By Kalobwe Bwalya


Origins of ‘Ukusefya pa Ng’wena’ traditional ceremony

THE highlights of “Ukusefya pa Ng’wena” is the re-enactment of the journey from Kola to Lubemba and Bemba traces their origin from Kola (modern-day Angola) in the 17th Century and from Kola, they went to Luba, from Luba where they crossed Luapula, Chambeshi, and Kalungu Rivers.

Mukulumpe the great king of Luba Empire and his wife Mumbi Mukasa uwamatwi nge nsofu, (ears like Elephant) thus bore three sons named Katongo, Nkole and Chiti they also had a daughter named Chilufya Mulenga.

The king picked up some differences with his children resulting in the blinding of the first born son Katongo. As the king continued with his high-handedness approach towards his children, the children opted to rebel against the father and left the kingdom heading eastwards from the Kola kingdom.

They traversed vast lands and overcoming all kinds of obstacles. Since leaving Kola kingdom the leader was Nkole the second born of Mukulumpe.

Katongo the first born was left behind in Kola, hence Chilufya Mulenga was in the company of her brothers and their followers.

It was not until they crossed Luapula River that the leadership changed from Nkole to Chiti. The change of leadership was occasioned by the fact that Chiti the younger of the two brothers crossed the river first before his older brother.

Upon achieving this, Chiti glorified himself and called himself Chitimukulu.

This marked the beginning of the Chitimukulu dynasty which soldiered on eastwards overcoming all challenges, eventually the group under the leadership of Chitimukulu settled by the banks of Kalungu River.

When they reached the banks of Milando, they came across a dead crocodile and since then the Bemba rulers belong to the crocodile clan, the discovery, earmarked Bemba-land and a village was set up at this very spot-and it was named ng’wena Village.

They fortified the area and continued conquering other groups of people for supremacy with easy, and they are the largest ethnic group in Zambia.

The Bemba history is a major historical phenomenon in the development of chieftainship in a large and culturally homogeneous region of central Africa.

Around August/September, Chitimukulu (the head of Lu Bemba, the Bemba nation) calls his subjects to the original Ng’wena Village to celebrate the formation of the Bemba people and nation, and their subsequent achievements.

The Bemba (or ‘aba Bemba’ using the ba- prefix to mean ‘people of’, and also called ‘awemba’ or ‘ba Wemba’ in the past) belong to a large group of bantu peoples mainly in the Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt Provinces of Zambia who trace their origins to the Luba and Lunda states of the upper Congo basin, in what became Katanga Province in southern Congo-Kinshasa (DRC).

The Bemba is those who consider themselves subjects of the Chitimukulu, the Bemba’s single paramount chief and they lived in villages of 100 to 200 people and numbered 250,000 strong in 1963.

There are over 30 Bemba clans, named after animals or natural organisms, such as the royal clan, “the people of the crocodile” (bena Ng’andu) or the bena Bowa (Mushroom clan).

They were the people who finally put a halt to the northward march of the Nguni and Sotho-Tswana descended Ngoni people, through Chief Chitapankwa Kaluba.

In contemporary Zambia, the word “Bemba” actually has several meanings. It may designate people of Bemba origin, regardless of where they live, e.g. whether they live in urban areas or in the original rural Bemba area.

Alternatively, it may encompass a much larger population which includes some ‘eighteen different ethnic groups’, who together with the Bemba form a closely related ethno-linguistic cluster of matrilineal-matrifocal agriculturalists known as the Bemba-speaking peoples of Zambia.

They do not share any ancestor but migrated to Luapula and Northern Provinces from various places including the Congo and present day Tanzania.

They consist of the ‘real’ Bemba like Simon Kapwepwe whose warrior ancestors Chiti and Nkole arrived at Kasama from Buluba in the Congo in 1640.

They conquered, ruled over and intermarried with the ushi the Bisa like President Michael Sata, the Lala like the late George Kunda, the Ng’umbo, the Chishinga, the Kabende, the Mukulu, the Twa (Bangweulu), the Unga, the Bwile, the Lunda of Luapula like Frederick Chiluba, the Shila, and the Tabwa, the Kunda, the Ambo, the Luano, the swaka and the Lima.

Chitimukulu is the paramount chief in the Bemba kingdom. The Bembas whose origin is traced to Mukulumpe of the Luba kingdom in Kola are spread in districts like Kasama, Luwingu, Mporokoso, Chinsali, Mungwi, and Mpika.

The main chiefs of the Bemba in these areas are Chitimukulu, Makasa, and Chimbola in Mungwi. Mwamba, Nkolemfumu, Chanda Mukulu, Munkonge in Kasama, Mumpolokoso, ShiBwalya Kapila, Sunkutu in Mporokoso.

ShiMumbi Nsapaila, Chipalo, Tungati in Luwingu, Mpepo, Luchembe, Chikwanda in Mpika, Nkula, Mukwikile Mubanga, Nkweto in Chinsali and under these chiefdoms are numerous sub-chiefs.

And the newer group to be conquered by the Bembas under the leadership of Chitimukulu was a marauding warrior group which had wreaked havoc wherever it passed.

These were the Ngoni warriors who had fled from the ruthless rule of Shaka the king of the Zulu in South Africa.

At the hands of the great Bemba army, the Ngonis capitulated like small children, not even their primitive weapons called “assegai” could serve them.

The great Bemba army was at the time more civilized in terms of military tactics and the Ngoni were astounded at the sound of gun power which the Bembas had acquired from Arab traders.

As the Ngonis capitulated they pleaded for a lasting truce which should be symbolized by the brotherhood commonly called traditional cousinship in modern understanding.

The Bemba Traditional Council known as the Bashilubemba, appointed Henry Kanyanta Sosala as Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba speaking people. The Bashilubemba held a closed-door meeting in Mungwi District where Kanyanta Sosala was picked as the 38th Chitimukulu.

Sosala ascended to the throne after a one-year long mourning vigil and subsequent burial of his predecessor Ackson Mwango and in 2013 the late President Michael Sata de-gazetted Henry Sosala as Senior Chief Mwamba of the Bemba-speaking people.

Sosala accepted Government’s decision to de-gazette him and offered a public apology to President Sata and the people of Zambia over his utterances. However, the Bemba Traditional Council called on Mr Sata to rescind his decision to de-gazette and recognise Henry Sosala as Senior Chief Mwamba of the Bemba-speaking people.

The President then assigned two (2) Cabinet Ministers to engage the Bemba Traditional Council in dialogue on issues of chieftainship and other traditional matters in Bemba-land which included Defence Minister by then, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, and his counterpart at Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Professor Nkandu Luo.

And hundreds of Bemba traditionalists, tourists and many Zambians from other parts of the country were in Kasama recently to witness this year’s 2016 traditional ceremony – Ukusefya pa Ng’wena – of the Bembas.

Like last year, the 40-kilometre journey from Kasama to Mungwi, the venue of the ceremony, was not any smoother this year.

Adventurers once again had to endure the dusty and bumpy gravel to witness their paramount chief perform the once in a year event. The ceremony, which take place in August had to be postponed to September due to the general elections.

It was evident from the strong presence of the clergy, politicians, educationists, researchers, and the media, among others, that there were high expectations from the ceremony held at the Ng’wena site about eight kilometers from mwine Lubemba’s Paramount Chief Chitimukulu palace in Kasama.

There were yet other performances from other groups (ing’omba) which Kumwalule ekulala ishina Lubemba, (the grave where they bury the chiefs abena) abena Mporokoso and others filled the atmosphere with much ululation and excitement.

The Ukusefya pa Ng’wena 2016 traditional ceremony was, however, graced by former fourth republican President Ruphia Bwezani Banda, on behalf of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, and he was accompanied by MMD president Felix Chipota Mutati, chiefs from Eastern province and government officials.

President Banda, who is a tribal cousin, could not hide his joy as he joined the bena Mporokoso cultural dance who he said reminded him of his late wife who came from Mporokoso district in Northern part of Zambia and that the cousinship between Ngonis and Bembas shall forever live for the sake of keeping cultural and norms.

The former Head of State described this year’s Ukusefya pa Ng’wena as better organised and wished continued good health to Paramount Chief Chitimukulu and all their royal highnesses present.

He thanked Bashilubemba for having held traditional ceremony in a peaceful manner without any disturbances, adding that the ceremony was joyous and spirit-thrilling for most people who attend.

Meanwhile, Mwine Lubemba representative, Ambassador Kasonde Kasutu said traditional ceremonies are a unifying factor as they remind us of whom and what we are, an how best we can relate to each other as one people.

He said ceremonies also help us to reflect on how we have moved to through various situations and also how we can confidently move towards positive dynamic development processes.

Mwine Lubemba said chiefs and the people were ready to work with government to ensure that our country moved forward in order to achieve sustainable economic levels to meet essential human needs.

“Our people need food, clean drinking f water, good health, quality education, decent shelter, good roads proper and effective communication fatalities just to mention the few,” said Mwine Lubemba

In order to develop the two provinces as well as compliment government efforts towards sustainable economic improvements, it is looking forward to turning the area into the agro-food basket of our country.

It is our desire to scale up high maize and cassava production being our staple food coupled with high value crops such as Rice , Soya, beans, common beans and bio-fuel, which will not only create employment, but also to create wealth and reduce poverty.

We have plenty out un-utilised land, a number perennial big and small river and, above all we have good rain fall. Our wish is partner with your government in search of potential local and foreign investors to invest in our two provinces.

And Felix Mutati who also attended the ceremony, said traditional ceremonies such as Ukusefya pa Ng’wena should be used for development, to ignite job creation, reduction of poverty by taking advantage of three comparative advantage that the region has which is Agriculture, Tourism and hydro-power generation .

He said in tourism it can be ignited by completing Kasaba bay which is 80% completed and it could be an integral part of Ukusefya pa Ng’wena and take advantage to revisit Kalambo falls which has rich tourism in the province, hence there is need to transform potential to reality.

The Bemba language (IChibemba) is most closely related to the Bantu languages Kaonde in Zambia and the DRC, Luba in the DRC, Nsenga and Tonga in Zambia, whilst Nyanja-Chewa in Zambia and Malawi.

In Zambia, Chibemba is mainly spoken in the Northern, Muchinga, Luapula and Copperbelt Provinces, and has become the most widely spoken African language in the country, although not always as a first language.







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