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SENIOR Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe carried around the main arena of the traditional ceremony. Right, Lenje traditionalists performing at the ceremony. PICTURES: CHAMBO NG’UNI

Likonde Lya Ba Nkanga shrine comes to life

UPON reaching Likonde Lya Ba Nkanga shrine, a makeshift market comes into focus exposing traders who are busy going about their businesses on a hot day.
They are selling second-hand clothes, various types of food as well as alcohol. It is a day of festivity with the makeshift market in full operation.
But the makeshift market was just a by the way distraction, the hundreds of people there had come for the Kulamba Kubwalo traditional ceremony of the Bene Mukuni (Lenje people), under the leadership of the Kubwalo, Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe. The ceremony takes place at the Likonde Lya Ba Nkanga shrine in Chibombo.
Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe embarked on an annual journey within the shrine to depict the migration of his ancestors between the 16th and the 17th century from the Kola Luba land in the Congo Basin to the central region of present-day Zambia.
The cultural village, which has 11 huts, is specifically designed to depict the Kola Luba land. The structures accommodate Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe and chiefs Liteta, Chamuka, Chitanda, Mungule, Mukubwe, Ngabwe and visiting chiefs during the ceremony.
Senior Chief Mukuni of the Toka-Leya of Kazungula district in Southern Province also has a hut reserved for him as he is part of Bene Mukuni people.
Between this cultural village and the section where Nkanga, the queen mother of the Bene Mukuni is buried, there are eight huts made of sticks and grass depicting the Lenje chiefdoms in Chibombo, Chisamba, Kapiri Mposhi and Ngabwe districts.
Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe emerged from his quarters looking frail and was helped to walk to a vehicle that was waiting for him. Even last year, instead of walking, he used a vehicle to undertake the annual journey because of an injury on one of his legs.
However, tradition demands that the senior ruler leads his people to celebrate the Kalumba Kubwalo traditional ceremony every year.
The emotional journey is characterised by the beating of drums, singing, ululation and dancing by women while warriors pace to and from wielding their spears as if they are confronting their enemies.
At every station, a Lenje historian narrates to the people the events that happened as the Bene Mukuni were migrating to occupy their present-day chiefdoms. This is before Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe finally makes his last stop at a site where Nkanga is buried.
The grave is housed in a hut and this site is the most revered area of Likonde Lya Ba Nkanga shrine.
Nkanga’s grave was smeared with mealie meal and a clay pot containing a local brew was placed on top.
Accompanied by Chief Chamuka, Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe performed rituals and, while in the hut, asked Nkanga to bless her people.
“We are your people, we need rain. We need water and we need a good crop harvest,” Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe said.
Afterwards, he invited all chiefs Liteta, Chamuka, Chitanda, Mungule, Mukubwe and Ngabwe to pay homage to Nkanga.
Visiting chiefs Mukonchi, Chitina, Chibale, Kabamba, Kanyesha, Serenje and Chembe of the Lala and Swaka people also paid homage to Nkanga.
From Itezhi-Tezhi, chiefs Mwezwa, Shezongoa, Musungwa and from Mumbwa chiefs Chibuluma, Moono and from Southern Province chiefs, Mukuni and Hamusonde also paid respects.
Chieftainess Mwanjabantu of Petauke District in Eastern Province also attended the ceremony. She was accompanied by a cultural group.
As Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe was moving around, he was gulping the brew and splashing it on people as a sign of blessing them.
But while rituals were going on at the grave of Nkanga, traders on the other hand were busy with their businesses while Lenje cultural groups also offered entertainment.
When the rituals were completed, attention shifted to the arena, where Senior Mukuni Ng’ombe entered as a gallant warrior amid excitement from his people and visitors.
This year’s Kulamba Kubwalo traditional ceremony was unique because it was the last and main event of the inaugural Central Province Investment Forum that was held at Mulungushi University in Kapiri Mposhi.
The six-day expo, where President Lungu officiated, was held under the theme: ‘Accelerating investment for inclusive and sustainable Development’.
Through the ceremony, the Central Province administration was also showcasing the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Kulamba Kubwalo Culture Association chairman Jonas Shakafuswa commended Government for making the ceremony the last event of the expo.
Mr Shakafuswa said Chisamba, Chibombo, Kapiri Mposhi and Ngabwe districts offer unique investment opportunities, especially in agriculture and agro processing.
He said traditional leaders in the districts want Government to rehabilitate roads to open their chiefdoms and promote agriculture and investments in different sectors.
Mr Shakafuswa said the Kulamba Kubwalo traditional ceremony is an important annual traditional event for the Lenje people because it is an occasion when they honour God and pay homage to Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe.
Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga, who officiated at the ceremony, explained the importance of the region’s investment forum and expo to the gathering.
“The Government is optimistic that with opportunities available in agriculture, agro-processing, tourism, mining, manufacturing, energy, fisheries, forestry and education, investors are guaranteed to find investment that Central Province has to offer,” he said.
Mr Mushanga said Government included the Kulamba Kubwalo traditional ceremony as the last event of the expo, which brought together both local and foreign investors in different areas, to promote investments in the tourism sector.