Likumbi Lya Mize

31 August, 2024

The Likumbi Lya Mize Ceremony is a coming-of-age ceremony for both boys and girls. The name "Likumbi Lya Mize" translates to "Ceremony of the Mize," which is the name of the headquarters of the Luvale people. The ceremony is one of the oldest traditional ceremonies in Zambia since 1956 and is held in the town of Zambezi in North-Western Province, Zambia.

The ceremony for girls is called "Chikanda." It is a period of seclusion and instruction for girls who have reached puberty. During this time, the girls learn about their culture, history, and responsibilities as women. They also learn about traditional skills such as cooking, weaving, and dancing.

The ceremony for boys is called "Kubinda." It is a period of seclusion and instruction for boys who have reached the age of manhood. During this time, the boys learn about their culture, history, and responsibilities as men. They also learn about traditional skills such as hunting, tracking, and warfare.

The Likumbi Lya Mize Ceremony is a time for the Luvale people to come together and celebrate their culture and heritage. It is a unique and important cultural tradition that is worth preserving.

It has been made famous for its Makishi dancers. The Makishi dancers from the Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony represent the spirits of the ancestors. They are believed to protect the young people who are undergoing the coming-of-age ceremony. The Makishi dancers wear elaborate masks and costumes that are made from barkcloth and decorated with beads, feathers, and other objects. The masks are often designed to represent animals or other creatures.

The Makishi dancers perform a variety of dances, which are believed to have magical powers. These dances are thought to help the young people to transition into adulthood and to protect them from harm. The Makishi dancers are an important part of the Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony and they play a vital role in the transmission of Luvale culture and heritage.

Here are some of the different types of Makishi dancers:

  • Kayipu: The Kayipu is the king of the Makishi and is the most important mask. He is often depicted as a lion or a leopard.
  • Kapalu: The Kapalu is the bodyguard of the Kayipu. He is often depicted as a warrior.
  • Chimbwela: The Chimbwela is a trickster figure. He is often depicted as a monkey or a baboon.
  • Chipindi: The Chipindi is a fertility figure. She is often depicted as a woman.
  • Chisungu: The Chisungu is a guardian figure. She is often depicted as an old woman.

The Makishi dancers are a powerful symbol of Luvale culture and heritage. They represent the wisdom and guidance of the ancestors and they play an important role in the lives of the Luvale people.

The word ‘Mize’ means a small shrub. This was a place where senior chief Ndungu lived before building his palace.

After the completion of his palace in 1956, he called for a celebration with his subjects and named it to now Likumbi Lya Mize ’’Festivities of Mize’’.

The ceremony that takes five days is held in the last week of August annually and usually starts on a Tuesday of the Mize week.

The ceremony usually starts with the resurrection of the over 100 different types of Makishi on Wednesday from the graveyards on the eastern part of Zambezi district which is called Kuvumbuka.

The Makishi then make their way to the traditional dancing arena called Chilende chamuchana (a Makishi dancing arena in the plain) where they perform in the Zambezi River plains in the West Bank.

During the procession, the Makishi are usually accompanied by a huge crowd as they make their way to Chilende in the afternoon.

Each Likishi which is designed differently and performs a unique dance and also carries a distinctive connotation.

On a Saturday, the main event starts with the breaking of a calabash containing a traditional brew by a Likishi called Kapalu Sakashimbi before a royal salute is performed by an appointed person, usually by a village headman.

The most remarkable moment of the ceremony is when a ‘stubborn’ Likishi called Kapalu parades a live goat before Kahipu (the chief Likishi) who hacks the goat by the neck twice with a machete called Mukwale before he (kapalu) finishes the job by butchering the animal without any mercy.

Kapalu then picks the goat and speeds off to the Mukanda where the boys are kept at the graveyards where the Makishi emerge from.

Another that unique part of the ceremony comes that of the free sex called ‘Makoji free day’ which usually takes place on a Thursday night of the Mize week.

This however, is not part of the programme for the ceremony neither is part of the practice by the Luvale speaking people, but people have just taken it as a norm which happens annually during the event.

This is according to the Luvale Cultural Association National chairperson Isaac Kanguya who made it clear that the act (free sex) is not part of the Luvale culture neither is it included in the programme.

“It is not part of our culture no, but it is just in the minds of people,’’ Mr Kanguya said.

And from a journalistic point of view, many men especially the non-Luvale ones, they want to have a feel of Luvale women in terms of performance in bed.

That is why on this day, sex is free for all (Makoji free).

This is evidenced by the free distribution of condoms by various institutions such the ministry of health but the protective sheaths normally run out of stock due to unprecedented demand.

This part attracts a lot of people from across the country attending the ceremony.

It is this kind of influx of people that makes lodges and guest house owners also increase the room charges while landlords rent out their houses.

Zambezi district
Zambezi, North-Western Province

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