Tribal ceremonies not to be missed in Zambia.


73 tribes co-exist in Zambia and celebrate their heritage by hosting traditional Tribal ceremonies throughout the year.

‘Back in the day ceremonies were banned by the administrators as heathen and promoting witchcraft.  To avoid getting into trouble tribal groups started having centuries old ceremonies under cover of the dark. My generation grew up associating these masquerades to witchcraft. (I was a 60’s child so I remember very well) In the first decade of independence,  traditional displays were put on to attract tourists.  Annual traditional ceremonies were openly revived in the early 80’s. Today annual ceremonies are  big and colourful and chiefs are highly respected and earn a state stipend. I’m fascinated by these ceremonies and masquerades’ –wrote Verona Mwansa you can follow her stories from the heart on her facebook  group: Once Upon a Time in Zambia – Then and Now

Here are just a few of the tribes.  Please do not hesitate to contact Keryy and her team for a organizing a unique programme, which incorporates wildlife, culture and communities, and much more at [email protected] or with one of the 20 Zambia tour companies and lodges exhibiting at the Go Zambia show.

Kuomboka Tribal ceremonies 

Tribal ceremonies Kuombokameaning to “get out of the water” and the traditional festival of the Lozi people of Western Zambia involves the King who is called the ‘Litunga’ and his wife moving from their summer home in Lealui to Limulunga. They travel in two separate barges with the King’s being the larger of the two. His barge, which is called ‘Nalikwanda’ and features a model elephant on the top and is rowed by specially chosen members of the tribe. His subjects and visitors line the shores of the Zambezi river clad in their Siziba and Musinsi (Lozi traditional attire) to welcome their leader after his six hour journey. This normally takes place in April subject to water levels.

Likumbi Lya Mize Tribal ceremonies

This ceremony is celebrated by the Luvale people of North Western Province. Historically, the festival marked the re-entrance of boys who had been in seclusion for ‘Mukanda’ (male circumcision) back into society. The four day ceremony features dances from the ‘Makishi’, masked men who are believed to be spirits representing ancestors.

Nc’wala Tribal ceremonies 

Nc’wala is an annual Tribal ceremonies where the Ngoni people of the Eastern Province of Zambia come together during the last weekend of February to pay homage to their chief Mpezeni and God for the gift of the first fruits and food. The N’cwala ceremony takes place every year on the last Saturday of February at Mtenguleni Village in Chipata.

The Ceremony was revived in 1980 by Paramount Chief Mpezeni III, to enable the Ngoni people to pay homage to their ancestral spirits, commemorate their victories during their tribal wars when they migrated from the current day South Africa. The ceremony is also meant to praise God for giving them fresh crops in the fields.

The Nc’wala traditional ceremony sparks various activities which are centered around the ceremony including the Ungoni Exhibition which is presented by the Ministry of Tourism and Arts at Luangwa House and visits to the Nsingo Community Museum where people turn up in numbers to learn more about the History of the Ngoni people. The Museum has various Ngoni cultural items on display and has a lot of history about the migration of the Ngoni speaking people from present-day KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to Chipata, Eastern Province – Zambia.

Guests from South Africa, Lesotho and Swazilan chiefdoms also attend the ceremony as they share a common ancestry. Other descendants also come from Tanzania.

Many Zambian chiefs also grace the Tribal ceremonies. A regular attendee is The Mwata Kazembe of the Lunda.

The ceremony is spectacular with energetic dancing and high kicks. The little boys are a thrill to watch with their perfectly synchronised dance moves. Little warriors in training! The N’cwala ceremony takes place in February

Ukusefya Pa Ngwena Tribal ceremonies 

Tribal ceremonies Ukusefya Pa Ngwena is the traditional festival of the Bemba people of Mungwi district in Northern Province. It renacts the migration of the Bemba tribe from Kola (modern day Angola) to their current village. The chief whose title is ‘Chitimukulu’ is escorted from his palace on a throne which is a couch with a paper mache crocodile on the front. The crocodile is an important totem to the Bemba tribe, as legend states that when they migrated into Zambia, they reached a site with a dead crocodile which they took as a good omen and so settled there. Like other traditional festivals, Ukusefya Pa Ngwenga features dancing, drumming, singing and consumption of traditional food and beer. The ceremony takes place in August.

Kulamba Kubwalo Tribal ceremonies 

 The Lenje people of Chibombo district in Central Province celebrate the Tribal ceremonies called Kulamba Kubwalo. The pre-ceremony lasts a week and features dancing and displays of traditional foods. On the day of the Kulamba Kubwalo, the Chief whose title is Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe is escorted from his palace to eight different sites that represent the stops that were made by the Lenje tribe during their migration from present day Democratic Republic of Congo to Zambia. The Kulamba Kubwalo ceremony is held in October.

For assistance with your Zambia travel planning, visit the Go Zambia virtual show and chat on line or have 1-2-1 virtual meetings with 20 Zambia tour companies and lodges. You can also enter to win one of many Zambia Safaris, including a 5-day Safari at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia or a 5-days Safari for a party of 4!

Shimunenga Tribal ceremonies 

The name of the Tribal ceremonies by the Ila people of Namwala, Southern Province pays homage to the warrior Shimunenga who led the tribe and their cattle to the Kafue flats after a dispute with his brother. The three day festival includes a day reserved for the women to sing and perform traditional dances such as ‘kukonkobela’. On the second day, the women throw sticks at the men to symbolize spears thrown at Shimunenga’s brother. The third day is a cattle drive day with cows competing to cross a section of the Kafue River. Shimunenga is held in August.

Please do not hesitate to contact myself and my team for  organizing a unique programme, which incorporates wildlife, culture and communities, and much more  Chat with us live on our Show Page for more information





Many traditions have been passed on from one generation to another in Africa. Some of the best traditional practices that have been passed on from one generation to another are food, customs, and clothing with some dying along the way and some evolving. The history of the beautiful traditional Lozi attire has remained one that many people have failed to fully understand, with some people arguing that this attire was copied from the former colonial masters, the British, because of King Lewanika who had visited Britain in 1902 and the early encounters of the Lozi with the white people among others. As a result of the men wearing ‘skirts’ many people have associated this attire to the Scottish kilt.


The historical background is quite interesting.



Siziba (which literally means a piece of cloth) has been inexistence among the Barotse community for a long time before even the white man set foot in the land. It is for this reason that there is a saying that Lukanda ni Siziba (literally meaning the belt and the piece of cloth- referring to two things that cannot do without the other). This is because the Siziba cannot be put on without the belt. The Siziba is a traditional attire for lozi men as we know it today but initially it was used by both men and women. During the olden days people used to wear even grass, leaves, and fiber from trees like Muyombo to make siziba and cover their private parts, more like a loin cloth. The muyombo tree has good fibre materials that can be used to make good materials for siziba as it can be used for a long time compared to other trees. The Siziba as it was used that time, was meant to cover the front and back parts only and not the entire body part as is the case today. With time people moved from using grass to animals’ skins. The animal skins classified from royals. The royal families used certain animal skins.


With the coming in of the slave traders among the Arabs (Mambari) who were going round Africa to buy slaves, happened to come across the Lozi people who were known to be war like people and conquering other tribes. These Arab traders carried various pieces of clothes such as cotton, silk among others to exchange for slaves.  The price of a young boy was one old Portuguese musket or about 9 yard of cotton or baize, but elsewhere the Mambari gave a piece of cotton cloth, about 28 yards, for a man or boy. Usually, the Ilas who were been sold by the Kololos. This appears to be the first contact of the lozi people with foreign clothes way before the arrival of the white people.


With the coming in of the Arab traders among other business, people shifted from using grass, leaves to using clothes that were exchanged for slaves and other goods. The Lunda came down the river and brought cloth for cattle and were much liked by Litunga Mulambwa Santulu who had banned slave trading in the area. This shift saw people start using cloth for making the siziba. It must be noted that during the time, only notable people could afford such luxury, as it was difficult to access cloth due to cost implications which many commoners could not manage.


Making the upgraded Siziba had its own challenges, for example one piece of cloth could not stand the pressure of wind in most cases. This prompted people to increase the number of materials so as to make the siziba heavy and stand the pressure of wind. The designs also started changing from covering the front and back part to cover the whole lower body part. Today as we know it the siziba is made from about 6-8 materials of Chitenge measuring about 12 to 16 meters long depending on the customer size. Although the trend has been securing the siziba using a piece of cloth, modern belts are replacing them. Most people prefer it made from red and white materials. The siziba consists of a white shirt, skirt (Siziba), waistcoat, black shoes, and long socks.



The Musisi Tribal ceremonies or misisi for plural as we know them today were born out of the Siziba. As designs continued to evolve to the Siziba, around the time when the white settlers had started arriving in Barotseland. People started comparing women putting on a musisi kind of attire like the Mrs. (Misisi) in reference to the white’s wives who at the time had clothes made in Europe. This was because during those days only women married to Indunas and other important figures could afford to have that attire.


But because there was very little difference from the siziba, other people thought of making a difference between the siziba and the musisi, by making the back part of the musisi longer than the front part but for the siziba the front is longer than the back. They made the misisi to liken it to the Peacock (Liowanyi). This outfit gobbles up a lot of material for it to be made. It consists of two skirts and top layer which involves the use of a stiffener for it to take shape. The musisi is supposed to be worn with a matching blouse called the baki, as well as a small wrapper known as a chali.



The Liseka (singular) or maseka for (plural) or bangles in English are made from elephant tasks and are put on by both male and females. The difference is the number of maseka one puts on. For men it is usually one and its put on the right wrist, while for women it is usually more than one are usually put the left wrist. Another difference is the way they are crafted, the male bangle is usually plain and big in size, while those for the women have crossed lines on them and are usually small. They are made in different sizes to suit the needs of the customers.


The story of the elephant that stands on the Nalikwanda and also used in making Maseka started with Mulambwa Santulu the 10th Litunga who ruled Barotseland from 1780 to 1830. As Prince Mulambwa was assigned by his brother Litunga Mwananyanda Liwale to settle the people we know today as Mankoya within today’s Kaoma district. However, upon his return, Mulambwa had learnt that some of his brothers and his own mother had been murdered on the order of the Litunga and that a price had been placed on his head. He escaped back to the Mankoya who gave him protective medicines, which included riding a magical elephant into his brother’s capital. This surprised people, especially during those days when it was unheard of, to find wild animals being kept by people. When they saw the elephant tusks and were amazed. This gained him much respect. From Mulambwa’s time the elephant was respected with much royalty. Mulambwa is also known for banning slave trading and promoting the sale of ivory tusks. The Lozi always admire the overwhelming power of the elephant the King of the jungle in line of the characteristics of the King whom they praise as Kakwisa Maci Mbumu Ni wa C,i the all-powerful.


An elephant is an animal that is known to be the biggest animal on land and it takes time to be annoyed and it protects other animals in the bush. Elephants are very social, frequently touching and caressing one another and entwining their trunks. Litunga also is a social being who is expected to interact with his subjects from time to time in authorized traditional channels. The Lozi people thought of adopting this animal to liken it to the Litunga. Today the elephant is a respected animal among the lozi people It is on top of the Nalikwanda to symbolize the authority of the Litunga. Even the handle of the Litunga’s whisk handle is made from the elephant tusk which is well carved with a tail of the eland  (pofu) inserted in it. In an effort to protect and conserve elephants, the bangles of today are made from synthetic materials to meet the growing demand for the product. It must be noted that initially the bangles were not for everyone, but for certain classes of people such as those from the royal family.



The Mashushu Tribal ceremonies (red berets) were initially made for certain groups of people such as Indunas, paddlers of the Nalikwanda and children of the Royal Family. The Mashushu was used by different people for different tasks as assigned to them by the Kuta..


They were meant to differentiate one group from the other. Today the red beret has become popular and people attending the Kuomboka ceremony adopted it as part of their attire. According to tradionalists this is wrong, because people can still put on caps that are sold in shops and will still look good. Today the only difference between lishushu of an Induna and an ordinary lozi man is the letters BRE (Barotse Royal Establishment) written in front, for those made for BRE Indunas.

Although, the mashushu are always made from a red cloth, possibly to signify victory especially for the paddlers of the Nalikwanda after a long journey, visitors and guests wear different variations for the ceremony.


Mushukwe and Musunya is made from lion (tau) skin which is worn on top of the Lishushu to certain group of people performing special tasks such as the paddlers of the Nalikwanda, Indunas, Princes and Princesses to differentiate them from commoners. Today anyone can put on the Lishushu during the wedding ceremonies, graduations, Kuomboka ceremony and other important events for lozi people. Justice Kazunga, a medical student in Moscow, Russia took fashion to a whole new level when he modelled  the Lozi male national dress, the siziba, along with a gentleman’s walking stick (mulamu) at a student fashion event in Moscow.


For assistance with your Zambia travel planning, visit the Go Zambia virtual show and chat on line or have 1-2-1 virtual meetings with 20 Zambia tour companies and lodges. You can also enter to win one of many Zambia Safaris, including a 5-day Safari at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia or a 5-days Safari for a party of 4!



The Mulamu Tribal ceremonies  in Zambia, or walking stick, is a wooden walking stick. It was initially made for defense and as a support for old people. Considering that most of the people who were appointed as Indunas were old people, it was common among them. The walking sticks are also made with different shapes of animals on the handle, possibly to signify different authority to different people in Barotseland. Today other walking sticks are made with a knife inside for defense purposes in case one was attacked, but they appear to have been brought by the mbundas who seem to be good at art and carving styles. Today the walking sticks are used by anyone especially during the Kuomboka ceremony. The walking sticks are from wood with different styles, some have shapes of animals at the handles such as the hippo, crocodile, and elephant among others. Others even have a knife inside possibly for defensive purposes.



A scarf, plural scarves, is a piece of fabric worn around the neck for warmth, sun protection, cleanliness, fashion, or religious reasons. They can be made in a variety of different materials such as wool, linen or cotton. It is a common type of neckwear. This attire has also been adopted in the lozi culture. Today it is common to see people at the Kuomboka ceremony wearing red scarves around their neck with words “SIZO SALUNA” literally meaning “our culture” written on them. Probably this is the only accessory that could be considered foreign.

Nowadays it is not uncommon to see people wearing traditional outfits at functions such as weddings, kitchen parties, graduation ceremonies and birthday parties to mention just a few. Some people prefer to buy their attire from boutiques while others pay a tailor to make the outfit for them. It is no longer only Lozi people wearing this attire but tribes from other regions of the country, in some cases even outsiders and tourists  also love it. Traditionalists disapprove of other tribes and foreigners wearing the attire but times have moved on and it is generally acceptable. With the changes it has undergone since inception, it is expected that it will last for generations to come.



Courtesy from Kerry, Founder of Ntanda Ventures


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