Wayiwayi highlights Bemba culture at world fora

MBUSA teaching at Wayiwayi Studio

ONE of the reasons that makes Wayiwayi Studio and Gallery of Livingstone, founded by artist couple Agnes and Lawrence Yombwe, to be conspicuous on the Zambian art scene is its creation of works inspired by the Bemba mythology.
Wayiwayi Studio is particularly famed for promotion of the Mbusa tradition and other aspects of the Bemba culture through art. On Wednesday, the creative studio made a presentation at the World Tourism Day Forum at Livingstone Museum where it joined in discussing the significance of culture in tourism and rural development.
Against the background of Zambia boasting of 73 united ethnic tribes, with ci-Bemba being among the widely spoken languages, Wayi Wayi Studio presented a paper that gave the origins of the Bemba people and some of the celebrated traditional aspects of the Bemba culture.
“The Bemba (Aba Bemba) traces their origin from Luba-Lunda empire in present day Democratic Republic of Congo,” an excerpt from the presentation reads.
“During the great Bantu migrations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Bembas headed south crossing Luapula and Chambeshi rivers. After they reached the banks, they came across a dead crocodile, of which the leader of the group Chiti (the tree) communicated with the spirits and told his followers that the ancestors had allowed him to establish their new home in that place, after the traveling and many conquests on the way.”
The paper indicates that a ritual was performed and Chiti called for celebration to mark the establishment of the Kingdom to be founded on the spirits of the might crocodile, consequently birthing the Bemba people as the crocodile clan (Abena Ngundu/Ngwena).
In case you have wondered about Ukusefya Pa Ng’wena traditional ceremony of the Bemba people is all about, it all began when a ritual was done at the river bank where a dead crocodile was found and which is believed to mark the birth of the Bemba land (Ulu Bemba) or the Bemba Kingdom.
Ukusefya Pa Ng’wena has become the epitome of the of the Bemba people which is celebrated annually on a day between August and September.
Needless to say the ceremony is among the country’s cherished traditional ceremonies, which attracts an audience from outside Zambia promoting the international tourism profile of Zambia.
The influx of people to Mungwi (the Bemba’s traditional headquarters) to witness Ukusefya Pa Ng’wena, brings its own social and economical benefits to the area. Among the social benefits, the event allows promotion of unity among different ethnic groups and tribes which also nourishes diverse traditional values.
The Wayiwayi paper shares on the traditional education systems within the Bemba culture, citing Ichisungu – the rite of passage of girls to womanhood as an important moment at which girls go through an initiation ceremony. This rite is intended to teach girls hygiene and other basic roles of a women.
More advanced lessons are given to women who are about to enter into marriage in the Mbusa rite. This is a component of education, which forms a vital part of Agnes and Lawrence Yombwe’s work. The couple has creatively employed the Mbusa tradition in their work, creating their own signs and symbols including installations as teaching aids.
It can generally be appreciated that culture gives a people their identity and a sence of belonging. The Bemba culture forms an integral part of the country’s social and economic civilisation, both in the rural and urban set ups. The Bemba culture adds to the traditional variety which Zambia enjoys with its 73 ethnic groupings forming an exceptional platform of cultural diversity.
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