NDANGWA MWITTAH, Kalomo
TRADITIONAL ceremonies are an important aspect of any culture.
Such events, usually celebrated annually in Zambia, reflect the true identity of a people as they continue to remind everyone of where they come from.
And Zambia, a country with 72 tribes, has a rich cultural background and history. Most of these tribes have traditional ceremonies.
They are a reflection and a celebration of traditional Zambian culture. There are more than 20 annual traditional ceremonies in Zambia, manifesting customs, social life, rituals, oral history, material and spiritual culture, and if you have the opportunity to attend one, please do. They provide a valuable insight into a traditional culture that has been passed from generation to generation.
Among the most common ceremonies include the Kuomboka for the Lozi, Umutomboko for Lunda people, Nc’wala (Ngoni), Likumbi lya Mize (Kaonde), Ubuilile (Bwile), Kulamba (Chewa), and Lwiindi ceremony of the Toka Leya of Livingstone.
The Tonga people of Chief Chikanta’s chiefdom have one which they call Chungu Lwiindi traditional ceremony.
It’s a four-day ceremony which is not only held to celebrate the traditional culture of Chief Chikanta’s subjects, but also aimed at paying homage to the ancestors and gods for agricultural yields.
Bear in mind that Kalomo is one of the highest producers of maize – owing to the rich soils it is endowed with. This year’s ceremony, which was held from October 4-7, was graced by Southern Province Minister Edify Hamukale who represented Vice- President Inonge Wina.
There was something particularly unique with this year’s ceremony.
It was attended by 11 chiefs from other provinces, symbolising unity and precisely what many people have been calling for at traditional ceremonies.
Not only that.
Chief Chikanta, being a change champion, made sure that the ‘theme’ and indeed all aspects of the ceremony were centred on curbing the three social ills – early marriages, gender-based violence and poverty – that many have been identified as a nuisance.
She may not have been there in person, but that in itself couldn’t go without mention from Mrs Wina.
“The Government, through His Excellency President Lungu, recognises the important role that traditional leaders play in matters of governance, culture and rural development. The government is pleased to note the tremendous efforts his royal highness and his subjects are playing in curbing child marriages and gender-based violence within his chiefdom,” she said in a speech read by Dr Hamukale.
In fact all the 11 other chiefs who were accorded a chance to say a word or two, came to speak one language – ending child marriages, gender-based violence and fighting poverty.
“All these chiefs you are seeing here have taken keen interest in fighting these social ills. We have collectively realised that if we don’t tackle poverty, we might as well forget about strides in the fight against early marriages, gender-based violence and also HIV/AIDS,” said the host chief in his opening remarks.
He was very brief.
“We are all concerned about early child marriages. That is why we are putting our heads together as chiefs by uniting,” said Chief Nkula of Chinsali district in Muchinga Province.
Speaking in the same tone, Chief Moonze of the Tonga people of Monze district hailed Chief Chikanta for his mentality of always putting his subjects’ interests first.
“He does not backtrack on his words. This issue of child marriage has been a thorn in the flesh for a very long time. It’s time we stood up and said enough is enough,” he said.
He ended by calling on parents to also “teach good morals in their children at all levels”.
Other chiefs who were in attendance and spoke include Chief Ndake of Nyimba, Chief Madzimawe (Chipata), Chieftainess Waitwika (Nakonde), Chieftainess Mukanda (Chipata), Chieftainess Kawaza (Katete), Chieftainess Choongo (Monze), Chief Liteta (Kabwe), Chieftainess Mweenda (Chikankata), Chief Chona and a representative of Chief Chiwala (Ndola).
Chief Cooma (formerly known as Singani) of the Tonga people of Choma district was represented by his Ngambela, former minister of General Education Michael Kaingu.
The traditional leaders are working in partnership with the Zambia Centre for Communication Programmes (ZCPC/Kwathu) in programmes aimed at ending child marriages. They have also partnered with Musika in a number of programmes aimed at alleviating poverty, which has been identified as one of the key drivers of social ills.
And also, in her closing remarks, Mrs Wina said, “You are all aware that chiefs are custodians of customs and traditions. It is our hope that traditional ceremonies continue to serve as a platform to promote peace and unity despite our religious, political or social affiliations.”
And exactly just that is what this year’s Chungu Lwiindi traditional ceremony stood for.
While addressing the social ills, it had a face of unity to it. More so for the fact that it was attended by 11 other chiefs and that politics of any nature had no place there.
“We don’t want to see anything clad in any party regalia here. We have all come here as Zambians to celebrate,” the announcer kept reminding the people gathered.
For sure, no party apparel was sited at the ceremony – not even anywhere near the arena.
It is a four-day long ceremony, but the main events, such as speeches usually happen on the final day.
But for the natives, day two of the ceremony is of huge significance to them.
It is on this day that the royal clan gets to visit the late chiefs’ burial grounds.
The current Chief Chikanta is the 14th.
It is also on the second day that agro-dealers and other service providers arrive at the arena to set up and display their services. Business booms too.
“I have come from Kalomo town (about 109 kilometres) to come and sell second-hand clothes here. This is how we normally take advantage of such traditional ceremonies,” said one trader only identified as Mweemba.
He was also selling solar- powered lamps.
Coming back to the festivities.
There was plenty of entertainment too, in form of acrobats, a blend of traditional and modern-day musical performances from local cultural dance troupes and also modern- day up-and-coming local artistes. There was also plenty to eat and drink for everyone at this year’s Chungu traditional ceremony.