The Kulamba, which brings three nations – Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia – in one place, is a time when the Chewa chiefs from all three countries pay homage to Gawa Undi.
The ceremony also showcases the internationally recognized culture – the nyau.
This year’s ceremony, however, added another dimension as the Lozi King, the Litunga, was guest of honour.
It was a reciprocal gesture by the Litunga after Gawa Undi attended the Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people in April.
There was definitely a clash in customs, which ceremony organizers admitted proved a challenge, but in the end, each side had to make some compromise.
For instance, Gawa Undi is usually escorted and surrounded by women [his mbumba], but women are not allowed anywhere near the Litunga.
There were also some last-minute changes, too. One small shelter made of straw, called Lutatai, where the Litunga was supposed to sit before being ushered by Gawa Undi, was dismantled and removed from the arena due to changes.
These customary glitches may have caused delays in the two kings entering the arena, but the crowds waited patiently for history to unfold before their eyes.
The Litunga, dressed in his majestic uniform of the British royal regalia, was the first to walk into the arena to the sound of the Sinkoya royal drums and escorted by the Lingomboti [keepers of the past Litungas] clad in their white suits.
A few minutes before 12:00 hours, the Lion King, Gawa Undi, strolled into the arena, escorted by a hoard of praise-singing women [mbumba za Gawa].
The Chewa king, who is rarely seen in public, walked majestically around the arena to greet his people, before taking his seat.
And for the first time in the history of Kulamba, two kings were in attendance – one symbolized by the lion, and the other by the elephant.
In a few moments, the Lion King and the Elephant King stood side by side for the national anthem and a prayer.
The line in the national anthem talking about national unity could not have sounded more meaningful.
After the two delivered their speeches, read by their representatives, it was time to showcase glue [a parade of the masked men who belong to the secret society of the nyau], which is a huge attraction for local people and tourists.
And each year, there are new inventions to mesmerize the crowds.
The nyau characters usually portray animal forms and people, but some even portray inanimate things such as machines. Some have funny faces, like one with a baby face pulled from a doll but with empty eyes. Others had beautiful faces borrowed from Barbie dolls, while some are ugly and hideous, definitely otherworldly.
Some handled different types of snakes, including large pythons.
But as always, two characters are usually favorites with the crowds – gologolo and makanja.
Makanja is the nyau character on stilts, who is usually portrayed as a woman, while gologolo is the pole dancer.
Three makanjas strolled into the arena one at a time, but it was one from Malawi who stole the show owing to ‘her’ amazing height.
She stood about five meters. And just to make a show-off of her height, she sat atop the roof of one of the shelters, her feet touching the ground.
This one was so tall that she could have plucked the flag from the flagpole effortlessly.
The Lozis also put up a show, their men clad in liziba and mashushu, and the women in their misisi.
And some things were done differently this time, most notable, but perhaps a detail that may have been overlooked was that the Chewa namwali [the young virgins] did not dance topless this time, but wore T-shirts.
Their dancing also seems to have been censored somewhat.
One of the chiefs explained that the decision is meant to protect the young girls from abuse.
This year’s ceremony will go down in history for many aspects, but most significant because it brought two peoples together.
Meanwhile, the KALONGA Gawa Undi of the Chewa people says the historical friendship between the Lozis and his people will help foster national unity.
And Litunga Lubosi Imwiko II of the Lozi people, who was guest of honour at this year’s Kulamba ceremony, described the relationship between the Lozis and the Chewas as “a natural phenomenon”.
In a speech during this year’s ceremony at Mkaika in Katete, Eastern Province, and attended by thousands of people, Gawa Undi urged other people to emulate the show of unity between the two tribes.
“Apart from fostering and deepening national unity, which are cardinal for the prosperity of our country, this coming together will promote our motto of One Zambia, One Nation,” Gawa Undi said.
He said this year’s Kulamba ceremony was not only historical but also very unique because for the first time it was being graced by a fellow traditional leader instead of a government representative.
“We are excited and proud that you have managed to break through all cultural barriers and landed safely on our soil,” Gawa Undi told the Litunga.
He said the presence of the Litunga at this year’s Kulamba “changes the whole scenario and character of the ceremony”.
He thanked the Litunga for having invited him to attend the Kuomboka ceremony as a guest of honour last April.
“My memories of the last ceremony are still very fresh and I’m indebted to your majesty for the colourful and dignified ceremony depicting the rich Lozi culture,” he said.
Gawa Undi said he particularly felt honoured to accompany the Litunga on the royal barge – the Nalikwanda – in April.
“I believe that your coming has brought two provinces which geographically are very far apart but today we are physically standing together as one people. We trust that your coming will help unify the people of the two provinces and the nation,” he said.
And Gawa Undi encouraged his subjects to work hard and to value education, which he said is a key to success.
He also appealed to all Chewa chiefs to discard some cultural practices such as early marriage that disadvantaged young girls.
And the Litunga said the bond between the Chewas and Lozis is bound by the sun.
“I’m talking about the sun that rises in the east, from the Chewa people, and sets in the west to the Lozi people. That is a very strong connection with the Chewa people. This phenomenon creates a very strong bond between Kalonga Gawa Undi of the Chewa people and the King Lubosi Imwiko II of Barotseland. No-one can erase this act,” he said.
The Litunga said the cultural exchange between the two tribes is a “fountain of peace for the country, which should be appreciated by all Zambians,” he said.
The Litunga spoke against tribalism, which he described as cancer that can destroy the nation.
And the Litunga said Zambians must uphold culture while embracing change.
It was the first time that the Litunga was attending a traditional ceremony other than the Kuomboka since he ascended to the throne over a decade (newly two decades) ago.
As always, this year’s Kulamba ceremony was attended by representatives from the Mozambican and Malawian governments. The three countries’ flags flew over the arena at Mkaika.
Three Cabinet ministers from the Zambian government, led by Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Lawrence Sichalwe, attended the ceremony.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Media Networks.