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Why the Ku-omboka is a Unique Cultural Safari
March 31, 2006
March 31, 2006 Issue #0013


Written by Enestle Zimba,
Founding Editor
(c) copyright 2006 Zambia African


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================== TABLE OF CONTENTS ===================

o Africa’s Best Kept Secret
o Just My Thoughts
o Resource Centre
o Free Trials


o Zambia is Africa’s best-kept secret… Why?

...Because of the rich heritage in cultural safari, the
spectacular wildlife, the unforgettable adventure and
the awesome beauty…still unknown to the rest of the world.

Zambia safari has it all’s the undiscovered gem of
Africa, an ideal tourist destination for that special
holiday of your lifetime...

Lest you forget, Zambia is home to the mystic and mighty
Victoria Falls, the largest curtain of falling water.
And Zambians are well known for being friendly and
helpful people too. This makes Zambian safaris a cultural
tourism you’ll always treasure to remember.

Unique Cultural Safaris

Perhaps you don’t it yet but Zambia has numerous
traditional ceremonies. However, a word of advice! They
generally do not follow the normal calendar. The weather
elements and a bit of "sniffing around" or such related
matters bring things to bear on the date… if you get my

But seriously, the timing of most traditional ceremonies
depends more on natural factors such as rainfall, the
season, the position of the moon, the month, etc. If you
happen to be around when one of these ceremonies is on
don’t miss the opportunity. Just ask your tour operators
they’ll advise you. And you’re welcome…

Just about now there is one on the horizon, the Ku-omboka.

Ku-omboka, meaning “getting out of the water onto high
ground,” is one of the most famous ceremonies in Zambia.
It takes place just before a full moon on the Barotse
Plains of Western Province. This is where the mighty
Zambezi River floods the valley of the vast plain. The
Lozi people of the plains celebrate the Ku-omboka
ceremony annually.

Towards the end of the rains, around February/March, the
water level in the Zambezi rises. The plains then become
flooded, and the settlements gradually become islands.
The Lozi people with their livestock must make a move to
higher ground or perish. The move is spectacular and
ceremonial, it is the Ku-omboka!

However, the precise date will only be known a week or
so in advance, as it is decided upon by the Litunga, the
King of the Lozi people.

The people pack their belongings into canoes. Cattle
and other livestock are moved earlier in a special
ceremony but it is not publicized. During Ku-omboka
the whole tribe leaves en mass! The Litunga rides
in his royal barge called the "Nalikwanda." It’s
painted with zebra stripes that run up and down
making it look great on the water. Numerous boats
and canoes of all sorts, shape and colour follow
behind it.

The Litunga's departure is announced by the beating
of three huge royal drums - Mundilima, Munanga and
Kanono. The sounding of the drums summons the people
from miles away. Before sailing off the drums are
loaded on the royal barge.

A flotilla of canoes, headed by the Royal Barge leave
the floodplain headquarters of Lealui for Limulunga
on the higher ground. The journey takes almost the
whole day. A spontaneous orchestra of local musicians
accompanies this flotilla or fleet of canoes.

But before the move en mass a lot of preparation goes
into it. You can imagine the jostling that gets under
way when it’s time to select a troop of people for a
great honour, the royal honour to paddle the royal barge.

Wearing scarlet hats and traditional Lozi dress the
royal paddlers row the Nalikwanda which is guided by
a couple of 'scout' barges. The scout barges are
painted white and seek the right channels for the royal
barge. Behind the Nalikwanda comes the Litunga's wife,
the Moyo, in her own barge. The local dignitaries
complete the procession.

Then its time for the rowers… Scarlet hats, Lozi dress
and in both hands holding long black and white striped
paddles. All the time the rowers sing and paddle in
unison. Tiredness is frowned on or not accepted at all.
So resting is done systematically, one replacement at a
time, to avoid the king noticing the change in the
cruise of the royal barge.

You can just picture it. The paddles going up and down
like a millipede’s thousand legs…

When the royal barge finally arrives at Limulunga late
in the afternoon, the Litunga steps ashore sporting
the uniform of an English admiral. The Litunga’s first
night on shore is an evening of feasting and celebrating
with much eating, drinking, music and traditional dancing.

This Ku-omboka ceremony dates back more than 300 years
ago when the Litunga established his headquarters at
Lealui in the floodplain. Soon he discovered the palace
was under threat of being submerged when the river rose
during the rainy season… And the rest as they say is history.

The next ceremony takes place on Saturday April 8, 2006.


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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~JUST MY THOUGHTS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zambia has more than 73 ethnic groups all with different
cultural, traditions and beliefs. But then, some of these
groups are smaller than others and their traditional
cultural lean towards those of larger groups with similar
traditions. As a result only about a third of the ethnic
groups found in Zambia, and to be precise, just over 21
hold annual traditional ceremonies.

Visitors rarely see many of the major cultural festivals.
The reason is simple. They don’t happen on the same date
every year so planning is terribly hampered. But for the
very keen knowing the month will go a long way. Because
then it’s a matter of asking your travel agent or car
hire, and voila, the date is predicted.

A wide diversity of traditional grouping is what makes
Zambia's population. The varying traditions provide a
rich blend that will fascinate many a tourist. In
particular there are a number of dances and traditional
ceremonies that show this multi-faceted heritage.
Friendliness and helpfulness towards visitors are
niversal traits in almost all these ethnic groups.

Even then for one to see and appreciate the festivals
a good guide, someone who understands the dances, rituals
and traditions might be useful in explaining their
significance and meaning.

During these ceremonies photographers have a field day.
They capture unique and superb pictures of dances and
traditional dresses of these colourful events. But
before you brandish your camera, be sensitive to what
pictures you shoot. Your tour operator may guide you
but ask for permission from anyone who might take offence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~RESOURCES CENTRE~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FREE TRIALS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Now let’s get on the safari in Zambia...

And keep on going on : -)



Written by: Enestle Zimba
Africa’s Best Kept Secret Ezine (Abkse)
(c) copyright 2006 Zambia African
73 Eucalyptus Avenue,
Luanshya, Zambia

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