Kuomboka Ceremony of the Lozi People

After the gift giving we all retired to our perspective rooms for the night.

Carl & I went to bed and were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of rushing water. There was a shower room across the hall from our room and it was running full blast. Carl got up and turned it off only to find an outside tap was gushing water as well. There are many issues in Kalabo with getting replacement parts for everything including plumbing and the outside tap had string tied on it to keep it from dripping. Basically the threads were stripped. Carl asked me if I had any string and the only thing I could come up with was dental floss. So Carl went back outside and tied up the tap so it would not gush water.

The Community Guest House

We got up in the morning and the guest house cooked everyone eggs and buns for breakfast. Frederick and I went to Nyoka Guest House to see if we could get rooms for our remaining 3 days and we went back to the community guest house for me to cook lunch and for everyone to pack.

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I cooked hamburgers with fried onions, cheese and BBQ sauce for everyone in an outside kitchen area, while Carl taught the boys how to play scrabble. I think it was their first time having a hamburger.

Then I planted lemon seeds and hope that they will get enough water to grow.

We then packed all of our luggage into the Honda and headed over to Nyoka Guest House. We had to walk as there wasn’t enough room for us in the car.

We passed a shop where they made boats. The black & white striped boat used for the famous Kuomboka ceremony was made here. Here is an article from the Norway-Zambia Friendship Association newsletter.

The most famous and spectacular of Zambias many traditional ceremonies is the Kuomboka which is celebrated each year in March or April . Kuomboka marks the occation when the King of the Lozi people, the Litunga of Barotseland, moves his court from the dry season residence at Lealui on the Zambezi floodplain onto higher ground at Limulunga.

The Zambezi floodplain in Barotseland, Zambias Western province, is extremely fertile. Black soil, replenished by the river each year, allows for rich grazing and agriculture. Surronded by the sands of Kalahari, it is no wonder that the Lozi tribe, having migrated from the north-east around the turn of the eigtheenth century, decided to settle, and managed to build a well organized society that stretched well beyond their core areas. But the rich land comes at a price. Toward the end of the rainy season, the plain is transformed into a lake. The water level can rise as high as 40 feet above normal, and even though they built their houses and laid their gardens and fields as high in the terrain as possible, the mounds on which the houses stood became tiny islands, and it got so cramped for space, that it is said that folk and cattle were drowned and even the snakes climbed into the bushes to escape the angry white ants. They simply had to get out of the water.

And Kuomboka translates to just that: Getting out of the water. According to oral tradition, it was a legendary King by the name of Mboo, who in the early 18th century decided that something needed to be done. He started experimenting with the art of building boats, or barges, which unlike the traditional dug-out canoes were large enough to carry people and property in larger numbers.

The boats were decorated to resemble the altars used to worship the God Nyambe, and their construction was meticulously regulated and monitored. When the boats were finished, tested and approved, the King set a date for the migration, and one day before the event, the drums would sound over the land to alert the people that it was time to get moving.

The largest of the boats is the royal barge, the Nalikwanda. It is decorated with an enormous elephant statue, the symbol of Lozi royal might. The King sits under a canopy, accompanied by his closest attendants, the royal drummers and 100 paddlers. It is considered a great honour to be picked as a paddler on the royal barge. Two canoes, painted white are sent ahead to check the water depth and behind comes smaller barges carrying the Queen and the Prime Minister.

The migration takes more than six hours, and the ceremony gathers thousands of spectators and dignitaries each year. Under this years ceremony, President Rupiah Banda was there with several cabinet ministers to congratulate the Litunga, King Lubosi.

Kuomboka should definitely be on everyone’s list of things to see before one dies.

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One response to “Kuomboka Ceremony of the Lozi People

  1. I love this for sure …. Zambia my motherland….. one love

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