Monthly Archives: December 2015

#ThokozaDlozi By Vus Ngxande

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Thokoza Dlozi could not have come at a better time. It came at a time when I am busy with the African cultures blog series that seeks to explore African cultures, the similarities and the differences. I had made a space for a blog post on African medicine so I was really elated when Vus started his Thokoza Dlozi campaign.

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Why am I doing it? Because I’m tired of hiding my beliefs. Of treating African spirituality as a caricature so that I don’t seem primitive. I am not a sangoma but I have a deep love and appreciation of African spirituality. I do not hate anyone’s religion. I am simply unable to relate. creative and as a storyteller, it is imperative that I tell the this particular story.- Vus Ngxande

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Vus feels that as much as we can come on social media and read bible verse after verse, we must also be able to share and proclaim our beliefs as well. To let African spirituality fade away simply it makes others uncomfortable is to let the very foundation of Africa to die. I totally agree with Vus, as Africans there are customs and things that were done in the past that we no longer do in an effort to look more modern. It is really important for the young Africans to go back to basics. Being African to me personally means accepting and embracing and respecting all thing Africans (even the things that I do not understand or have never been exposed to).

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As his concluding words Vus thanks aboGogo and aboMkhulu who he believes have a heavy burden to be a pillar in a society that despises them. But, we curse the light during the day but, when the darkness falls, we will turn to the light you carry. He wish them God’s strength. Some people have said Vus to be wrong for sharing the images on Facebook because they view the ceremonies as private but he has explained that Sangoma or Ukuthwasa ceremonies are attended by the community. Personally I think that some people are rather embarrassed so there would rather not have the Thokoza Dlozi images on their lily white social media platforms.

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Let me say this, #ThokozaDlozi was never simply about ubuNgoma. I am not a sangoma. But it is my duty to tell these stories. This project was about speaking freely about African spirituality. The notion that these practices are private or secret is precisely why our beliefs are dying. When don’t talk about African spirituality, EVER. Not even around a braai because we think people will judge us. We treat it with disgust and scorn because we believe it makes people around us uncomfortable.Yet, we expect it to live. To carry itself from generation to generation. We cry that black children don’t know who they are. We need to gain a better understanding of ourselves. Those who have this knowledge are not just old grandfathers and grannies. We have our peers, our age, who have been chosen to carry this knowledge. All we need do is ask, talk. We were born in this time to help rebuild this continent not just socio-economically but spiritually too. IF WE DON’T TELL OUR OWN STORIES THEN WHO WILL?- Vus Ngxande

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Spirituality is not a competition. It is not a game of numbers. Maybe religion is, but spirituality is not. I do not hate anyone’s beliefs. I love mine. ‪#‎Thokozani‬

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African Cultures By Young Africans: Bashi Tribe

Photocred: Patricia Lokwa

Photocred: Patricia Lokwa

BASHI TRIBE FROM SOUTH KIVU IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Written By Eddy Mihigo

I am from the Bashi tribe in the South Kivu province, one of three provincial groups (the others being Maniema and North Kivu) that make up the Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s Second Largest country and is one of the most populated in Africa. The capital is Kinshasa, which is situated in the Central Western part of the country. The country is Surrounded by 11 countries, which the most neighbours any country has in Africa.  A lot is already known about the riches of the country, and the wars that plague it.

Geographically, the Kivu province is made up of three provinces that run along the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania (along the Lake Tanganyika).  This area is unique in the DRC because of its climatic and geological conditions. The eastern Maniema Province is located in the Plateau and core basin areas. Height reaches approximately 500 metres and the equatorial forest is an important portion of the area. The climate here is hot and the region has a very short dry season. Height rises towards the east, reaching 1500 to 2000 metres with peaks of 5000 metres in the mountainous and plateau area. This area, the North and South Kivu, is called the “Mountainous” Kivu. It is the Congolese portion of the large range of mountains and tectonic deeps that crosses from Northern to Southern Africa from the Red Sea to the Zambezi River. This specific area conditions the hydrographic net, because of the lakes that are situated here.  From north to south there is Lakes Albert, George, Edward, Kivu and Tanganyika. This system splits up two huge hydrographic basins of the Congo and the Nile rivers.

Brief History of Traditional Authorities

Administratively, most tribes in the Kivu are organized around collectivities, with each based on a specific lineage. These in turn are divided in sub-groups and villages. Various collectives are mono-ethic, but tribes often have blood ties with neighboring collectivities. The tribes’ traditional boundaries loosely became the basis of modern administrative boundaries.

The collectivity, and any lower administrative level is headed by a Mwami (Chief), who is also part of the modern administration. The same tribe can have several Bwami (plural) at the same traditional level. Their ranks are however differentiated by the (modern) administration (Collectivity>subgroup>village). Historically, the major responsibility of the Mwami centered around the allocation of land among members of his tribe. Today, the Mwami’s major role is to conserve customs and traditions. The Bwami retain spiritual influence over their people and continue to play a role in mobilizing people, as they had done since pre-colonialism.Each tribe has a council of elders to assist the Mwami in managing local affairs. The council is often made up of lower Bwami, and may also include men of competence. The Bwami also have responsibility over lower courts to deal with local disputes about matters relating to land use, divorce, bride price and rape. They are assisted in these functions by local judges who are selected by the Mwami himself according to competence. The next higher Mwami (if there is one) must confirm the selection.

The Ethnic and native Tribes of Kivu

With over 30 native tribes, the Kivu is one of the most organized provinces in the country, with each tribe having a well-defined hierarchy.  I will concentrate on the tribes I am directly connected to.

A brief history of the relationship between the Banyabungo (Bahavu – Sibula Dynasty) and the Bashi (Ngweshe/Kabare – BushiDinasty). The mother of Nsibula I yaNyibungawasNyibungawaKamome and was the daughter of King of the Bushi,NnabushiKamome. At the time Bushi was one and the capital was in Kabare in Cirunga. She was kidnapped at the time of the invasion in Bushi by the Mwami of Rwanda Nsoro 1stSamukondo. She would later be remitted to her father by the Rwandan king himself. Her father then sent her to live with his younger brother, her uncle, Chief Chifundangombe, who impregnated her. Ashamed of this, and to avoid any scandals. Her father then married her to the king of Bunyabungo (Buhavu) LukaraRwaNsibula, the son of Mbebaerimanza. Lukara then became the adopted father of the child that was born, who took the name of Nsibula, and became known later as Nsibula I yaNyibunga.

The Bushi people, who were a powerful kingdom that extended from Kabare in the North, along the Lake Kivu to the south in Walungu, were constantly plagued by invasion and infighting. This caused a rift in the tribe and today, they are scattered across the land, each with its own Mwami.

IJWI(IDJWI):  An island on the Kivu Lake in South Kivu, which was annexed by Rwanda at the end of the 19th century and ceded by the Germans to Congo in 1910. The Belgians made Ijwi a vassal of Buhavu in 1921, a cause of instability until 1940. The capital is Rambo. Ijwi was split in two in 1943 by the Belgians with Rubenga in the North, and Idjwi in the south.

RULING DINASTY: Sibula

TITLES:

Head of Family: The Mwami of Ijwi

Name: Roger NtambukaBalekageMihigo II (in Exile)

FAMILY MEMBERS:

Sons of MwamiMwendanga:

  1. MwamiKabego
  2. Balikage, Sultani of Rubenga

PREDECESSORS:

MwamiMwendanga, +c1870. Son of Kabwika (heir and oldest son of BihakoBamanyirwe, Mwami of Buhavu) and father of:

MwamiKabego c1870-…, +c1889. Father of:

MwamiMihigo I Ndogosa c1878-deposed 1889, restored 1896-deposed…, exiled,  +1928

MwamiNtambukaBarhakana 1928-194 and restored around 1960-72. Half-brother of:

Chief Mahamiriza 1943-1960,

MwamiMihigo I, +c1998

Roger NtambukaBalekageMihigo II, Mwami of Ijwi

NGWESHE: A state in the Walungu District of South Kivu on the Kivu Lake, the junior line of the Bashi Dynasty who pushed the senior line north to the present territory of Kabare, also known as Bushi.

TERMS

Baluzi: Princes

Bami: plural of Mwami

Bashi: People of Bushi

Bwami: Kingdom

Mwami: King

MwamiKazi: Queen Mother

RULING DYNASTY: Bushi

TITLES 

Head of the family: The Mwami of Ngweshe

Name: Ngweshe XV Weza III Pierre J.M.J. NdatabayeMuhigirwa, Mwami of Ngweshe since before 1979, Senator, jailed in Kinshasa around 1998 (Exiled)

PREDECESSORS

MwamiNgweshe XIV Muhigirwa 1936 – … Father of

Ngweshe XV Weza III Pierre J.M.J. NdatabayeMuhigirwa, Mwami of Ngweshec1979-…

 

BASHI CHIEFDOMS

Burinyi (Burhinyi): A Bashi Chiefdom in the Mwenga District of South Kivu, a part of which split to form the Chiefdom of Kabare.

Head of family: MwugandaBas(h)engezi, Mwami of Burinyi, c1997

Kalonge: A Bashi Chiefdom in the Kalehe District, South Kivu Province.

Head of family: NakalongeMpagama II, Mwami of Kalonge c1997 (jailed in Kinshasa in 1998)

Kaziba: A Bashi Chiefdom in the Walungu District of the Province of South Kivu (formerly known as Bafulero).

Head of family: Chimanye II KabonwaNnakaziba, Mwami of Kaziba c1998 (Exiled)

Luhwindja: A Bashi Chiefdom in the Menga District of South Kivu

Head of Family: Philemon MukubaNaluhwindja, Mwami of Luhwindja 1988 – 2001 (Killed) Successor unkown.

Nnindja: A Bashi chiefdom in the Kabare District, South Kivu

Head of family: NanindjaBalekembaka, Mwami of Nindja since 1989 (Exiled)

Kabare: A Bashi Chiefdom in the Kabare District, South Kivu Province, the senior line of the Bashi Dynasty that was pushed north by the Junior line (from  Ngweshe). The capital is Chirunga.

Dynasty: Mwoca

Head of Family: Desire KabareRugemanizi II, Mwami of Kabare since 1990 (Jailed in Kinshasa in 1998) (Exiled).

SOCIAL LIFE IN KIVU

The culture in Kivu is a peculiar one, mostly because it allowed itself to be influenced by external forces (colonial), while it kept its core values. The constant changing local political landscape, along with the tribal conflicts have shaped the people, but have not cancelled the traditional cultural practices, which already had a strong impact on the rural environment where 80% of the people live. Almost all activities, from agricultural techniques to construction methods

 

 

 

African Cultures By Young Africans: Tsonga Ethnic Group

Photo: kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com

Photo: kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com

The Tsonga Ethnic Group – “Royalty of the East”

By @FanaThePurp

VaTsonga are a coastal people that Inhabits South-East Africa,spread out in Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. There are over 12 million Tsonga speakers in the world of all Xitsonga variants; majority is in Mozambique, then followed by South Africa.

Tsonga means East, it is the Southern pronunciation of the word Rhonga, which means East. The Tsonga people are also known as Tonga or Thonga. The Tsonga ethnic group is a combination of various groups of different origins such asMbai, Karanga (Rozwi, Ndau etc.) and Nguni and Sotho (Arrived eVutsonga around the 1800s). These groups came to eVutsonga for different reasons; Vutsonga was set up different to their Kingdoms and surrounding Kingdoms. Vutsonga was an economic hub and was less hostile, and international with Persia and Asia was booming. New Chiefdoms and Kingdoms were established, but these identities were formed on cultural assimilation and not conquest or war. Language linked the people of the East, cultural customs separated them from people on the other side of Save, the people of BuKaranga, and the Ngoni on the South.

Xitsonga is part of the Tswa-Ronga/Tshwa-Rhonga language family.

The Tsonga ethnic group is made of the following tribes and language groups:

  • VaHlengwe
  • VaN’wanati
  • VaNdau
  • VaRhonga
  • VaNhlave
  • VaKhosa
  • VaLenge
  • VaHlanganu
  • VaDzonga
  • VaXika
  • Valoyi
  • VaBila
  • Machangani

Linguistically, Xitsonga has the following main variants:

  • Xitshwa
  • Xihlengwe
  • Xikhambani
  • Xirhonga
  • Xihlanganu
  • Xidzonga
  • Xibila
  • Xin’walungu
  • Xiluleke
  • Xihlave
  • Xilenge
  • Gitonga

Tsonga people did not have a single political entity. Different Tsonga tribes had their own political power. Places or areas were named after the geographic direction or the people who inhabitant the land. Varhonga are the most easterners, inhabitant by the Tembe in Northern KZN and Maputo, in the coast. Then you had eHlengweni, the land of wealth and the land of the Hlengwe tribe. The Vahlanganu are the rainbow nation of the Tsonga people, they are made up of different Tsonga groups, hlangani means mixture. And some areas were named after its soil type, such as Bileni, which is a dark rich soil.
The Tsonga people don’t have a King. Mutsongaahiwarimhondzo, Tsonga is not a lineage. But various Tsonga tribes have Kings, Chiefs natindhuna who rule their respective people.

Unlike in Mozambique,VaTsongava South Africa use their ethnic identity instead of their tribal identities like in Mozambique. This is because in South Africa, the Tsonga people are a minority and are made out to be foreigners and reduced to animals on land they inhabitant long before majority of Bantu groups in present day South Africa. The major ethnic group in South Africa is the Nguni, then followed by the Sotho and Tsonga is third. The economic and political segregation of the Tsonga people forced Tsonga tribes to come together in solidarity for survival. The Tsonga tribes in South Africa stood as an ethnic group while the other ethnic group stood as individual tribes, as it is to this day.

But the creation of Gazankulu reduced the Tsonga ethnic group to a tribe, feeding into the Shangaan agenda to Shangaanize the Tsonga ethnic group to revive its Kingdom. The South African government used the Shangaan against the Tsonga people to divide them. Pop culture popularized the word Shangaan to mean Tsonga. The mines used Shangaan to refer to VaTsonga and Gazankulu officiated Shangaan to Tsonga.

And that’s how Tsonga became Shangaan.

Shangaan is Tsonga, but Tsonga is not Shangaan.

The Tsonga has survived over a thousand years, this is due to the very nature of the Tsonga identity; it is not about conquering people. It is about culture, heritage, language and wealth as means of unity, and not as reasons for war.

Ancient Facts about VaTsonga:

  • International traders/Merchants
  • Advance Farmers
  • Artisans
  • Fishing (First people in Southern African to fish)
  • Organized Labor & Mining
  • First Bantu group to interact with the Portuguese and the first people to defeat a European army in an arms war in Southern Africa.

Popular Tsonga Surnames:

Cawuke, Mavasa, Maluleke, Khosa, Baloyi, Ndlhovhu, Nkuna, Mathevula, Ngoveni  etc..

The Tsonga people are also known for the high tempo, known as Tsonga Electro and traditional, with legendary artists such as Dr. Thomas Chauke, Paul Ndlovu, Peta Tenet and Penny Penny. The Tsonga people have produced a number of prominent political leaders in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa such as SamoraMachel, and Eduardo Mondlaneetc… Including the legendary JomoSono and Irvin Khoza, and notorious Collins Chauke.

 

For more on Tsonga people go to http://fanathepurp.co.za/category/project-tsonga/

African Cultures By Young Africans : LUO TRIBE

I had an interesting  conversation with Winnie when I asked her what tribe she was. She told me that she did not know much about the Luos (her people) but she will do all she can to acquire more information and she did.

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LUO TRIBE written by Winnie Odande

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Twitter & Instagram @fitndiscover

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So when I got an inbox from Vuyiso asking me what tribe I am, I was curious to know why. She is South African so that was a bit out of the blues. Then she tells she’s doing this African series on her blog and after a few chit-chats we decide I’m going to guest post about my culture.

Exciting as it was, it was also daunting because as much as I’m Luo, I’m your typical town girl having visited my rural area less than 5 times in my entire lifetime, (yea, I know). Meaning I basically know little to nothing about my culture save for what I learnt in school, which I don’t completely remember, and the few things I pick up along the way. Anyway, it was a nice opportunity for me to reconnect with my tribe hence I couldn’t let it pass.

My name is Winnie Odande and I am Luo, 100% Luo. I always get inboxes of people asking me whether I’m Nigerian because apparently Odande is a Nigerian name. I was told the other day by a Nigerian pal that it is a Yoruba name. What do I know? Ask my parents.

My tribe is one of the 42 ethnic groups in Kenya with its own unique values, skills, languages and cultural practices. We mainly inhabit the Nyanza County of Western Kenya.  If I remember my History well, we are believed to have originated from Southern Sudan, travelling along the River Nile. I think after years of walking along the river we were probably drawn to the water features because we ended up establishing our settlements in the lands surrounding Lake Victoria. I must tell you that Lake Victoria is quite beautiful. Over the years though its beauty has been marred by the effects of the hyacinth and we only hope that the government will do something to clear the problem because it is also affecting the existing water life. My home, read ‘shagz’ Kenyan slang for rural home, is a just a few metres from the lake and I remember us walking down to the lake and seeing people doing their house chores like washing clothes, bathing, and economic activities all at the same place. Trust me, there was order.


The Joka-jok who were closely followed by Jo-k’Owiny.
The Luo tribe is the third largest community in Kenya .Our arrival took place in phases. The first groups to arrive were:

  • Jok’ Omolo came in third and the Luo Abasuba made the final arrival; The Luo Abasuba are as a result of intermarriage between the Luo and Ugandan Bantu.

What we are famously known for as a tribe is our traditional practices and our mastery of the English dialect. We are also known to be quite intelligent persons and we also boast of raising serious scholars and intellectuals like Tom Mboya, Prof.Anyan’g Nyong, James Orengo, PLO Lumumba and the former Deputy Prime Minister, Raila Odinga to name but a few.

When it comes to the cultural practices, we have the most obvious ones which are known countrywide like; Luos don’t circumcise their men. The traditional Luo man was initiated by removal of the lower six teeth. Don’t ask me whoever came up with that and why they thought it wise. Although with time government initiatives and sensitization has seen the modern Luo man getting circumcised in the quest to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. Another cultural practice we are highly acclaimed for which I find quite retrogressive is the wife inheritance. If a man dies and leaves behind a widow, his brother  or close relatives inherit the widow, she becomes his wife and he in turn must meet all her marital requirements. This tradition is also slowly fading away especially with the rebellious and learned crop of the urban generation and the entry of Christianity.  In addition to this, we have the mourning ceremony, tero buru, which is still widely practiced. This is a unique, elaborate and dramatic ceremony that symbolizes the departure of a loved one.

Marriage is considered a vital rite of passage among the Luo. Traditionally, a marriage ceremony was conducted in two phases, which involved the payment of a bride price by the groom. The first phase is the Ayie involving a payment of money to the mother of the bride; the second phase involving giving cattle to her father. Usually, these two steps are carried out simultaneously, and as many modern day Luos are into Christianity, a church ceremony then follows.

In the Luo Culture the birth of a baby in the family was and still is a big celebration among the members of that family and friends. In the olden days, the celebrations included some rituals which were done. Among the rituals were:

  • Naming the child – This was done a few days after birth, by the parents of the child. Luos were naming their children after their dead relatives, the time and the season the child was born, and if a mother conceived without seeing her periods.
  • Shaving – In olden days shaving of a new born was a ritual of its kind. The shaving was done by a grandmother or an aged lady from the some clan, if the grandmother was not around or was dead. The person shaving was required to have a calabash (Agwata) full of water, a traditional razor and traditional Herb. A calabash full of water was used to prevent the baby from being obese, the traditional Herb was used as soup.
  • Taking the child outside for the first time – Boys were taken out after 4 days and girls after 3 days. This was usually done in the morning hours between 9:00 am – 10:00 am to avoid the heat.
  • Visiting the mother and her new born baby – According to Luo culture when a baby is born in a family, the relatives and friends must pay a special visit. In the olden days, many rituals were also performed during this visitation. The first visitation was done by the lady’s young sisters to represent their mother. The sisters were sent with cooked food and food which was not cooked. The cooked food included Meat (Sun dried) ,Ugali made from Millet flour, Indigenous Vegetables i.e. African Nightshades (Osuga), Spiderplant (Dek), Crotalaria (Mitoo). The cooked food was eaten cold and served in a small basket called (Adita). After this, one sister was usually left behind to help the sister until she was strong.

For Luos living in rural areas, fresh-water fishing in Lake Victoria is the most important economic activity. The fish are consumed locally while some, especially the Nile perch, are exported to Europe and other countries. Fish and ugali are our staple foods. Agriculture, especially sugarcane and cotton farming, is also practiced in other areas where we live.

Luos have immensely contributed in the political development of the country. The Luo community has been a key player in the Kenyan political scene since the pre-colonial times. Under British colonial rule, the Luo people did not have their land taken from them, unlike some other Kenyan tribes. Some of its favored sons in the pre-colonial and post-colonial period include.

  • Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
  • Ochieng Aneko
  • Tom Mboya
  • Robert Ouko
  • Raila Odinga

We have very enriched traditional dance costumes; skirts made from sisal and colored beads worn around the neck and waist. Ladies usually use red and white clay to decorate them. All these costumes and ornaments are made from local materials.

 

African Cultures By Young Africans: Namwanga Tribe

A few months back while having a Whatsapp conversation with a Ugandan friend on the language she thought I spoke at home. That conversation led to me deciding to run a blog series on African Cultures told by young Africans. So I talked to a few people and they loved the idea and so I am hoping that the series will grow bigger as we cover more and more cultures.

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NAMWANGA TRIBE written by Mukandi Siame

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Twitter: @MissMukandi

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Only one person in the world still speaks Yagan, isn’t that amazing and sad all at once. If I was the last Namwanga alive I don’t know if I would be the right guardian of the language.  So I don’t know what to say about my tribe, I don’t know if this will be a just representation but I hope it gives a glimpse. I am writing this because Namwanga must live. I was born and raised in the Zambia version of the city, Lusaka. Lusaka is a twelve hour drive from Northern Province where my people, Namwanga people are from.

Namwanga is an amusing language. It sounds like it has borrowed words from the other seventy two tribes in Zambia but still manages to maintain its identity. I first heard it from my father, my mother says he spoke to me in the language when I was a toddler and I spoke it back, I called him “Baba”. So when I hear the language I don’t think of the Northern Province as the distant place that it is, I think of my father and I think of the value of legacy.

The Namwanga tribe is small, so small that I don’t date within my tribe because somehow I have ended up related to every Namwanga guy I have flirted with. Incest isn’t on my bucket list. All of our grandparents claim to be related to the Chiefteness Waitwika and because of that somehow we are all one blood. I have said my name many times to people and they don’t know where it is from, from my looks they think I am Lozi; Lozi is a prominent tribe in Zambia with its people known by their confidence, dark skin and height. I am tall, I am dark and confident but it has nothing to do with tribe, I am as Namwanga as they come. You see those are the lessons learned from a nation with many tribes, we learn to just accept people as part of us because there are no visual cues to tell us apart. Because of migration we speak each other’s languages and borrow each other’s practices and every single day we see the ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ mantra manifest.

My father died three years ago, it feels like yesterday not because of the pain but because of how his presence is still felt. He made the whole family sing Namwanga hymns before bed, he lectured us in Namwanga even when we couldn’t understand it and every year he took us on the twelve hour road trip to the village. In a nation where going abroad and forgetting your culture is deemed ‘cool’, my father made it cool to be Namwanga. I remember the long road trips, playing music by Kalambo Hit Parade. They were a string quartet that played Namwanga, Mambwe and Lungu songs, they have one album that I now know backwards front.

I like being Namwanga because we are unknown and under rated, every day is an opportunity to learn who I am as a Namwanga lady and to live free of stereotype. I like being Namwanga because we are right at the border, we have learned how to hustle and we speak languages from both here and across the border. I like being Namwanga because of the exaggeration and the flair of the language, how it rolls off the tongue and how everything has a specific sound effect. The funny words remind me of my father and my grandmother who uses hyperbole like her life depends on it.

If I was the last Namwanga alive I don’t know if that would increase the pressure or increase my pride in my heritage. I want to tell you so much. I want to tell you about the road that comes from Lusaka Province where I live to the Northern Province where Namwanga people are from; the road is twelve hours long. Twelve hours of scenery and some pot holes. I want to tell you about how the development seems to disappear and how the little children get poorer and happier the further you go up the road. I want to tell you about Muchinga Escarpment and how its boldness is something you can’t miss. I want to tell you about the sign post that shows the spot where David Livingstone and his friend Chuma passed through as they explored. I want to tell you about the Nachifuku caves where Bushmen drew on the cave walls about their culture. They were the last of their kind and they told their story even when they didn’t know they were the last of their kind.

I don’t have a cave, I have a laptop and some English words but somehow I want to tell you about my tribe. The places I just mentioned must seem like random words thrown around for sport but they are real and if I had the time I would have loved to share about each of them. They are all signs that you have arrived in the Northern part of Zambia, the place where Namwanga people are from. Because Zambia has so many languages, Nyanja and Bemba somehow arose above the rest and became the two languages you will find someone speaking at every point of the country. Not the Northern Province. Sure, because of geography some people speak a more complex dialect of Bemba as well as Namwanga, Mambwe, Lungu and Nyika. But the nature of the Namwanga language makes Bemba an exhausting language to speak for most Namwanga people. You see Bembas most pronounced consonant is the soft B sound, Namwanga has no soft B sound so Namwanga people chose not to speak Bemba and learned Swahili; a language spoken in the neighbouring country Tanzania. Tanzania is closer to Namwanga people and their villages than most parts of Zambia so it makes sense; geographically it makes sense that the languages and cultures of Tanzanian people at the border and the Zambian people at the border have meshed. Namwanga people learned how to trade and still have an eye for a good business deal to date. Another aspect of Namwanga people that even Zambians don’t understand is that we have a patrilineal society but women still get their own surnames and get to be Chief. There is a Chiefteness instead of a Chief. Her name is Waitwika or Nawaitwika. There are other chiefs within the province like Kafwimbi, Muyombe and Mwenechifungwe. All the chiefs have their headquarters in Isoka district while Waitwika’s headquarters is in Nakonde. A Namwanga person; also known as Mwinamwanga inherits their name, property and titles through their father’s line.  Namwanga last names are unique in that the have gender signifiers. A female last name begins with “Na” while a male begins with “Si”.  These prefixes are fixed to the names. For example; if a man named Silwimba had a daughter, her last name would be Nalwimba; woman born of Silwimba but the sons would be Silwimba as men. Sikapizye becomes Nakapizye, Sichalwe become Nachalwe and so on. The concept is actually simple when you grasp it. This is the same for the Mambwe and Lungu tribes. Among Namwanga people however, women belonging to the royal clan may have surnames totally different from their male counterparts. For example, males of the current royal clan are called Siame and the females are called Nakamba. Among the Mambwe and Lungu tribes, the females are called Niame.

There are various traditional ceremonies with different purposes. There is the Vikamkanimba, Ngondo, Chambo Chalutanga and the Mulasa. The most popular traditional ceremony is called Umutomolo. It is usually held at the banks of the Lake Chila. The lake is tiny but incredibly beautiful. There are many legends about the formation of the Lake and there are dances and songs performed to illustrate the tales. Some say the lake was formed when Chila and wild fruit gatherers refused to give some of that food to a hungry woman then the earth swallowed up the greedy Chila and his village and a lake was placed where they used to be. The lake is not big but he has sparked great interest and mystery. Military wares and relics from World War one where dumped in it and can be found settling at the bottom.  It also has the tendency to disappear and reappear. It is currently still there and the ceremony is performed on its banks. Here the spirits are appeased and thanked for the good year. There also dances and songs that depict how the tribes were separated and how the Mambwe, Lungu and Namwanga established their kingdom from their migrations. My favourite part of the ceremony is the food, the traditional brew and the songs. Northerners are such flamboyant people, they carry themselves with a pride that is forgiving of flaws and hard times. They just laugh and sing and tease each other. Namwanga is a colourful language and it is full of sayings and jokes and has an aged quality about it. Namwanga people love beans; different kinds of it and they grow it the most, they also grow a very aromatic and starchy rice. They also love pupwe, a vegetable leaf form of okra that is green and slimy, they mix it with beans and eat it with nsima. Nsima is a thick porridge starch made from maize meal throughout Africa and has many names and variances. There is a traditional beer brewed of millet called Katubi. It must be drank while its boiling through a wooden straw, it is intoxicating and only for ‘real men and women’. Probably why the ceremony is colourful.

I am glad I am Namwanga, yes stereotypes are usually wrong but I like to believe that Namwanga people are artistic, have a relaxed view of people and the world, they are almost born lovers of life. Because the language itself demands that one be vocal, Namwanga people are usually not shy, they are perceptive and slow to jump into a situation but they are not shy. My grandmother, the zaniest old lady I know is illiterate but she manages to save her contacts in her phone and knows who is calling and when. She is also dressed to the nines even when she is just home all day and refuses to gain weight or buy counterfeit products. She was my main reference when I wrote this and I am glad I asked her because now Namwanga history lives on and is passed from one person to several others.

It is hard to stay current, to look behind at the past and at the same time to think of the future. Rural-urban migration has made us all one people, aspiring for the advanced pleasures of city life. Every day presents opportunities that draw me further away from my original culture and I will admit that I am scared. I don’t want the flavour of being different to ever wear out. Being different and yet co-existing makes life a special experience. So writing this piece made me want to call my grandmother, she is the only person I know who speaks Namwanga fluently. It made me mark the calendar for next year’s Umutomolo in July. It made me play the Kalambo Hit Parade tape that has been playing songs sang in Namwanga since I was five years old. Namwanga was my second language, my grandmother and father made sure I knew where I was from, they made sure I knew the riddles and parables they knew when they were my age. My father has been dead for years but when I think about my culture I think about him, the source of my heritage. We bonded through culture and created memories on our many road trips to the village. I hope that one day I can share the same moments and experiences with more people.