Saturday the 8th of April saw the colourful Kuomboka Ceremony take place in the Western Province of Zambia for the first time since 2012. The ceremony is otherwise an annual event. Arguably the biggest ceremony in Zambia, the Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people dates back to over 300 years. Thousands flock from all over Zambia and all over the world to witness this magnificent and coulourful event.

Kuomboka, in the lozi language, literally means “getting out of the water”. This occurs during the rainy season when the Zambezi river floods the plains. The king of the Lozi people, the Litunga, (Litunga means “of the earth”) moves from his dry season palace in Lealui, in the plains, to his rainy season palace in Limulunga which is on higher ground. He travels in the Royal Barge known as the Nalikwanda. Part of his duty as Litunga is to protect the Lozi people from the forces of nature. In this case, the floods destroy everything in its wake and threaten the lives of the people, so the Kuomboka is a process of getting the people out of harm’s way to safety.

The five-day event is characterized by drumming, dancing and ceremony, the third day of which is the actual departure day.
According to Andrew Rooke in the discourse Kuomboka: The Ancient Wisdom of the MaLozi, The legends tell that before the time of the first known male chief, Mboo, there came a great flood called Meyi-a-Lungwangwa, meaning “the waters that swallowed everything.” The vast plain was covered in the deluge, all animals died, and every farm was swept away. People were afraid to escape the flood in leaky dugout canoes only, so it was that the high god, Nyambe, ordered a man called Nakambela to build the first great canoe, Nalikwanda, which means “for the people.” Then, as now, the canoe was painted in huge black and white stripes, white symbolizing spirituality and black the people. Before voyaging out on the stormy waters the canoe was loaded with every type of seeds and animal dung. At the place where the first Nalikwanda landed, the seeds were scattered to become the progenitors of the plants as we know them today, and the animals once again sprang forth from the animal dung.

This is a very brief account of the event and leaves out a lot of significant details, but there are various sources of information on this wonderful and colourful event. Below are some links:

Kuomboka: Ancient Wisdom of the Malozi

The Kuomboka Ceremony by Lubosi Muimu

This article aimed at promoting Zambian history and cultural heritage in Finland was written by Izai-Zai Ernest Yikona, inspired by Cynthia Sauti Söderbacka.