Kwilimuna 2013 — a Zambian traditional ceremony

Sara Drawwater
13 August 2013
The 19th and 20th of July 2013 marked this year’s Kwilimuna Cultural Ceremony. It was held at Chipembwe Ceremony Grounds in Ibenga, in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province. 2013 is the sixth year of this…

The 19th and 20th of July 2013 marked this year’s Kwilimuna Cultural Ceremony. It was held at Chipembwe Ceremony Grounds in Ibenga, in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province. 2013 is the sixth year of this annual traditional Zambian harvest festival celebrated by the Bulima people. The Bulima, who are part of the Lamba tribe, gathered with hundreds of well-wishers for this spectacular two day event. In its zeal to promote African festivals, the Best of Zambia was there to record the occasion.

The Bulima chief has the title Chief Malambeka. A permanent cenotaph has been built in the centre of the Chipembwe Ceremony Grounds. It commemorates the last six Bulima chiefs. The brightly painted cenotaph is a four sided step structure. On each step is written the name of one of the chiefs. The large bottom step commemorates Mumpulumba, the next, Lyobeka, then Chandalala, Sukwa and Kalemba. The final top step is named after Nawanda, the current Chieftainess Malembeka.

Each year the ceremony grounds are specially prepared for this annual ceremony. Next to the Bulima cenotaph there is a concrete stage and arena for entertainment. Outside the arena are various stands and booths. The exhibitors’ stands, refreshment booths and fluttering buntings give this event a real ‘country show’ atmosphere. This year people began to assemble early on Day 1. Visitors were entertained by traditional sketches, cultural dancing and music, and other performances. ZANIS (Zambia News and Information Services) also put on big screen shows. By the end of Day 1, a number of stands had been set up, including stands from Seed Co Ltd, Marie Stopes International and MTN.

Throughout the ceremony the master of ceremonies Valentine Mabando made sure everyone was organised, amused and entertained. The programme was interspersed with different dancing shows, drumming and other entertainment. New village headmen and women (‘ba sulutani’) were appointed and installed. There was also a traditional initiation ceremony for a girl newly come of age. Luansobe Secondary School led the singing of the National Anthem in the Lamba language.

Arrival of special guestsOn Day 2, the last and most important day of the Kwilimuna ceremony, entertainment started early, with traditional music and dancing. A number of distinguished chiefs from other parts of Zambia began to arrive, attending the ceremony as a mark of respect to Chieftainess Malembeka. Other invited guests included Government officials and mayors of nearby cities. The guest of honour was Honourable Mrs Susan Kawandami, Deputy Minister for Chiefs and Traditional Affairs. Later on in the ceremony these special guests presented Chieftainess Malembeka with many assorted gifts, ranging from money, to a very large cooker that was wheeled into the arena.

The royal processionAfter the special guests had toured the ceremony grounds, it was time for the royal procession. Amid loud drumming and a lot of excitement, Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Malembeka entered the arena in her royal litter, borne on the shoulders of several of her subjects. She was accompanied by a Bulima dance troupe made up of enthusiastic young girls wearing traditional attire and decorated with body paint. The procession went round the arena three times before it came to a halt in front of the cenotaph.

The Chieftainess alighted and entertained the crowd with a royal dance. She climbed to the top of the cenotaph and was refreshed with munkoyo, a traditional drink made from maize and munkoyo roots. This was followed by royal praises (‘amalumbo’).

Community awards — the merging of tradition with technologyArguably the climax of the ceremony was the presentation of the newly introduced Community Awards. Each winner was presented with a cup, a certificate and gifts, amidst much cheering and clapping. The winner of the Sukwa Award for the Girl Child (Grade 12) was Cinderella Kasamba. She received a laptop to help with her studies. The winner for the Nawanda Award for Gender Development was Mabel Nampundwe. She received a sparkling new smart phone.

In the keynote address, the guest of honour, the Deputy Minister for Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, commended Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Malembeka for putting on an event that instills traditional values and encourages cultural practices. She also extolled the Community Awards for recognising the positive contribution that particular individuals are making to the local community. This encourages everyone in productive and sustainable farming practices, in health, in promoting gender development, and in valuing their cultural heritage.

As well as giving the local people a sense of identity and heritage, this occasion promotes social and cultural values. It is an interesting and rare illustration of the way 21st century ideas and technology can be used to help roll out traditional activities. I’m thinking of communication skills, organising techniques, an appreciation of other people’s interest in traditional culture, mobile phones, vehicles, cameras and even online promotion. The Bulima people as a group have one foot firmly in their culture and the other firmly in modern day life. They draw on expertise from both worlds to pull off this special event.

The Best of Zambia would like to commend and congratulate Chieftainess Malembeka, her palace officials and the Kwilimuna organising committee for holding the Kwilimuna Cultural Ceremony each year.