Mutomboko 19:19 : A unique festival

THE Mwata being carried to the main arena on a harmock. Right, some of the dancers at the Mutomboko ceremony.

MWILA NTAMBI, Mwansabombwe
ZAMBIA’s rich cultural heritage is often exposed through traditional ceremonies. The ceremonies highlight the unique cultural values of a

particular people or province where they are celebrated.
The country boasts of numerous traditional ceremonies that include; the Kuomboka of the Lozi people of Western Province, Nc’wala of the Ngoni people of Eastern Province, Mutomboko of the Lunda people of Luapula Province, Ukusefya Pa Ng’wena of the Bemba people of Northern Province, Likumbi Lya Mize of the Luvale people of North-Western Province, and the Kulamba of the Chewa people of Senior Chief Gawa Undi’s area in Eastern Province among others.
The aforementioned traditional ceremonies are not the only ones the country celebrates but are among the most prominent and attended. This year’s Mutomboko ceremony of the Lunda people of Luapula Province was unique. This was because the ceremony was incorporated in the recently held Luapula Province tour and investment expo as one of the tourism events in the province. Apart from that, it was also dubbed 19:19 because the 19th Mwata Kazembe Paul Mpemba Kanyembo was celebrating his 19th year on the throne.
Large crowds of people trooped to the ceremony’s main arena as early as 10:00 hours on July 29 this year, when the ceremony was held. Various dance troupes both from Zambia and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) performed dances as they awaited the arrival of the Mwata later that day.
Apart from President Lungu gracing the ceremony as guest of honour, the event was also attended by 17 others chiefs from across the country. These included; Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people, Senior Chief Ishindi of the Lunda people, Senior Chief Chiwala of the Lamba people, Chief Luembe of Nyimba district, and Chief Imwiko of Lukulu district in Western Province.
Others were chiefs Chikanta and Chipepo of Kalomo and Chirundu districts, Chief Ntambu of Mwinilunga, Chieftainess Muwezwa of Itezhi-Tezhi, Chief Kasoma Bangweulu of Samfya, Chief Nzamane of Chipata and Chief Kashiba of Mwense district.
The diversity of people cutting across backgrounds and beliefs signified the unity of purpose associated with traditional ceremonies.
After waiting for many hours, the Mwata finally arrived at the main arena much to the amazement of the cheering crowd. He was carried on a royal carriage known as the ‘muselo’ with all regalia of Mwataship placed on it. There was jubilation and gunshots to signify the arrival of the chief. The local people eulogised their chief whom they refer to as ‘bakapale’.
The bearers then took the Mwata round the arena, while lifting him high on the carriage. He later took his place on the royal seat. Paramount Chief Mpezeni and his Ngoni impis also added flavour to the event when they went round the arena showcasing their culture and clad in traditional attire.
After the performance, official speeches both from the Mwata Kazembe through his representative Misheck Kaoma, and President Lungu were read. Thereafter, royal family members such as Mwata Kazembe’s sister as well as his son also performed royal dances before the chief himself got up to perform his royal conquest dance.
The Mutomboko is a conquest dance that symbolises the victories the Lunda people recorded in conquering the various tribes they defeated on their way from the Democratic Republic of Congo before finally settling down in Mwansabombwe district. The Mwata was armed with an axe, or mbafi as they call it, and a sword, locally known as mpoko.
After performing his dance, the Mwata retired to a waiting muselo and was lifted back to his palace from the main arena as the crowd followed behind, signifying the end of the ceremony.
Earlier, scores of people presented various gifts to the chief both in material and financial form. One of the notable gifts was a speed boat from President Lungu.
Although almost all the traditional ceremonies alluded to earlier are celebrated year in and out, there are unique features each time when people attend these ceremonies.
For example, one striking feature about the Mutomboko ceremony is how the royal family in that area has used the Lunda maidens to preserve the history of Mwata Kazembe’s kingdom from the time it was established in 1740 up until Lunda people crossed the Luapula and finally settled in Mwansabombwe.
The maidens, who poetically eulogise the Mwata before he performs his royal conquest dance, are a preserve of knowledge regarding how the Lunda people who are believed to have hailed from Kola, moved from their original settlement in Sudan and settled in Kola before finally crossing into Zambia.
In line with the saying that a nation without a culture is dead, the Lunda royal family has done well to invest its knowledge in the young girls (the maidens). They can be guaranteed that it is the same knowledge that will preserve the rich Lunda cultural heritage for generations to come. Only then can young ones appreciate their culture and value it.
The maidens narrated what each of the Mwata Kazembe’s, starting from Ng’anda Bilonda (first Mwata) to the current Paul Mpemba Kanyembo, did towards the growth of the kingdom. And most importantly, they also explained the difference between the Lunda people of North-Western Province and the ones from Luapula and how the two groups went their separate ways.
Without doubt, the Mutomboko ceremony is a rich cultural event that celebrates not only the victories of the Lunda people’s conquest of the smaller tribes along the Luapula valley but it also celebrates their history and entire being.
This year’s ceremony was important because it also marked the opening of a cultural museum in Mwansabombwe which will showcase the history, values and beliefs of the people in that part of Zambia.

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