Zambian Traditions and Cultures

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

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

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 ceremony

The 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

Umutomboko 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

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

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

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


Lwiindi Traditional Ceremony

The 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


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

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

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