PROMINENT ROYAL BURIAL SITES IN BAROTSELAND

By

Kabeleka Wasa Mundia



1. Makono
The site is located in Makono Village on the western bank of the Zambezi River near the Nangulwe Island. It is reported that the grave is clearly marked, though this could not be confirmed because of lack of time. Mbuyuwamwambwa was the founder and first ruler of the Lozi Kingdom before she abdicated the throne in favour of her son Mboo Muyunda who became the kingdom’s first male ruler. It was Mboo who first used the title of Litunga i.e. King of the land. The site can easily be accessed from the Nangulwe Island; this island has a good sandy beach and is said to be a breeding ground for some birds.

2. Imwambo is the resting place for Mboo Mwanasilundu whose given name was Muyunda , the first male Litunga of the Lozi and from whom dynastic numbering of Litungas begins. Indeed Imwambo is the second most important royal shrine of the Lozi after that of Mbuywamwambwa at Makono, where Litungas are crowned. Mboo was originally buried in his capital Ikatulama (now commonly but wrongly spelt Ikatulamwa). Ikatulamwa means standing out alone, away from other villages – Makono to the south was a distance away as Nayaka was to the north.
Shortly after burial Mboo ‘escaped’ from his grave in Ikatulamwa, which was found wide, open without its contents. His people mounted a search for the missing king until he was found. Two versions are given regarding this search. The first tells that the search party was aided by the trail of white traditional beads, associated with royalty much like cowry shells. Starting from grave in Ikatulamwa the trail led all the way through the countryside stopping at a point on a natural uninhabited mound to the north of Ikatulamwa by the Zambezi riverside. The spot was freshly clean beside a siulu bush tree. Also found at the spot was royal paraphernalia previously buried with Mboo in Ikatulamwa.

Another version tells that with the help of a medicine man, a drove of oxen led the party, the oxen bellowing louder as they drew closer to the new grave! Both routes led to the same spot, gradu diverso via una, the conclusion was obvious ndondo! or, as a Roman would put it, Eureka! We have found it! With this, the spot was officially consecrated as Mboo’s official grave. the mound was then called Tweu-to-ulila because of this incident:

Once Imwambo was established, the spirit of Mboo decreed a set of taboos, miila for those living in the village even to date. Women on the menses are persona non grata and must vacate to complete their cycle elsewhere. For this a separate village, Namuloongo, was built nearby. Only the traditional Lozi houses, maongo – the long hut complete with its roof – were acceptable. Loitering at night is taboo; if you do, you may never find your way back. Roofs with a pinnacle-like apex would be blown off without much ado. Ducks are welcome but not chickens; for those straying into the village there is certain and instant death awaiting them. Whitemen and people of certain extraction are not welcome, entering the village is at their own peril.

It is taboo for any chief or senior royal to pass Imwambo without stopping for a brief homage. An incident is told when one senior royal who was in a hurry, had his speedboat stuck, never to go again, in mid river, its engine resting on the riverbed. The villagers know when Mboo is happy – at daybreak, they will be greeted by a sea of white beads, which had sprung up like mushrooms overnight! Children will pick and wear necklaces – and look beautiful at that – but only for a while, for at the next dawn all will be necklace-less, their bounty of necklaces dried up in the air. They also know when he takes leave of them: a congregation of pied crows and white cattle egrets will ceremoniously leave the village tree tops, their daily habitat, joined by open billed stork adorning the surrounding grassland, in beautiful formation depart to the west, away from the river. Locals know he has gone to Nakatakela, a distance away for a well-earned relaxation in an area that, during his time, was renowned for a good view of wild game coming to drink water in the surrounding lakes. Mboo was a keen hunter and spent time hunting in this area. To this day the area remains a game area although, typical of Mboo, hunters fail to down their animals no matter how close or how many bullets they pump into the animal! Nevertheless, when he is happy animals would come closer and die even before the bullet hits them.

At Nakatakela there is also a beatified spot and there are incidents of people straying on to it and getting stuck. Many of the local people have narrated a series of such recent incidents. There was a case of a senior Induna who was attracted to a crop of sweet potatoes at a place locals call Linangelelo – viewing point. He then cut out some for seed, which he proudly presented to his wife. By daybreak the ‘contraband’ had gone. It is these strange habits or miracles of Mboo, which it is said have led to the name Imwambo. Habit or custom is translated in Lozi as muambo.
There are however, some who say that the name is onomatopoeic, that is, it is derived from the sound of the oxen cries, mooo. This version would overturn the long held explanation that the source of the name Mboo is the remorse that his mother suffered when she was told to step down in his son’s favour. Although I had this from one informant only, I put it here merely because the informant is a well-placed resident of Imwambo.
Mboo’s grave keeper is known as Akashambatwa meaning one who cannot be felled. The first person to occupy this position is said to be the man who, in the nation’s hour of greatest needs, released his daughter, Nambula, to take the role of sibimbi, the girl who precedes the army in battle. At the time, the nation was facing an ominous attack from Angola and no one was prepared to sacrifice his daughter for the noble cause. It is said by some that Akashambatwa was the name of the first occupant, which has been converted into an official title in honour of the man. Akashambatwa was, however, no ordinary person; he was a prince, descendant of Atangambuyu, a sister of Mboo who held the principality of what is today Makoma.
Mboo has fascinated many but one thing is clear to his people – when he smiles, everybody basks in the sun, but when he gets upset, there is thunder! That is him. Well, you cannot fell him but neither can he be eaten up, that is Mboo Mwanasilundu, invincible! If any resident fell sick, they are carried by the permission of the authorities to the grave of the most important king such as Mboo. A guarding of the grave would repeat a form of a prayer supplicating the departed king on behalf of the patients, and imploring the departed king to intercede with Nyambe that he may be restored to good health. It is strongly believed that any departed king is closer to Nyambe (God) and has powers only second to God.

3. Mbanikelako Burial Site: This is the burial grounds for Litunga Lubosi Lewanika. The site is located in the midst of a village compound, and as usual, it is located on higher ground. Lubosi Lewanika occupies a special status not only for the Lozi Kingdom but for Zambia as a whole because he presided over the kingdom at a time when colonialists and concession seekers began entering the interior of Central and Southern Africa. Concessions and agreements signed were amongst those that led to the colonization of what came to be known as North Western Rhodesia. He ruled from 1878 to 1884 before he was briefly deposed and only to be reinstated in 1885 until his death in 1916.

Traditionally, the graves are on mounds and are chosen as soon as the Litunga ascends to the throne. These graves link the past and the present generations. The dead Kings are consulted through offerings of meat and libations with the grave attendants (li ng’omboti) as medium. Their attendants see off the Nalikwanda to Limulunga.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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