muselo' (royal carriage) with all regalia of Mwataship placed on it, amid cheers, gunshots, drumming and followed by hundreds of well-wishers, carried by sixteen bearers along the traditional route to the main arena where he is welcomed by distinguished guests and thousands of spectators awaiting his arrival. After this there is some traditional dancing by women and girls of Chinkwasa, Chilumwalumbwa and Wakubasha and preliminary Umutomboko dances by selected members of the royal family and traditional councilors.
Mwata Kazembe rises to the thunderous applause to participate in the dancing. Armed with Mbafi (axe) and Mpoko (sword) he regally steps into the arena and to the rhythm of the royal drums, dances Umutomboko until he retires to waiting 'Muselo'. He is carried back to the palace with the crowd following behind in applause.
N'cwala Traditional Ceremony
The Ncwala Traditional Ceremony is held in February each year by the Ngoni people in the Chipata district and celebrates the first harvests of the year. The ceremony takes place at Mutenguleni village near Chipata
When the crops ripen at the end of February, the first fruits are given to Chief Mpezeni as a sacramental meal and thanksgiving to God and the ancestors. And this is the essence of the ceremony.
After the fresh fruits have been presented to the king, he takes them into his palace and prepares for the long journey from his palace in the Luangeni hill to Mutenguleni.
This is a long journey: The palace is located at about 45 kilometres in Luangeni south-east of Chipata and Mutenguleni is about 60 kilometers south-west of Chipata. Read more
The celebrants are adorned in leopard skins, wielding spears, clubs, shields and eagle feathers. Speeches are given. People sing and dance. The ground literally shakes with the stomping of their feet. The ceremony climaxes when an Ngoni warrior spears a black bull to death. The bull is actually selected and killed for this occasion.
Another warrior quickly slits the throat and collects the blood which Chief Mpezeni, wearing leopard skin drinks.
Then, Ngonis with knives cut the carcass. Within a short period the animal is dissected and some parts are eaten right on the sport. Ngoni warriors who are known as hyenas eat some of the raw meat, intestines and organs.
The whole stomping and dancing and revelry making goes on for three days, starting from Luangeni and culminating at Mutenguleni!
Shimunenga Traditional Ceremony
The Shimunenga Ceremony of the Ba-Ila people of Maala in Namwala District is celebrated on the weekend of the full moon in September or October. Early in the morning of the first day, people gather at the shrine of Shimunenga, where traditional songs are chanted. There is also a cultural march past of women and girls in traditional attire, after which people are treated to performances by traditional dancers.
On the following morning, the drum is sounded and animals are taken to the river, where cattle is displayed in the traditional manner. The first cattle to cross the river will be those of the custodian of the shrine. This is followed by a demonstration of a mock lion hunt and pelican fishing. The occasion is marked with traditional songs in honour and praise of the Shimunenga ancestral spirits. Celebrations continue in the village with pit-stops for traditional beer at different places. Read more
Shimunenga cattle drive is practiced by the Ila people of Namwala in southern province.
Who was Shimunenga?
Shimunenga was a warrior. He was a brave man. As a young man, Shimunenga was chased from his place called Busanga by his elder brother Moomba as he showed no respect for him. He settled at a place called Kaane. Shimunenga was refused to have access to water where his brother lived. He decided to take his cattle to Kafue..
While there he went to Mbala, in Mumbwa district to look for a witchdoctor who could help him fight his elder brother Moomba.
MedicineIn order to defeat his brother, the witchdoctor told him to kill his sisters three-month old child and pound it in a mortar and pestle. His sister Nachilongwe agreed. The War
As a result of the medicine, Shimunenga was encouraged to fight the war and he won! Now Shimunenga turned to the witchdoctor. Shimunenga did not want the witchdoctor to give the same medicine to his brother. So he tricked the witchdoctor and ensured that he died on the river.
After the war ended, Shimunenga requested that when he died people should mourn him by bringing cattle. And to this day, this is the way Shimunenga is mournedThe Ceremony
The traditional ceremony is held on the Kafue Flats in Namwala district of Southern Province. The ceremony expresses the people's devotion to their divine ancestors.
The date of the ceremony is set by headman Amos Kande who is the current headman of the Shimunenga. The ceremony is held on a weekend of a full moon and when the first rains have fallen.
The Shimunenga cattle drive lasts for three days. It starts on Friday, which is a womens day. On this day the women sing songs and dance. The men drink beer as they watch the cattle arrive.
The mens day is the second day. On this day the women dress in masalu and throw sticks, which symbolise throwing spears at Shimunengas brother Moomba. The women dance the kukonkobela, making music with sticks beaten on cow yokes or pounding sticks. Other traditional dances performed on this day include inkazo and mpango. Appreciation gifts are given to dancers. During this time, people move to the chiefs palace for speeches and praise songs. This is a time for songs and games.
The third day is the day for display of cattle at Nalubwee Lubwe. The cattle drive takes place on the fringes of the Kafue plain in headman Shiinges area. The first head belongs to the chief and his family. The second herd belongs to headman Chaambwe, the guardian of Shimunenga.
Kulamba Traditional Ceremony
The Kulamba traditional ceremony is celebrated towards the end of August each year. Mkaika, the head quarters of the Chewa people comes to life. This is the time for the Kulamba, or paying homage. All the subordinate chiefs in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique come to Katete at Mkaika to pay their tributes and join in the celebrations with their people.
The ceremony, held after harvest in late August, is a way of bringing together different Chewa chiefs from the three countries to present their reports of grievances to paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi. The name Kalonga means the one who installs subordinate chiefs. Gawa is the one who gives out land and Undi means the one who protects the subordinates. The Kalonga Gawa Undi is head of all the Chewa chiefdoms and takes care Read more
A variety of dances like Gule Wamukulu (Nyau), Gologolo, Makanja, Muganda, Chinamwali, Chimtali (the female dance) and many others are performed during the ceremony. The Nyau or popularly known as the Gule Wamukulu among locals, is the most celebrated dance among the Chewa people.
The Nyau dance (Gule Wamukulu) was officially recognized by UNESCO in 2006. Nyau dancers are referred to as Vilombo (animals) in Chewa, believed to emanate from dead spirits. There are a lot of Nyau dances at any ceremony. The type of the dance depends to a larger extent on the nature of the occasion. More than 30 different Nyau dances are performed at a single festival with each dancer adorning a different mask in an array of colors.
Some of the Nyau masks are a reflection of human behavior in true life. The people can tell the type of Nyau entertaining them through its dress or mask. Some Nyau are frightening while others are fun.
Also part of the Kulamba ceremony is an annual initiation ceremony for the young girls who have come of age. The anamwali or young girls have been in confinement where they have spent time being taught skills and responsibilities of womanhood.
Kulamba ceremony is proving to be a big annual event, bringing together chiefs from 137 chiefdoms in Malawi, 33 in Mozambique and 42 in Zambia. The significance of this is its ability to bring Chewa under different chiefdoms and countries to Mkaika, capital of the Chewa and palace of paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi, to celebrate these festivals together regardless of todays political boundaries.
Lwiindi Traditional CeremonyThe Lwiindi Traditional ceremony of the Tonga people is an annual festival of thanks giving which is held in Monze in the Southern Province. Before looking into the Lwiindi traditional ceremony, let’s briefly take a look at the origins of the Tonga… Origins Of the Tonga People
Incidentally, in case you didn’t know, the Tonga people are considered to be the original Inhabitants in Zambia. It is reported that they have been in the Tonga area for at least 600 years. Evidence of their stay here have been found in places such as Mazabuka, Magoye, Monze, Choma, Kalomo, Batoka plateau and at the top of Sebanzi hill on the edge of the Kafue flats on Lochinvar ranch.Meaning Of The Tonga Name
Tonga is a Shona word meaning independent. The name indicates that the Tonga people did not have a central political structure. They lived in small independent family units Read more
Tradition has it that the present chief Monze descended from a long line dating from the 17th Century. The chief is a spiritual and cultural leader with considerable influence. The current Chief Magunza Monze assumed his chieftaincy in 1990.The Tonga And their Cattle!
The Tonga people are attached very much to the land and cattle. Other Zambian tribes often tease them that when you greet a Tonga, you must also inquire about the well-being of each and very cow.And what more!
Tonga people have traditionally knocked out their front teeth in imitation of their highly prized cattle!
The Lwiindi ceremony encompasses several ceremonies; all of them are connected to praying for rain. The main ones are the Lwiindi Gonde, held southwest of Monze town, and the Maanzi Aabila Lwiindi, in Chief Siachitima’s area in Kalomo. They are held annually.The Shrines
The Tonga lwiindi ceremony would not be complete without mentioning another aspect of Tonga culture – the shrines. These are allocated at Gonde, which means thick bush. The Tonga visit these shrine to ask for rains from their ancestors or assistance with eliminating disease.
At the shrines there are two huts built on top of the graves of the sacred Tonga chiefs, Mayaba and Nchete Ilya Mabwe. In praying for the rains the Tonga brew beer, slaughter a black goat or chicken or even a cow.
While in shrines there are rules to follow such as: Women are not allowed if they have their menstrual period, an animal slaughtered at the shrine should be roasted and eaten without adding salt, and consumed right at the shrine, everybody must remove their shoes and socks, any person going to the shrines must be clean of mind and body, one should not have sex the night before going to the shrine and a thousand and one rules!And now, the Lwiindi traditional ceremony… The Tonga Dances At The Lwiindi Gonde Ceremony
This is the main ceremony which takes place in July. The Reason is that chief Monze is considered to be the most senior leader. The ceremony is held at Gonde, where it is claimed the first Chief Monze just disappeared but did not die. The place became the burial place for all chiefs but so far only two have been buried there.
Lwiindi means thanks giving for the harvests. These thanks are directed to Tonga ancestors, especially the first Chief, Monze Mukulukulu. It is believed that Monze Mukulukulu was blessed with wisdom, was a rain maker and could eradicate diseases.
The Tonga people would travel long distances to come and seek his advice. Before they spoke to him, they would present him with traditional hoes (maamba) made from smelted iron.
Chief Monze celebrates the Lwiindi Gonde ceremony by consuming the first meal of the new season’s harvest. In the process, songs are sung praising the first Chief Monze Mukulukulu, who according to tradition sends down the rain.
The ceremony attracts so many people, including, politicians, representatives of opposition parties, and hundreds of people beyond the province. The ceremony starts on the last Sunday of June. On Sunday, people watch various dances of the plateau Tonga, the Plains Tonga and the Valley Tonga.The Plateau Tonga
The plateau Tonga perform the Kalyaba dance using only two drums. This a spiritual dance and it is believed that it moves the soul and mind.The Valley Tonga
These display a warrior dance known as Budima. This is the song that brings the chief into the main arena. The performance is also called Nyeele, and is also used to drive cattle into the bush.
The Budima dance is performed by traditional soldiers with long spears, jumping high while blowing trumpet music and shouting chants, while a big drum sounds from the corner of the arena.
A dance is performed by old women and young girls, adorned with bead necklaces and bangles of white beads on their arms. It is an energetic dance which includes older mentor women. It is performed at initiation ceremonies for girls going into marriage.
There you have it! That's all there is to the Lwiindi traditional ceremony!
Ukusefya Pa Ngwena Traditional Ceremony
As August approaches each year, a traditional ceremony which is among the popular ones in the country is also anticipated. This is the UKUSEFYA PA NG’WENA traditional ceremony of the Bemba speaking people of Northern Province of Zambia. This ceremony takes place for two solid days which usually are Friday and Saturday, with each one comprising of different activities for all those interested to attend.
PAYING HOMAGE AT AMATEMBWE On this special day, special homage is paid to the throne of the supreme ruler of the Bemba country at a place called Kalisha.
UKUSEFYA PA NG’WENA This is the main day of the ceremony which takes place at the main arena, at the place where the original Ng’wena Village was established.
The arena is filled with festivities characterized by singing different types of Bemba songs, prayers and speeches by Mwine Lubemba and Invited Guests. Read more
Origin of the Ceremony and the Bemba People
The Bemba speaking people originated from Angola, which was then known as Kola, in the 17th century. From Kola they migrated to Luba, then later crossed the Luapula, Chambeshi and Kalungu Rivers until they reached the banks of Milando, were they came across a Dead Crocodile.
Since all there chiefs and rulers come from the Crocodile clan, the discovery aided in the creation of Bemba land. A village was then set up at the same sight and was named N’gwena land.
Just before and during the ceremony, the paramount chief of the Bemba people, Chitimukulu recalls all his subjects to the original Ng’wena Village to celebrate the formation of the people and nation, and all their achievements since
Kulamba Kubwalo Traditional Ceremony
Kulamba Kubwalo traditional ceremony is celebrated every year in October at Likonde Lya Ba Nkanga shrine where the mother of the Lenje Chief was buried.
The ceremony is held to pay homage to Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe and other Lenje chiefs for their good leadership.
It is also a thanksgiving ritual to God for a good harvest and accords chiefs an opportunity to evaluate food security and other developmental projects in their respective chiefdoms.Read more
The traditional ceremony is preceded by a week-long of entertainment activities and display of various traditional Lenje foods at the site.