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Friday, August 26, 2005

“Likumbi Lya Mize” the Zambia Safari

On Friday August 26, 2005 His Royal Highness Senior Chief Ndungu of the Lovale people celebrated “Likumbi Lya Mize” ceremony (day of Mize). The traditional ceremony is held yearly at “Mize” capital to appreciate and recognize the Lovale people. The Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa attended this year's ceremony.

On the Zambia safari calendar “Likumbi Lya Mize” is really a duet celebration. It witnesses the graduation of boys from their circumcision and subsequent long confinement. It also commemorates the annual traditional ceremony. The Lovale people live near the banks of the Zambezi River in North Western Province of Zambia. And that was the site of this ceremony.

It’s the dancers’ colourful traditional wear, the food and the traditional beer that make “Likumbi Lya Mize” all colourful and unforgettable.

At the start of Likumbi Lya Mize Chief Ndungu and his wife arrived into the arena carried on a throne fixed on poles. Shortly after the “Makishi” dancers arrived. These are spirits that live among the dead. So on this day they rose from the graves and meekly trooped in a single file into the arena. They greeted the chief and wished him good health. Just imagine the mark of respect. The spirits greeting the chief!

Recognition Ceremony
The makishi dress in lovely and colourful clothes that cover every part of their bodies. Obviously to prevent recognition. Only their feet are exposed, lest they fail to dance. Remember their job is to entertain the people. They wear masks representing all sorts of things and animals. A makishi will dress to satisfy their wildest dreams in weirdness. The purpose is to represent a particular spirit.

Then all hell broke loose! The dances begun and the people couldn’t hold on. They joined in unison to enjoy the dances with the makishi. This went on the whole day. Finally, when the day ended the makishi left. They crossed the Zambezi River to the western bank. There the dances continued over night

Circumcision Graduation
The following day early in the morning the traditional school the”Mukanda” is burnt to signal the graduation day. The boys who had been kept away from their parents and the rest of the community are returned to their parents as young men. They would have been away for six months learning crafts of a responsible husband. This is their graduation day from the circumcision done at the “Mukanda” the secret compound built for this purpose.

The Lovale are the only people in Zambia who practice male circumcision. The circumcision is held in secret. If you’re found ‘loitering’ near the Mukanda even if by accident the punishment is serious. Forced circumcision may be performed on the defaulting fellow. Be warned, keep away from the Mukanda!

The climax of the day is to witness the hand over of the boy initiates. Before this they will have performed special dances they had learned at the “Mukanda”. Thereafter they take a bath in the Zambezi River and dress up in new clothes provided by their parents.

Next year new boys will opt to be circumcised and Chief Ndungu and his people, the Lovale, will again celebrate the Likumbi Lya Mize… and Zambia safari will be on hand to invite you.


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