The Nc’wala ceremony is up and coming on February 26th! It is celebrated by the Ngoni people who are found in the Eastern Provice of Zambia in the Chipata District. The Nc’wala is a thanksgiving ceremony held every year at Mtenguleni village. This ceremony gives thanks for the first harvests of the season. This ritual ceremony has been passed on to current generations by Ngoni ancestors who originated from old Zulu culture. Interestingly during colonialism the Nc’wala ceremony was banned for being too war like. It was revived after independence in 1980, 16 years after independence.
For the Ngoni, the start of the rains, usually in October or November, means the new year has come. Land is cultivated, seeds planted and at harvest a sacramental meal and celebration is offered to the Chief, God and the ancestors. After many weeks of preparation events are enacted in a series of events that give respect to the Chief. Specially selected and well rehearsed dancers perform at the entrance of the Chief’s palace. There is poetry, drumming, theatre and very colourful sites. This is a very popular event and there are visitors from far and wide, including political and business leaders.
When the first fruits are taken to the Chief he addresses the crowd and is received with a roar of appreciation. The chief leads in his leopard skin outfit and he seens to have set a trend as many people wear animal skin of some sort. The Chief proceeds to taste the first fruits such as millet, pumpkin, sugar cane and maize. Women ululate and sing songs of praise to the Chief, God and ancestors as the Chief blesses the fruit. The ceremony involves a black bull which is speared and the Chief must drink of its blood.
Then a journey begins between the Chief’s palace and Mtenguleni where the main ceremonial activities take place. Today the chief travels the 100 or so kilometres in a slow moving motorcade so the people can see their Chief, whereas in the past this journey was made on foot over a period of days. Crowds throng and there are bicycles, blue taxis, ox carts, cars, pick ups and buses packed with singing public.
The Nc’wala is a series of complex rituals, enactments and stories relating to the Chiefs power, crop protection, thanks giving as well as aspects of birth, childhood, puberty, adulthood, death and rebirth. This is rich culture that visitors are welcome to take part in. Currently, there is no exact date set yet since many Zambian ceremonies remain steeped in mystery and spiritualism and do not relate to the demands of dates, times and planning that the modern population may expect. However, you can contact agents who specialise in cultural tourism for more information. These agents can arrange accommodation, camps and transport on your behalf. They include