There’s never a good story without the slight blend of fiction and drama! I was 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 enough myths and legends to keep you bright eyed through bedtime stories. I promised to share some of the interesting stories about the Kuomboka and I’m here to do just that!
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”
However, you will be surprised to know that that’s not the only story doing the rounds. 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 leaky dugout canoes only, 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 uniform has been passed down from one Litunga to the next but it is still a mystery whether the Litunga bears the exact same uniform presented to him over 108 years ago! I’ll definitely get back to you on that one (and hopefully I’ll be back with a few tips on how to make clothes last!)
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 to add to your list if you want to have a true experience of Zambian culture.
Posted by Nambeye Katebe 08 April 2010
From the Editor 18 April 2010: Many thanks to Mbulawa who has corrected us on the point of the admiral’s uniform that the Litunga wears:-
The uniform is never passed from one Litunga to the next. Each Litunga has his tailor-made uniform.(seems indeed the British do adhere to certain contracts) Remember the last Litunga Illute Yeta IV who passed on in 2000 was a slim 6′4 footer while the current Mwanawina III is only 5′8 and a bit round! The predecessor to Illute 1V was a 6 footer exactly no more no less. Imagine the amount of alterations that poor gear would have gone through with just these three!