LOZI PEOPLE: UNIQUE ZAMBIAN TRIBE OF THE KINGDOM OF BAROTSELAND AND THEIR FAMOUS KUOMBOKA CEREMONY
"When the King is in the court, he is an elephant in thorns."~ Lozi Proverb,Zambia. This praise-saying evokes themes of symbiosis and mutual responsibility that are at the core of Lozi kingship. The thorns are his subjects; they can protect the king or harm him in a struggle.
Lozi people celebrating their annual Kuomboka festival
The Lozi are a cluster of interrelated Bantu-speaking ethnic groups located along the Zambezi River in Barotse Floodplain Province of western Zambia. The Barotse Floodplain in western Zambia is home to some 250,000 people calling themselves the ‘Balozi’. These plains, also known as the Zambezi floodplains cover some 5,500 square kilometers and each year is subjected to a flood which virtually doubles this area for a few months of the year. As used here, the term Lozi refers both to the Lozi proper and to those groups that have become subject to and assimilated by the Lozi. These groups include the Kwanda, Makoma (Bamakoma), Mbowe (Mamboe), Mishulundu, Muenyi (Mwenyi), Mwanga, Ndundulu, Nygengo, Shanjo, and Simaa.
Lozi Litunga (in black) and his people of Barotseland
In addition to being members of the Lozi-dominated Barotse kingdom, these peoples share much the same culture, speak the Lozi language (Kololo), and are highly intermarried. Furthermore, the Barotse kingdom incorporates a number of other ethnic groups, such as the Tonga, Lukolwe, and Subia, but these have remained somewhat distinct in language and customs.
The Lozi people who lives in this area and the rest of ‘Barotseland’ regard themselves as a separate nation in many respects from the mainline Zambian politics and even have their own flag. Their language is mainly a form of Sesotho; a remnant from the early 1800’s when they were invaded and conquered by marauding Sotho warriors displaced by the great Mfecane of Shaka.
Lozi people of Barotseland
The Lozi are concentrated around the Zambezi River plain, lying at lat. 14 degrees 30 min.-16 degrees S by long. 23 degrees E. Within this area, there are several major environmental zones, stretching from the river and its flood plain to the river margins to the brush and forest covered uplands beyond.
The climate is marked seasonally by changes in temperature and rainfall. The rainy season lasts about five months, usually beginning in November, and brings with it the flooding of the river plain.
Lozi people speak Lozi (Kololo) also known as siLozi and Rozi, is a Bantu language of the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho languages branch of Zone S (S.30), that is spoken by the Lozi people, primarily in southwestern Zambia and in surrounding countries. Lozi has also been classified by the Voegelins with Bantu languages of the Benue-Congo family of the Niger-Congo macrophylum (Voegelin and Voegelin 1964:85, 131).This language is most closely related to Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa), Tswana (Setswana), Kgalagari (SheKgalagari) and Sotho (Sesotho/Southern Sotho). Lozi and its dialects are spoken and understood by approximately six percent of the population of Zambia. Silozi is the autoglottonym or name of the language used by its native speakers as defined by the United Nations. Lozi is the heteroglottonym.
The Lozi language developed from a mixture of two languages: Luyana and Kololo. The Luyana people originally migrated south from the Luba-Lunda empire in the Katanga area of the Congo River basin, either late in the 17th century or early in the 18th century. The language they spoke, therefore, was closely related to Luba and Lunda. They settled on the floodplains of the upper Zambezi River in what is now western Zambia and developed a kingdom, Barotseland, and also gave their name to the Barotse Floodplain or Bulozi.
The Kololo were a Sotho people who used to live in what is now Lesotho. The Kololo were forced to flee from Shaka Zulu's Mfecane during the 1830s. Using tactics they had copied from the Zulu armies, the Kololo conquered the Luyana on the Zambezi floodplains and imposed their rule and language. However, by 1864 the indigenous population revolted and overthrew the Kololo. By that time, the Luyana language had been largely forgotten; the new hybrid language is called Lozi or Silozi and is closer to Sesotho than to any other neighbouring languages in Zambia.
Lozi is also spoken in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia (Caprivi Region).
Some SiLozi expressions
Mutozi/utozi chwani? How are you?
Ni nzi Hande I am well
Ni inzi fela Hande I am fine
Luitumezi Thank you
Na nami siya Good-bye
Nimi siyile See you
Mutola hande Have a good day
Mulobale/Ulobale hande Good night
Kakubona kamuso See you tomorrow
Kakubona ape See you later
Bokuku ba bana Grand father
Bokuku ba basali Grand mother
Bo ndate Father
Bo mme Mother
Likezeli (said only to pers. of opposite gender) Sister ; Brother
Mulwani (to either elder sister/ brother) Older sibling
Muyani (to either younger sister/ brother) Younger sibling
Malumaho Uncle (paternal)
Malume Uncle (maternal)
Ante wakuba Ndate Aunt (paternal)
Ante waku bo mme Aunt (maternal)
Mwana wa bo Malume nebi bo Ante cousin
Lozi family in Barotseland, Zambia
Lozi Mythology (Creation story)
Lozi mythology Nyambe is the creator of all things and lived on earth with his wife Nasilele (Mackintosh 1922:368). Nyambe was polygamous and lived like an African king. God had two chief counselors Sashisho the messenger and Kang’ombe the lechwe. The two served as intermediaries between God and man (Jalla 1928:144-145). Nyambe made the forests, river and the plain and all the animals, birds and fishes therein.
He made man, Kamunu and his wife too. In time Kamunu’s ways trouble God. By eavesdropping Kamunu learnt the carpenter and smith’s crafts. Thereafter Kamunu proceeded to kill numerous animal species. Afraid that similar fate would fall on him Nyambe fled to an island however man followed him on a canoe. God worried about man’s persistent pestering took Nasilele and Sashisho with him across the great river and went up to Litooma his heavenly village on a spider’s web. The spider, which had acted as a guide, was blinded so as to deter man from following. Man tried to reach God by building a platform. Unfortunately it collapsed. Henceforth Kamunu has given up on his attempts to follow Nyambe (Jalla 1954:1, 2, Mainga 1972:96).
The genesis of the ‘original’ Lozi peoples is a matter for conjecture. Over the last 140 years or so, they have preferred to be known by the name given to them by the invading Makololo but before that were known as Luyi (loosely translated as ‘foreigner’), Aluyi or Luyana. For most Lozis, but particularly the ruling class, it has been and continues to be important to locate their roots in the original Lozi homeland, Bulozi, the flat floodplain of the Upper Zambezi River and to assert that their ancestors always lived there. The plain was known in the time before the invasion of the Makololo in the 1830s as ‘Ngulu’ and ‘Lyondo’, which also mean ‘sweet potato’ and ‘weapons’ respectively in Siluyana, the language spoken by the Luyi, now found only in court circles.
The early Lozi will be referred to as Luyi and the flood plain by the name it is known now, Bulozi.
Mythological history Lozi people narrate legends regarding their origins (Jalla 1954:8; Giles 1997:60; Brown1998:22). According to mythological history in the beginning God created different kinds of wives for himself. With them, He procreated different nations. One of the wives Mwambwa, the Lozi ancestress, bore Mbuywamwambwa.
Mbuywamwambwa also bore children by God. She later made journeys to the north ending up in the Lunda country. However, she was not happy there and she decided to return to Bulozi flood plains. Lozi mythological history lacks historical evidence. It appears to be a fusion of oral traditions belonging to the earlier tribes and fabrications aimed at placing royalty above scrutiny (Caplan 1970:2)
Sketch of Kololo people. source:adventure.de
There are divergent oral traditions regarding the origin of Lozi people. Firstly, the Lozi are said to have originated from the Rozwi of the Great Zimbabwe (Mainga 1973:13). According to this theory subsequent to the disintegration of the Rozwi kingdom in the seventeenth century a group led by a woman went north and founded the Lozi kingdom. In support of this theory, linguistic conjectures have been made. For example, similarities between Lozi and Hurutshe the root language for Rozwi, a dominant Shona language have been deduced (Coillard 1902:224).
However there is little evidence for this version. Moreover, linguistic connections with the suggested group are unfounded. Another Lozi tradition points to a Congolese origin (Gluckman 1968:1). Lozi people claim to have descended from the great Lunda king Mwata-Yamvo. This theory conforms to historical traditions of some other tribes in the North-western and north-eastern Zambia, which migrated from the Lunda kingdom in the present day Democratic Republic of Congo (Fagan 1966:17; Mainga 1966:122). Hence, the Luba/Lunda source appears to be the most credible. There is a section of Kaonde people which claims to have been forced out of the Barotse flood plains by the Luyi (proto Lozi). But the Lozi do not attest to this tradition. Instead, Lozi mythology conveys information about related people who were produced by Nyambe at the same time as they from different wives. Accordingly, Lozi people are descendants of Mbuyamwambwa daughter and wife of Nyambe (Jalla 1954:80)
Kololo Women with Water-Pots, Listening to the Music of the Marimba, Sansa, and ‘Pan’s Pipes’
Migration and settlement
The original people in Barotseland, (Lozi), are known as Aluyi or Aluyana. Through a process of assimilation, the group came to be known as Lozi consisting of twenty-five Bantu speaking people groups (Gluckman 1968:3). The Luyana group comprises the Kwandi, Kwangwa, Muenyi and Mbowe peoples. Kwangwa people are believed to have descended from Mbuyamwambwa through her daughter Noleya. They established their home in the surrounding area of Mongu. Subsequently, Kwangwa people were conquered by Ngalama and relocated to the highland to work iron (Jalla1954:10-12). Muenyi people originated from the Lunda and Luyi. The Kwandi’s connectedness is illustrated linguistically for they speak a Luyi dialect.
In time the following tribes were assimilated into the Lozi tribe: Nyengo, Makoma, Ndundulu, Simaa, Mashi, Mishulundu, Yei and Old Mbunda. These tribes have unknown origins but it is proposed that they are Luba speaking. The Nkoya cluster comprising Nkoya, Mashasha and Lukolwe and Lushange was also incorporated. Another group which was absorbed is made up of Ila, Tonga, We, Totela, Toka, Subiya, Shanjo, Leya, Lenje and Sala. These groups spoke Tonga related dialects. Two other Luba speaking groups arrived late in Bulozi. The first, Mawiko (westerners) embraces the Lubale, Mbunda, Luchazi and Chokwe. The second Luba speaking class consists of the Lunda, Ndembu and Mbwela (Turner 1952:9).
Map of Mfecane
The early people in the Bulozi flood plains must have been Stone Age in conformity with settlement patterns
in the rest of Zambia. These groups of people resemble the Bushmen of the Kalahari (Fagan 1966:33). The existence of Bushmen-type people is further established by tales about small people in Bantu traditions (Mainga 1973:8). In recent times, Bushmen-type of people are found in the Mashi and Chobe areas in the southern extremities of Bulozi Iron Age settlers later displaced the Stone Age people. Archaeological finds in Western Zambia point to contemporaneous patterns to those occurring elsewhere in Zambia. Early Luyana people could have settled in Bulozi between 200 and 500 AD according to evidence adduced from pottery finds (Brown 1998:25). Founders of the Lozi dynasty seem to have incorporated at least two distinct groups, one found in the north and another in the south. The earlier groups could have lived in small groups under local chiefs. These groups are identifiable to this day while most of them are known by the same names (Mainga 1973:9;O’Sullivan 1993:v).
The following tribes lived in the north near Kalabo either in the 16th or 17th centuries. The Muenyi, Imilangu, Ndundulu, Mbowe, Liuwa, Simaa, Makoma and Nyengo. In the south were the Subiya, Mbukushu, Toka, Totela, Shanjo, and Fwe (Mainga 1973:11; O’Sullivan 1993:v). The two groups were not only geographically divided, but linguistically as well. The Southerners were related to the Tonga groups occurring in the Southern province of Zambia (Mainga 1973:11). However Mainga‘s categorization of the Southern tribes as having Tonga origins is doubtful in certain cases. The reason being, apart from Subiya, Toka and Leya the other groups demonstrate different descent (Fagan 1967:17). For instance, Mbukushu history does
not trace their origins from Tonga but from further east. They later traveled down following the Kabompo River to its confluence with the Zambezi. Under pressure from Lozi people they settled on an island called Mubeta and subsequently farther, south in the Okavango (Van Tonder 1966:37). The Mbukushu in the west of the Kwando River speak a Luyana dialect indicating influence arising from early contacts (Pretorius 1975:17). Equally, it is suggested that the Fwe originated in the west and are properly grouped with the Okavango tribes. The Yeyi are perhaps close to the Tswana in Southern Africa (Pretorius 1975:24). Today the Subiya, Mbukushu, Yeyi and Fwe live in the Okavango region of the Caprivi Zipfel predominantly speaking Silozi and their respective languages.
Litunga Lewanika, photographed in Scotland on his visit to Britain for the Coronation of Edwards VII. Circa 1902
The Northerners, on the other hand, are linguistically linked to Siluyana, which is a Luba language. It appears that the two groups- northern and southern, have been conquered by a later group of Lunda people, thus, fitting the Luba-Lunda Diaspora (Mainga 1973:17;Brown 1998:24). If this proposal is correct then Lunda conquerors arrived in the north around the sixteenth century.
Around 1800 (Mainga 1973:16) or 1820 (White1962:12), other people arrived from the west seeking refuge. The two groups were Mbalangwe under Mwenekandala and Mbunda under Mwenechiengele. They were both welcomed and settled east of the flood plain in the environs of Mongu by the Lozi chief Mulambwa (O’Sullivan 1993:v; Brown 1998:28). The area was previously inhabited by Nkoya people who
had been brought from their eastern homeland. The Nkoya were moved to the west to create a buffer against immigrants from the west.
Legend has it that Nkoya people belong to the Lunda group that founded the Lozi dynasty (Mainga 1973:16). This hypothesis is supported by the permanent presence of Nkoya music repertoire and instruments at the Lozi royal court. In addition, there is linguistic closeness between Nkoya and some of the earlier language groups which, has not been adequately accounted for.
After the death of the tenth ruler, Mulambwa, around 1830 the kingdom fell into chaos due to a succession dispute between Mubukwanu and his brother Silumelume. Subsequently Silumelume was murdered however, before Mubukwanu could take over chieftainship, Kololo conquerors invaded the land (Mainga 1966:126; Yukawa 1987:73). The Kololo, a horde with a Basuto nucleus, conquered Aluyana people in the middle of the nineteenth century. Kololo tribe belonged to the Bafokeng of Patsa who lived on the Kurutlele Mountain on the bank of Vet River (Ellenberger 1912:306; Gluckman 1968:1; O’Sullivan 1993:vi). During their northward travel the original group swelled through alliances and assimilation of conquered people. Sebitwane was their leader. It is around this period that the name of the Luyana people was changed to the name Rotse.
When Kololo warriors entered Barotseland at Sesheke they found a tribe of Subiya who paid tribute to the Luyi. The Subiya pronounced the name of their pillagers Luizi. In turn, the Kololo corrupted the name further to Ba-rozi (Turner 1952:9). Missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society who were well conversant in Sesotho language elected to spell the name of the people Barotse. Luyana people later liberated their country but retained Kololo language. Following their defeat in 1838 by the Kololo a group of Luyana princes fled north and lived in exile at Lukwakwa (White 1962:11, 18). Kololo’s hegemony was weakened after the death of Sebitwane’s son, Sekeletu, in 1863 (Smith 1956:74; Giles 1997:17).
In 1864 the Lozi to the north and Toka in the south simultaneously rebelled and cast off their yoke of subjection. Led by Sipopa the princes in the north regrouped, descended on the Kololo and annihilated the men leaving only women and children (Yukawa 1987:73; O’Sullivan 1993:vii; Zorn 2004:7). Sipopa ascended to the throne, but was ousted from power in 1878. He was succeeded by Mwanawina whose reign was short-lived for less than two years. His successor Lewanika was instrumental in expanding the kingdom conquering part of the Luvale to the north and gave protection to Ishinde’s Lunda. Moreover, across the border raids were done on the Kaonde to the north and Illa and Tonga to the south. The conquered people were forced to pay tribute.
In the nineteenth Century, other people visited the Lozi kingdom. Among them are Portuguese, Ovimbundu, half-caste slave traders and Arabs from the west coast. Griqua traders were the first to reach the Kololo from the south. Missionaries from Paris Evangelical Missionary Society based in Basuto land pioneered their work among the Lozi in 1883-7 (Mainga 1973:216; O’Sullivan 1993:vii). In 1890 and 1900 under advice from Paris Evangelical missionaries, Lewanika signed treaties accepting British protection under the auspices of the British South African Company (Zorn 2004:24)
In 1878, the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society tried to establish mission work in Bulozi through Francois Coillard. However due to political instability in the kingdom king Lewanika prohibited commencement of any work. Coillard left the Lozi kingdom in 1879 and only returned in 1885. During his absence, two other missionary attempts were made. Firstly, some Jesuits tried to found a mission in Bulozi. Mupatu (1959:29) fixes the coming of the Jesuits in 1833. To the contrary, the date is approximated to 1883 between Coillard’s first visit (1879) and his return in 1885 (Arnot’s 1889:71, 81-82; Mainga 1973:235). After visiting Lewanika the Jesuits’ efforts were rejected due to misunderstandings with the king (Arnot 1889:71). Differences were essentially inflared by Lozi people’s propensity to begging which were exacerbated by the Catholics’ miserliness, a matter construed for dishonesty
(Arnot 1889:71-72; Mupatu 1959:29)
Kingship and expansion
Early settlement patterns followed original conquest of the small tribes in Kalabo area by Mboo Mwanasilundu Muyunda credited as the first king of Lozi people. The following tribes were conquered; Mishulundu, Namale, Imilangu, Upangoma, Liuwa, Muenyi and Mbowe (Jalla 1954:9). Mboo’s kingdom at this early stage was neither large nor highly centralized. With the passage of time small bands of royalties drifted southwards from the Kalabo settlement perhaps after succession feuds.
Mwanambinyi set up his chiefdom in the Senanga area. His people are known as Akwandi (Mainga 1973:28; Brown 1998:27). Later Mange left the Kalabo settlement journeying southward and settled in the vicinity of present day Mongu. The northern remnant group led by Ngombala, the sixth king, consolidated the kingdom by conquering the dissident chiefdoms as well as the remaining southern tribes. Mange’s
group was known as Akwangwa after his assassination because they deserted their ruler (Jalla 1954:10-12;Turner 1952:9).
The institution of Lozi kingship therefore developed through a process of borrowing and conquest. Sources of this growth lie in the environment and ambitions of the rulers as well as the neighbouring groups. Exemplarily Lozi tradition point out that Isimwaa a leader the Ndundulu impressed the idea of kingship on the aboriginal tribal leaders (Mainga 1973:33). Ndundulu tradition on the other hand indicates that Lozi people made an alliance with Isimwaa but later took over his chieftainship and forced his people, Ndundulu, into subjection.
Another case of borrowing is illustrated by the acquisition of Maoma drums. These royal and war drums feature prominently in installation rituals. Installation rites come to a peak when the elected king sits on one of the drums. Maoma drums, though, were captured from Mwanambinyi who in turn had confiscated them from the Mbukushu. Similarly, the royal ensemble features Nkoya xylophones and music (Mainga 1973:13). It appears that the early Luyana did not have a centralized monarchical system. Luyana was ruled by chiefs who claimed to have magical powers. They prayed to Nyambe and their ancestors for healing, fertility and successful hunting trips (Brown 1998:25).
Kingdom of Barotseland`s Emblem
On 18 May 1964, the Litunga and Kenneth Kaunda Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia signed the "Barotseland Agreement 1964" which established Barotseland's position within Zambia in place of the earlier agreement between Barotseland and the British Government. The agreement was based on a long history of close social, economic and political interactions. The Barotseland Agreement granted Barotse authorities and people specified limited local self-governance rights and rights to be consulted on specified matters, including over land, natural resources and local government.
ZAMBIA`S FIRST PRESIDENT KENNETH KAUNDA RETURNING FROM HIS TRIP WHERE HE SIGNED THE BAROTSELAND AGREEMENT IN BRITAIN IN 1964
Barotseland continued to lobby to be treated as a separate state and was given substantial autonomy within the later states, Northern Rhodesia and independent Zambia. At the pre-Independence talks, the Barotse simply asked for a continuation of "Queen Victoria's protection". A desire to secede was expressed from time to time, causing some friction with the government of Kenneth Kaunda, reflected in the latter changing its name from Barotseland Province to Western Province. According to Barotse views, the government in Lusaka also starved Barotseland of development — it has only one tarred road into the centre, from Lusaka to the provincial capital of Mongu, and lacks the kind of state infrastructure projects found in other provinces. Electricity supplies are erratic, relying on an ageing connection to the hydroelectric plant at Kariba. Consequently secessionist views are still aired from time to time.
Barotseland promotional bank note
Currently, there are three groups who claim to represent Barotseland. In January 2012, The president of Zambia, Mr.Michael Sata met the representatives of the three groups at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. The groups are Linyungandambo, Barotse Freedom Movement (BFM) and the Movement for the Restoration of Barotseland. Experts have said that these three groups may become political parties should Barotseland gain independence. Fighting between the three groups has already surfaced. An article which appeared on the Zambian Watchdog purported to be authored by a BFM representative condemned the activities of Linyungandambo group. The BFM accused the Linyungandambo of having set up Barotseland Government portal website without consultations, and included BFM members in the puroported Barotseland Government without their consents, and in disregard of the effort being made by Mr. Sata to find a lasting solution. The author, Mr. Shuwanga Shuwanga went on to also reveal how the Linyungandambo had refused to work with the BFM back in 2011.
Lozi noble in his traditional dress
In a habitat characterized by great seasonal and ecological variation, it is not surprising that the Lozi subsistence economy is both mixed and complex. Lozi agriculture produces such staples as bulrush millet,
cassava, sorghum, and maize, plus a number of lesser crops, including groundnuts, sweet potatoes, beans, and melons. Agricultural crops, methods, and intensity vary with the location of the plot, the type of soil, the amount of moisture, and the population's needs.Most cultivation is done with hoes, the plow being a recent, and not always practical, introduction. Fallowing, manuring, crop rotation, and construction of drainage ditches are all known to the Lozi and applied where deemed necessary.
Most Lozi also keep domestic animals--cattle in particular, but also poultry, goats, and sheep. Hunting, collecting, and fishing are all important adjuncts to the subsistence economy, and the Lozi use a variety of technical equipment in these activities.
Lozi fishermen in banana boat on river Zambezi
Ceramics: Many pots are vase shaped and without handles. Some of these are decorated around the neck with patterns of a lighter or darker color, and others are highly polished to give the appearance of glaze. The lozi also makes large urn-shaped maize bins are made of unbaked clay that may have clay lids. On the front of these vessels, close to the bottom, is a semicircular opening protected by an interior slide, which may be lowered or raised by horizontal handles.
Industrial Arts. The Lozi are skilled ironworkers. Blacksmiths smelt the iron ore obtained from stream and river beds and from swamp soils to produce axe, hoe, and mattock heads, snuff spoons, crocodile hooks, knife blades, dagger blades, iron ankle-rings, hammers, and other items. A skilled and experienced blacksmith will often embellish his work with punched ornamentations or bosses. Many utilitarian pots are vase shaped and without handles; some of these are decorated around the neck with patterns of a lighter or darker color, others are highly polished to give the appearance of glaze. Large urn-shaped maize bins are made of unbaked clay and also have clay lids. On the front of these vessels, close to the bottom, is a semicircular opening protected by an interior slide, which may be lowered or raised by horizontal handles.
The average Lozi can carve a knobkerrie or a handle for an axe or a hoe; the Lozi also produce excellent dugout canoes. Many of the wooden artifacts used by the Lozi, such as stools, bowls, and dishes, are probably obtained in trade from neighboring tribes.
Trade. Traditionally, economic exchange was carried on through barter and redistribution by the king, and trade between the Lozi and surrounding bush tribes formed a very important part of the economy. Fish and cattle, held in abundance by the Lozi, were bartered for bulrush millet; cassava meal; iron; many types of woods, bark, and grasses; and various tribal specialties of the bush people. Trade between the Lozi and the outside world began to develop in the nineteenth century, particularly with Arab and European traders. Although Loziland had few profitable exports, owing to its remoteness from the outside world, the Lozi did have ivory, beeswax, and slaves, which were exchanged for luxury items of the industrialized world. As the economic balance changed during World War II, cattle and dried fish began to be exported to centers of industry in the Rhodesias (now Zambia and Zimbabwe). Today the Lozi are part of a full-fledged cash economy with market mechanisms.
Kinship, Marriage, and Family
Kinship. The Lozi possess no unilinear kin groups. Despite a slight patrilineal bias, kinship is reckoned bilaterally, with relations traced as widely as possible through both consanguineal and affinal ties. They have eight noncorporate name groups called mishiku (sing. mushiku ), and a man can claim membership in any or all of them, provided that he is a direct descendant in any line of a person who was a member.
Marriage. According to Stirke (1922), girls were betrothed in childhood, and married after mwalianjo (initiation); there were no boys' initiation ceremonies. Marriages are legitimated by the payment of a small bride-price. The practice of bride-service has fallen out of use, and postmarital residence is usually in the community of the groom. Polygyny is common, but the Lozi do not practice polyandry. Co-wives are accorded relatively equal status, although they are ranked according to order of marriage. The senior wife has a few privileges, such as first consideration in the distribution of food produced by the husband, but she has no authority over her co-wives. Neither levirate nor sororate are practiced. Divorce rates are high, and an individual Lozi may have had several partners during his or her lifetime. Marriages between close relatives, extending to third cousins, are prohibited; some cousin marriages occur despite this prohibition, but with the proviso that they may not be dissolved by divorce.
Lozi man in his traditional outfit
Domestic Unit. Residence patterns in marriage are loosely structured. Formerly, initial residence was matrilocal, whereas permanent residence later on was usually patrilocal. However, a man could take up residence in the village of any grandparent, and possibly even in the wife's father's village, if there were no available locations in his father's village. Incidences of avunculocal residence have also been reported for the Lozi.
Lozi woman and her kids in Sesheke, Western Zambia
The nuclear family constitutes the basic economic unit of Lozi society. In polygynous marriages, each wife has a separate dwelling and her own gardens and animals to tend. She has the rights of disposition of her own produce and receives a share of the husband's produce. Cooperation in production and consumption between co-wives is highly variable. The traditional ideal is that each wife produces only for her husband and her own children, but it appears that there has been an increased tendency away from this ideal of separateness. In the past it was common for one wife to prepare food for the whole polygynous unit.
A thatcher at work in Sesheke, Western Zambia
During the days of the Lozi Kingdom, there was no higher territorially based organization than the village, except for the kingdom as a whole. Beginning with British rule, however, territorial organization was introduced, with villages organized into districts, districts organized into Barotse Province, and the province, in turn, forming a part of a larger political unit or state. In contrast, the Lozi Kingdom was hierarchically organized into a system of nonterritorial political sectors. Members of a sector owed allegiance to the sector head, a man who held a senior title in the Lozi court. These sectors were dispersed throughout the kingdom and served as judicial, military, and administrative units.
Ex-President Rupiah Banda of Zambia and Litunga (King) Lubosi Imwiko of the Lozi people of Western province in traditional Lozi dress.
The Lozi Kingdom was highly stratified socially. At the top was the royalty (linabi and bana bamulena ), composed of all those who could trace their descent from a king bilaterally within four to five generations. Husbands of princesses and commoners related to royalty were also of high status. Below them were the ordinary commoners. Slaves and serfs formed the lowest strata. (The institutions of serfdom and slavery were abolished in 1906.) The king was the ultimate authority. In earlier times, a chief princess held almost equivalent power over the southern portion of the kingdom, but British rule eroded her powers. In addition, the Lozi courts had a number of stewards, councilors, and members of royalty, all of whom participated in decision making. The most important office next to that of the king was that of ngambela, chief councilor, sometimes referred to as the "imperial chancellor," a commoner who represented the commoners' interests in the court. Allocation of power within the Lozi power structure was highly complex and dichotomized. Commoner interests were balanced against royal interests from the top down.
The prerogatives and functions of the king and his courts have undergone steady erosion since the beginning of British colonial rule. As part of a larger political unit, the king was no longer the ultimate power. Power in judicial matters was first limited to minor legal cases and later placed completely within the Zambian judicial system. Similarly, the right to collect tribute was taken from the king. By 1965, most of the governance of the Lozi was through Zambian national agencies, and the right to distribute land rights was virtually the only power that the king could still exercise.
Sanctions maintaining relationships among the Lozi are general and diffuse; breaches of their rules lead to far more serious consequences than a lawsuit in court. Penalties applied to an erring kinsman may range not only from loss of rights to cattle and land, but also the loss of support from fellow kinsmen in various economic endeavors. Conscience and sentiments are major factors in inducing conformity and in making redress for wrongs. Generally, the settlement of everyday problems and the administration of justice is handled at the village level. Should the verdict not satisfy the parties involved, the case is passed along to the next level in a hierarchial court system, until satisfaction is obtained.
Lozi elderly man and his wife
Historically, warfare was very common among the Lozi. Lozi kings fought not so much to enrich themselves, although they obviously increased their power and prestige through successful military operations, but to obtain land and cattle, to add to their subject population, and to extend the area of tribute-exchange in which the conquered shared. At the height of their power, the Lozi ruled over some twenty-five tribes of from 300,000 to 400,000 people spread over an area of some 200,000 square kilometers. After British rule was established in 1890, the Lozi domain was restricted to Barotse Province of Rhodesia (later, Zambia). In traditional society, rebellion against the authority of the king was common. Often contenders for power were the king's councilor or groups of councilors, who had enlisted a prince of the royal family on their behalf. When a group of councilors mutinied against a king, because of the king's policies or because he favored another group of councilors, they attacked neither the kingship itself nor the rights of the royal family to it. Each party put forward its royal candidate for the throne and fought in his name. Clearly, commoners could only seek power by serving their own royal candidate for the kingship.
Lozi man paddling canoe
Sexual division of production:
The division of labor in subsistence pursuits largely follows lines of sex. Men are responsible for livestock, hunting, most of the fishing,and the more arduous agricultural tasks; while women do most of the work in agriculture and collecting, a little fishing, and most of the routine domestic chores. Occupational specialization was limited in the past, but has become increasingly important. As with so many other modernizing countries, migration for wage labor opportunities has become a major means of support for the Lozi (cf. Peters (1960); Gluckman (1941).
In previous times, economic exchange was effected through barter and redistribution by the king, but the Lozi are now part of a full-fledged cash economy with market mechanisms.
Lozi people of Barotseland,Zambia
All of the land belongs to the king. The king provides his people with land to live on and to work on. Everyone in the village has the right to fish in all public waters, hunt on public land and use any raw materials on the land. In return the king has right to claim any goods produced by the people. Some of the products make by the people were used to contribute to the building of the village.
The king provides landless people with unused land. The village headman was in charge of the actual distribution of the land to the villagers. If a man leaves the village he loses all right to any land owning. Of land is acquired by the right of blood or adoption then that family (head male) has the right to pass it on to his heirs and is protected by the courts even again the headman’s wishes.
Lozi Religious Life
The matrix of the Lozi religion is composed of a threefold strain, namely: Nyambe cult,royal grave cult and ancestral worship (Mainga 1972:95; Isichei 1995:142). This religious schema includes communion with the Supreme Being. Worshippers achieve this through sacrifices and offerings to God and ancestors. Such gifts serve the purpose of appeasement. Rituals are accompanied by material aspects of praying such as singing and dancing.
Lozi traditional people
When faced with calamities, people respond through prayer and sacrifices. Lozi people may approach God directly or indirectly. The services of a royal gravesite custodian, village headman and family elder are employed in mediating between the victim and the spiritual realm. At other times, diviners and witchdoctors are consulted, particularly when witchcraft is suspected. Witchdoctors prescribe both curative and preventative medicine. Similarly, rainmakers are called upon when there is a drought. Although the Lozi traditional ruler is not a priest, he acts on behalf of the kingdom by presenting a sacrificial animal to the grave custodian when there is a national crisis.
Lozi native medicine man
In Lozi society, communal danger arises from alien nations and offended royal ancestors even the Supreme Being. These may cause lack of rain and epidemics. Individual danger is caused by human and spiritual foes. Human enemies normally would be witches.
Spiritual foes are malevolent spirits. These enemies may cause loss of property,accidents, sickness and death. As in many other religious traditions, among the Lozi, prayer is an attempt to influence and manipulate the supernatural forces with a view of gaining positive outcomes. These supernatural forces are known to possess powers of control over different objectives of the communities and in individuals. Of necessity, the nature and character of prayer is influenced by the needs of society and individuals at given times in history.
In the Lozi religious experience, the cult of Nyambe appears to be predominant (Giles 1997:63). It follows that all prayers are addressed to Nyambe directly (Mainga 1972:95;Ocaya 1993:178). Nyambe is the name of the Supreme Being. He is accorded with a realization of having created all things. Nyambe is therefore superior to all spirits (Jalla 1928:143). Some of his attributes include omniscience and omnipotence as seen from various proverbs and myths (Mainga 1972:95; ikenga-Metuh 1982:17).
Lozi legend has it that in the beginning, Nyambe lived on earth in consort with his wife, Nasilele (Jalla 1928: 144; Turner 1952:49; Mainga 1972:95). The aggressive tendency of man, Kamunu, compelled Nyambe to flee to heaven where he set up his village, Litooma. The myth of this episode recounts how Nyambe ascended to heaven riding on a spider. Upon his arrival, he poked the spider’s eyes and sent it back to earth. The purpose of blinding the spider was to deter man from imitating him as he had done at different occasions.
With the departure of Nyambe to heaven, the sun was recognized as his proxy, while the moon represented Nasilele (Turner 1952:49). At other times, people thought Nyambe lived amongst the stars from where he influenced their lives and death (Arnot 1889:88).
Further, prayers were made at sunrise perhaps, demonstrating associations with sun worship. Those who remember the ancient Nyambe worship, look up to the rising sun each morning for continued provision. With heads bowed to the ground, they clasp their hands in prayer (Jalla 1954:3; Rooke 2006:2).
The cult of Nyambe lacks the office of priest. However, this function was performed by the oldest member of the family whether male or female. Such a functionary was responsible for officiating on behalf of either the family or village (Mainga 1972:96). Rituals were carried out at an altar situated in the eastern fringes of the village. The altar was composed of white sand or a wooden structure or both.
It appears that Nyambe was worshipped only on special occasions and crises such as seedtime and harvest time, war, drought, sickness and death (Turner 1952:49; Jalla 1954:5; Mainga 1972:96). For instance, before planting commences in September, the village headman sweeps and prepares a spot where an altar is erected. An altar is constructed from sticks and clay and it serves the purpose of holding a dish. Households then place a little of each seed they intend to plant. Garden utensils such as hoes, axes and assegais are also placed on the altar. Thereafter, the headman kneels before the people in front of the altar facing the rising sun. The headman joins his hands and bows down, and then he looks up raising his hands. He continues to stand up and kneel down repeatedly while turning to the right and the left. The villagers join in and follow the leadership of the headman (Turner 1952:49). After prayer, the head man blows the horn and the gathering gives a royal salute. This action precedes subsequent bowing and clapping gestures.
Similarly, when faced with sickness or prior to embarking on a hunting trip or after a nightmare, a person may pray to Nyambe. Abstaining from work that day and remaining in prayer to Nyambe the whole day until sunset, accompanies such periods of prayer.
During the new-moon prayers were made to Nasilele the wife of God (Jalla 1954:5). According to Coillard (1902:224), this celebration is similar to the Israelite Feast of the New Moon. The day of the New Moon was kept strictly as a day of rest. Celebrations were held with men without distinction, participating. Women applauded with shrill cries from a distance. At these feasts, oxen were slaughtered, cooked and eaten in public. The New Moon was greeted immediately as its out line appeared. Although direct prayers to God are seldom except for serious problems, he is also addressed indirectly through ancestors (Westerlund 2006:97-100)
Royal grave cult
The institution of the royal graves forms the second strain in Lozi traditional religion. In this case, prayers and sacrifices are directed to the spirits of the ancestor kings as against Nyambe the Supreme Being.
The institution of kingship and royal cult, lies at the center of Lozi society (Isichei 1995:142). In pre-colonial time the king was paramount in terms of the socio-economic and political structure of the kingdom. These functions have been taken up by the post-independence national government. Lozi people prescribe to a belief in the divine ancestry of the royal family. The royal family is said to have descended from Nyambe through the ancestress, Mbuyu (Coillard 1902:224; Mainga 1972:95; Brown 1998:25).
Through royal descent, an individual is eligible for kingship. At installation, the candidate undergoes a series of purification rites. After the performance of various rituals and investment of royal insignia, the king is presented to the populace. Henceforth, the king is shrouded in mystery, power and ritualism. The installation
of an individual with kingship makes him distinct from ordinary people. The king’s special powers and the performance of communal rituals to the gods, ensure the well-being of the kingdom (Mitchell 1977:30).
The royal grave cult can be traced back to Mboo (the first known Lozi king during the settlement period) (Giles 1997:60). It does not appear among the earlier groups. It is believed that Mboo’s spirit transmigrated from his burial place, Ikatulamwa to his own chosen site at Imwambo (Jalla 1954:14-16). The ceremonial sacrifice at the royal grave is a late development only recorded during the reign of Ngombala the sixth king, contrary to legendary accounts referring the sacrificial rites to the beginning(Jalla 1954:12).
Burial of a king. Circa 1910
Lozi tradition regarding animal sacrifice at royal graves, narrates that Mbanga, the son of Ngombala, the second ruler in the Southern reaches of the kingdom, ascended to heaven where he acquired great wisdom from Nyambe. While in heaven, Ngombala requested animals. Nyambe gave him animals from which a herd
was picked for sacrifice at the royal graves on his return (Jalla 1954:1-4). It is therefore apparent that the rulers developed the royal grave cult together with its mythical features in order to set kingship above scrutiny.
The Lozi king Lubosi Imwiko II. also called Litunga, change his residence after raining time with the royal bark Nalikwanda to his palace in Limulunga, Litunga at his throne.
The king continues to have special powers even after death. At any rate, the king is said to become more powerful in death than in life. At death, the king is buried at a place of his choice. The deceased king is believed to have the ability to influence the fate of both individuals and the nation. The departed king assumes a position of a mediator between the living and God (Mackintosh 1899:220). Therefore, during calamities, prayers are offered to the dead kings with an understanding that they will convey them to Nyambe, God (Muuka 1966:258).
The royal burial site is turned into a shrine, guarded by a number of people selected for this specific task (Mainga 1972:96). It follows then that the burial site is converted into a village. A special custodian of the grave also resides at the village. This official is charged with the responsibility of caring for the actual grave, tending to the needs of the deceased king and acting as an intermediary between the departed king and the living. The royal grave village is one of the many sanctuaries, others being Nalolo the Southern capital, the Natamoyo’s court (Minister of Mercy) as well as the king’s court (Coillard 1902:224).
The grave official also known as Ñomboti, possesses special powers, which enable him to communicate with the dead king. His duties involve offering sacrifices to the departed king on behalf of individuals for various requests, ranging from good luck to health. He also performs sacrifices from the reigning king on behalf of the nation. National requests by means of offerings are performed in cases of calamities such as drought, famine and war. Thus, chiefly ancestors influence their families and nation (Westerlund 2006:89).
Africa ZAMBIA Barotseland , Zambezi floodplain , Kuomboka ceremony in Limulunga, the Lozi king Lubosi Imwiko II. also called Litunga, change his residence after raining time with the royal bark Nalikwanda to his palace in Limulunga, arrival of Litunga (right) and vice president of Zambia Mr. George Kunda (left)
In the event that rituals are performed, the reigning king presents an ox or whatever is necessary for sacrifice to the Ñomboti. After slaughtering the animal, suitable portions are presented to the spirit of the dead royalty at the grave opening (Limbwata). The spirit of the dead king is expected to receive the offering.The official then implores the departed king to intervene on behalf of the kingdom. When the rituals have been conducted and the requirements met, the Ñomboti proceeds to report back to the king the message from the spirit.
Before important decisions are made, the dead kings performe a key role through their custodians. They are consulted in order to elicit direction on key issues pertaining to the nation. It is said that Mboo, the first king, continues to preside over national councils and is briefed about the ongoing at his village Ikatulamwa (Coillard 1902:594). The verdict from the royal ancestor serves as a guide to the king and his advisors, and ultimately the nation at large (Mainga 1972:97).
The powers of the dead dignitaries are further shown by the fact that travelers are not allowed to bypass a royal grave village without paying homage and presenting offerings. The offerings include white calico and beads of the same colour. Failure to present offerings may evoke the wrath of the deceased king, causing misfortune. The reigning king alone, with his Prime Minister, have the right to enter the sacred enclosure. Libations are poured out in the form of milk, honey and beer. Visitors and travelers to the royal grave salute the dead king both upon arrival and departure (Coillard 1902:171). Homage is paid by crouching to the ground, clapping, loud cries and all the while bowing profoundly (Betrand 1899:164). Equally, at the installation of a new king, special rites are performed on the candidate at the graves of the ancestress Mbuyu and Mboo, the first king at Makono. Thereafter, the new king is presented at other gravesites where sacrifices are performed and approval is sought (Mainga 1972:97).
The spirits of non-royal ancestors are also venerated by their descendants. In contradistinction from the remote relationship between Lozi people and Nyambe, the ancestral spirits are closely concerned with the affairs and behaviour of their descendants (Reynolds 1963:10). Ancestors have a vital role in the Lozi religious experience (Turaki 1999:34). They are venerated by surviving members of their families.
Lozi Kuomboka drummer
Ancestral spirits are accorded respect in the form of beer and food at appropriate occasions. The belief in ancestral veneration is founded on the premise that the dead continue to exist after death (Imasogie 1985:37). It appears that the deceased do not change their status. During family difficulties and catastrophes, prayers and libations are offered to ancestor spirits (Maboea 2002:15). Requests for blessings and good-will in the areas of health, prosperity and success in hunting, are also addressed to them. Ancestors can become malevolent when neglected, and can cause unprecedented harm on erring members (Mainga 1972:97; Ukpong 1990:68; Maboea 2002:15). It is their prerogative to attack the living, unfortunately, they may be manipulated to molest innocent people (Parrinder1968:59; Imasogie 1985:43).
Punishment is sometimes manifested through possession of the victim. Their capricious acts include drought, barrenness, sleeplessness, sickness and death (Anderson 1991:82). Other reasons for chastisement, are naming and passing atrade or craft to a descendant (Reynolds 1963:10). In addition, among the Lozi, the
husband’s ancestors may affect his wife while the inverse does not occur (Turner 1952:50).
Ancestral spirits are considered truly members of the family (Largerwerf 1985:17). The distinguishing mark is noticed in their mode of existence. The deceased no longer share in fleshly existence and they have crossed over into the super-sensible world (Idowu 1973:177). The deceased have become free from human limitations and return to take their abode with human relatives. In this way, they can benefit or hinder them. Sacrifices and libations may be offered to ancestors (Schiltz 2002:354). Libations include beer, water, milk or some other beverages (Maboea 2002:15). Adult family members commonly perform this practice.
Ancestors are also benevolent. Thus, they are prayed to for crop success for they can send rain as well as fertility to the land. They are sought for procreation to ensure the perpetuation of the race (Parrinder 1968:61). Ancestors were also known to assist in time of war. Equally important is the fact that the ancestral cult does not require local foci. Commoner ancestors have no fixed homes. Rituals are not performed at the gravesite on regular intervals, but could be held at any of the posts near the hut (Gluckman 1968:29-30). Through the process of attacks and intervention by ancestral spirits, men get to obey them and social order is maintained (Parrinder 1968:59; Largerwerf 1985:17)
The Lozi ceremonial calendar is largely defined by the state of the flood. The two great national events of the year are the moves of the king between his home on the plain at the time of rising flood, and his eventual return after the flood waters fall. The initial move is made following the appearance of the new moon and after sacrifices are made at all the royal graves.
Amid the booming of the royal drums, the king, traveling on the royal barge and accompanied by the princes and councilors of his court, proceeds to one of his capitals located on high land above the floodplain. This procession is followed by the migration of the commoners in their dugout canoes. As the flood recedes, the king is enjoined by the royal drummers to move back to the plain so that the people can return to their normal economic pursuits. At this time, the king makes his return journey along a canal dug by one of his predecessors. This trip is accompanied with far less ceremony than the original voyage entailed. Upon the return of the king to his capital, much dancing, especially of the ngomalume (royal dance) variety, takes place.
This is the Kuomboka festival, the word itself in the Lozi language is said to mean "to get out of the water". By ancient tradition the people must not leave their flooded villages before their king.This image is from Zambezi.
Quite possibly the biggest and best known traditional ceremony in Zambia, Kuomboka is an ancient ritual of the Lozi people taking place each April. The Kuomboka ceremony is a colourful and exciting event that attracts thousands of people from all over the world to witness Zambian culture at its best.
The Kuomboka ceremony has a rich historical background. ‘Kuomboka’ is a Lozi word that literally means ‘to move out of the water’. The ceremony came about because of the annual flood of the Zambezi River which turns the farmlands of the Malozi into a mighty lake. It becomes necessary for the people to move to higher ground. As the plains around Mongu flood, the Lozi king travels in a large barge, called the Nalikwanda (best know for its black and white stripes), from his dry season palace in Lealui to his rainy season palace in Limulunga.
He travels with the royal family, their staff and their belongings. The ceremony is preceded by heavy drumming of the royal Maoma drums, which echo around the royal capital the day before Kuomboka. This drumming announces the event. With the imposing Nalikwanda gently making its way out of the plains steered on by colourfully attired boatmen and songs of jubilation and drumming running away with the wind, it’s hard not to get excited about this special event. You’ll even get opportunities to see Zambian wildlife and birds.
Legends of Kuomboka
There’s never a good story without the slight blend of fiction and drama! We were pleased to discover that the Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people has just the right mix. Dating back over 300 years, the Kuomboka ceremony is surrounded by interesting myths and legends.
We know the Kuomboka is known to have come about due to the flooding of the Zambezi plains which forced the Lozi king (the Litunga) to move his people and his belongings to higher grounds every rainy season, thus the term Kuomboka which literally means “to move out of the water”. But there’s more! Legends tell that before the time of the first known male chief, Mboo, there came a great flood called Meyi-a-Lungwangwa, meaning “the waters that swallowed everything.” The vast plain was covered in the deluge, all animals died and every farm was swept away. People were afraid to escape the flood in their little dugout canoes, so it was that the high god, Nyambe, ordered a man called Nakambela to build the first great canoe, Nalikwanda, which means “for the people,” to escape the flood. Thus the start of what is known today as the Kuomboka ceremony.
Another interesting story surrounding the Kuomboka is about the Litunga himself. The Litunga begins the day in traditional dress, but during the journey changes into the full uniform of a British admiral. This uniform is known to have been presented to the Litunga by King Edward VII, in 1902, in recognition of treaties signed between the Lozi people and Queen Victoria. The tradition has been passed down from one Litunga to the next. Each Litunga has his own tailor-made uniform sent from the UK.
The last legend relates to the ceremony finale as the royal watery procession arrives in Limulunga. It is rumoured that every time the Nalikwanda takes the bend that leads up to the harbour of the dry plains, it always rains! Apparently this is because the Lozi king is said to have great mythical powers.
With a rich cultural background, exciting tales of magic and mystery and the colourful eventfulness of it all, the Kuomboka ceremony is definitely a must see. Add it to your list if you want to have a true experience of Zambian culture. The Best of Zambia team went to Kuomboka 2010 courtesy of Zed Extreme Adventure Safaris in partnership with the Travel Shop. Visitors are welcome to the ceremony and Kuomboka cultural tours can be arranged by the Zambian tour operators on the right.
Lozi women clapping and dancing at Kuomboka festgival
Arts. Lozi artistic expression includes ironic folktales, maxims, and songs about people, objects, and places, all of which are rich in historical allusion and proverbial wisdom. There is a band of musicians within the king's court; they sing as well as play musical instruments. These musicians perform on state occasions, or otherwise at the king's command. The instruments used by this band include a wide variety of drums (kettle, friction, small tube-shaped drums, and war drums), marimbas, the kangomhbro or zanza (ten pieces of metal fixed around a plate of hardwood on an empty calabash), various stringed instruments made of the ribs of fan palms, iron bells, rattles, and pipes of ivory, wood, or reeds.
Medicine. Diviners usually dance to work themselves into a frenzy and into a state of spirit possession to cure their patients. According to the Lozi, almost all disease is caused by sorcery. To combat these diseases, a witch doctor (naka ) is called in to perform rites of exorcism over the patient. The naka, who possesses real if limited medical knowledge, may be a member of the local community or may be invited from a neighboring village or from an outside tribe. The diseases treated by exorcism are psychic disorders that are usually attributed to possession by a malevolent spirit. These disorders are called maimbwe, liyala, macoba, and kayongo. The method of curing involves exorcistic dancing combined with the inhalation of the vapor from boiling concoctions of bark, roots, and leaves. There are also a number of less common curing ceremonies, such as the one performed when a child becomes possessed by a hunter ancestor.
Death and afterlife beliefs:
At the point of death, the individuals eyes and mouth are kept open. When death occurs, the body is flexed so that the knees come up under the chin. The body is then removed from the hut through a special opening cut in the side of the dwelling for this purpose. As the body is taken to the cemetery for burial, spells are scattered on the road to prevent the return of the ghost to haunt the village. Men dig the grave while women stand around the grave site and check to see if the grave is deep enough. Men are buried facing east, whereas women face the west. When the grave is ready, two relatives of the deceased climb into the grave to receive the body. The personal possessions of the deceased are then placed around the corpse. Relatives kneeling around the open grave then gently push dirt into the hole, while those within place dirt around the body. The grave is then completely filled. On top of the grave are placed a broken anthill and a wooden plate or some other object that has been broken with an axe stroke (dead like its owner), in the belief that they will accompany the individual to the other world. The grave of a person of status, which is situated to the side of the commoner s cemetery, is surrounded by a circular barrier of grass and branches. After returning to the village the people mourn for several days. As a sign of grief, the kin of the deceased wear their skin cloaks inside out. The hut of the deceased is pulled down, the roof being placed near the grave, while the remaining possessions of the dead person are burned so that nothing will attract the ghost back to the village. Sons and brothers of the deceased build miniature shelters in their courtyards, bearing the name of the dead, in which the spirit may come and find protection. At times of sickness or disaster, the kin of the deceased go to these shelters to worship and seek the spirit's aid.
The funeral rites for a king are far more elaborate. Before his death, each king selects or builds a village in which he will be buried, peopling it with councilors, priests, and other personnel. At his death, the king is buried in a huge grave at this site. This is then surrounded by a fence of pointed stakes and the markings of royalty erected around the location. Trees, obtained from the bush, are planted at the royal grave so that from a distance the site stands out distinctly on the flat plain. The Lozi believe that these royal graves are infused with great supernatural power, affecting the lives not only of the royal heirs but of all the inhabitants of Loziland. Each grave has its resident priest, who makes offerings at the site. The royal ancestors are believed to act as intermediaries between Nyambe (the supreme god) and man.
At death, the spirit of the deceased goes to a "halfway house" on the way to the spirit world. Here the deceased, if a man who has the appropriate tribal marks (matumbekela ) on his arms and holes in his ears, is received by Nyambe, or if a woman, by Nasilele (Nyambe's wife), and then placed on the road to the spirit world proper. If matumbekela and holes through the ears were lacking, the man was given flies for food and not welcomed; he was put on a road that meandered and became narrower and narrower until it ended in a desert where the man would die of hunger and thirst.
Lozi man from Barotseland,Zambia
(Kings) Litungas of Barotseland
The title 'Litunga' is the title of the Lozi king and means 'of the earth' or 'owner of the earth' signifying that the King of the Lozis is caretaker of all the lands of the Lozi kingdom. The first monarchs of the Luyi people who were the earliest known of the Lozi peoples present today in Barotseland were led by women when they first arrived on the Bulozi flood plain after a staged migration from the Lunda-Luba empire of the Katanga region in present day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The earliest known of these queens is remembered by the name of Mwambwa who bore a daughter called Mbuyuwamwambwa - 'Mbuyu of Mwambwa'. It is from this queen under whose leadership the Luyi settled in Kalabo district. During the reign of Mbuyu, one of her sons, Mboo was selected to be the first male monarch and from that time forwards, only males have occupied the Kingship. The dates of the reigns of the various kings are vague up to the time of Lewanika.
Here is a list of Litungas in chronological order starting with the first male. There are variations on this list and the reader might wish to consult other historians for comparison.
The Litunga of Barotseland His Royal Majesty (HRM) Lubosi Imwiko the second celebrating his ten year reign in Barotseland.
Mboo - also: Mwanasilundu Muyunda - Mboo may have been a nickname added after his overdue birth
Inyambo - older brother to Mboo
Yeta - an uncle to Mboo and Inyambo, sister of Mbuyu
Ngalama - son of Ingalamwa
Yeta Nalute - son of Ngalama
Ngombala - son of Ngalama
Mulambwa - : c1780-c1830
Silumulume - son of Mulambwa
Mubukwanu - son of Mulambwa
Sibitwane : died 7th July 1851
Mamochisane - daughter of Sibitwane, said to have handed the chiefship over very quickly
Sekeletu - son of Sibitwane 1852-1864
Mbololo - brother of Sibitwane 1864-1864
Sipopa - also: Lutangu 1864-1876
Lubosi : 1878-1884 (b. c1842 d. Feb. 1916)
Tatila Akufuna : 1884-1885
Tatila Akufuna : 1884-1885
Lubosi - now known as Lewanika 'the uniter': 1885-1916
Lewanika "The Uniter"
Litia - became Yeta III - son of Lewanika: 1916-1945 (June)
Litunga Yeta III
Imwiko : son of Lewanika 1945-1948 (June)
Mwanawina III : 1948-1968 (b. c1888 d. 13th Nov 1968)
Mbikusita - son of Lewanika: 1968 (15th Dec)-1977 (b. c1907 d. 1977)
Ilute - sometimes referred to as Yeta IV - son of Yeta III: 1977-2000 (d. 7th July 2000)
Litunga Yeta IV
Lubosi II - son of Imwiko: 2000 (October) - presently reigning - 'Yo shoo, Yo shoo, long live His Royal Highness!'
Malena a Nalolo
Litunga la Mboela is a Mulena Mukwae (princess chief) ruling over the southern part of Bulozi who, in the contemporary era at least, is simultaneously Regent Princess of Barotseland. Most of the year she is based at Nalolo, the traditional capital of the south and second most important royal centre of Barotseland, but in the flood season, she proceeds by means of Kuomboka in her own Nalikwanda barge to Muoyo on the eastern margin of the flood plain. The present incumbent of the position, the Mokwae Makwibi, has been the Litunga la Mboela since 1958 and is highly respected. She has borne witness to four Litungaships at Lealui/Limulunga. Her Prime Minister is called Sambi (the present occupoant of the post is Pastor Barrington Kalaluka Muhongo) who heads a Kuta and Indunas at Nalolo/Muoyo. This Kuta is made up of occupants with titles similar to those of the Saa Sikalo Kuta at Lealui/Limulunga.
Notulu - daughter to Mwanambinje, wife to Ngalama
Mubukwanu - Prince who fought and won against his brother Silumelume in the succession battle following the death of their father, Mulambwa. This was immedaitely followed by defeat to the forces of Sibituane and his Makololo hordes
Matauka - sister to Lubosi I / Lewanika
Maibiba - sister to Tatila Akufuna
Photos of Kuomboka festival
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.
Lozi mask man performing the Ngomalume (traditional men's dance)
The Lozi outfits are interesting in both their history and design. The traditional costumes are simply a functional adaption of the famous Scottish kilt and beret. These were first worn in Zambia by Scottish missionaries who arrived in the Western Province in the 1700s. The Scotsman's kilt, berets and even Highland women's outfits have been stylised by the Lozi people over time often with local flair and colourful effect. The red beret and the ivory bangles remain modern day symobols for the Lozi people.
Lozi paddlers at Koumboka festival
Lipatelo - animal skins worn by Lozi men
Siziba - traditional kilts worn by Lozi men
Mashushu - red berets worn by Lozi men
Kushowelela - Silozi Royal salute (clapping of hands)
Lozi warrior dancers