Zambia’s claim to be a place of diverse culture and rich history is certainly validated by some of the interesting names of towns, cities and compounds that it has.
The history of how some places came to be named is not only interesting but is also usually amusing and gives an idea of what that place was like many years ago. Many times a place was named due to some physical attribute that it had or simply because of mispronunciation of the local language by the European settler’s decades ago or even after a popular person living in that area.
I took the time out to gather a few place meanings and couldn’t help smiling my way through this blog!
Chililabombwe is one of my personal favourites when it comes to meanings. The town is located on the Copperbelt Province and simply means ‘place of the croaking frog’. It is said the town has many frogs which usually make loud croaking sounds in the night hence the name. So if you’re a frog lover this is definitely a place you should visit!
I come from another Copperbelt town known as Kitwe and was amused to hear that the name came about largely due to mispronunciation. Apparently, there was a really big head of a cow killed in Kitwe and people would direct each other to the place by saying ‘pa chitwe’ which is Bemba for ‘by the head’. The European settlers had a hard time pronouncing the word ‘chitwe’ and ended up saying Kitwe. I honestly do not know how true this one is but it sounds pretty convincing!
Another town with an interesting meaning is Chipata which is found in the Eastern Province. Chipata means ‘gateway’ as it is surrounded almost on all sides by hills.
Kabwe or Ka Mukuba means an ore or a place of smelting which could be because of the lead and zinc mining that was done there. Kabwe is located in the Central Province of Zambia.
What is even more interesting is how some of the more recent compounds that have sprung up in Zambia were named, especially those in Lusaka City.
One such compound is Mandevu which means ‘beard’ in the local language, Nyanja. It is said that Zimbabweans had settled there years ago and they had the habit of shaving their heads but leaving their beards to grow. Zambians would refer to Zimbabweans as ‘the ones with beards’ and as a result the compound where they lived adopted the name ‘beard’. Another compound is called Matero which means slope and this is because the compound is found on a slope.
Chibolya is a township found in Lusaka and means an abandoned house or town in Bemba. I was not able to find out why it was named this way but it is known to be a dangerous part of town.
There are lots more interesting meanings of places in Zambia and I hope you can all get involved and share some of the one’s you know!What is in a name?. . . . . . . . .Very much if the wit of man could find it out.
Posted by Nambeye Katebe