Every year, as summer gives way to winter, the Kuomboka procession is a flurry of vibrant colours, beating drums and chanting voices. This annual procession marks the transition of the Litunga (Lozi King) from his summer to winter residence, which is located on higher ground, away from the seasonal floodplains.
The exact date changes every year, depending on the ebb and flow of the natural world and has been postponed for the last two years owing to the pandemic. On the return of the Kuomboka this year we were fortunate enough to have renowned Zambian photographer, Patrick Bentley at our Time + Tide King Lewanika Camp in Liuwa Plain to capture scenes of the highly energetic, wonderfully noisy and colourful event.
Read more to see details of the day through Patrick’s spectacular images capturing the raw, real and immersive culture of the Lozi community.
Departing Lealui Palace
In the early hours of the morning, before dawn has broken across the plains, a drum is beaten to signify the eminent departure of the Litunga from the Lealui Palace. When the sun finally rises above the horizon, the Mwenduko drum is leaned against a pole facing east, signifying that all is ready, and the ceremony is about to proceed.
First to appear and board the Nalikwanda (the great dugout canoe) are the 180 royal paddlers, clad in traditional siziba attire that features red, the colour of warriors. A magnificent sight, the Nalikwanda is painted with bold black and white stripes – black for the Lozi people and white for spirituality. Representing authority of power, a towering statue of an elephant sits atop the first barge, complete with moveable ears.
Finally, once everyone else has boarded, the Litunga makes his way onto the first boat of the Nalikwanda against the rhythmic chanting of praise for him. Once settled, a chorus of drums begin playing a song called the Ifulwa, which marks the official start of the journey to the Limulunga Palace. For the last ceremonial step before departing, the paddlers sing songs about how the great Nalikwanda was built by the Lozi people, and songs of praise for the strength, bravery and tact of the paddlers.
As the full Nalikwanda procession departs, the royal musicians on board continue the festivities. Smaller barges join the procession, travelling in beautiful displays of alternating circles on either side of the main barges. Throughout the journey, a fire burns on board the Litunga’s boat – the smoke being used as a long-distance signal that the king is alive and well. Halfway through the Kuomboka procession, the boats dock at Namutikitela to allow the paddlers to rest and enjoy a traditional Lozi meal of meat and ilya (a thick maize porridge made with sour milk).
Music of the Kuomboka
Music plays a fascinating role in the procession, acting as a form of beautiful, complex communication between those on the boats and those they pass by. The royal paddlers sing continuously, with the melodies changing depending on the needs of the group. If a paddler is lagging behind the rhythm of the others, the melody changes to inform him. If he fails to keep up, he will be transferred to a smaller barge, and in extreme cases, if he resists, he will be thrown overboard. Throughout the journey, the royal musicians play the Maoma drums and Lozi silimba (a wooden xylophone), calling for people to follow them to higher grounds.
Arriving at Limulunga Palace
Upon arriving at the Limulunga Palace, the Litunga disembarks and walks majestically into the Royal Pavilion. To honour his arrival, men perform the royal homage of kneeling, bowing their heads andclapping the Kushowelala song, while the women sing and dance. The royal paddlers dance like warriors and perform the Lozi Royal Salute. For the rest of the day, a variety of convivial song and dance are performed, ending with the final beats of the Moama drum at 10pm, which signals the safe arrival of the Litunga on higher ground.
We look forward to welcoming our guests in immersing themselves and experiencing the culture and energy of Liuwa Plain’s Lozi people with us at Time + Tide King Lewanika. The road less travelled awaits…
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Zambia is Africa's best kept secret, with its vast landscapes, diverse wildlife and welcoming culture. Trace the steps of early conservationists while experiencing walking safaris in the South Luangwa. Come face to face with giants as you glide quietly in a canoe along the reeds in the Lower Zambezi. Feel the rumble of a distant thunderstorm on Liuwa Plain’s horizon as you marvel at the sight of gathering wildebeest amongst a flush of colourful wildflowers.
Just a one hour flight from Lusaka, the South Luangwa is known for its big cat sightings and often referred to as the Valley of the Leopard. It is in the South Luangwa that the legendary Norman Carr pioneered the walking safari and conservation-based tourism in Africa. Zambia's outstanding reputation of guiding is ever prevalent in our team with some of our guides having trained with Norman himself. Our guides offer guests a raw, authentic safari experience and don't let the finer details in these vast spaces pass you by.
Time + Tide is the only permanent lodge in the Liuwa Plain. Its vast wilderness of over 3600 km2 has been protected for over 100 years, yet it is one of Africa's best kept secrets. As the African rains arrive in the north, the plains turn to a watery wonderland bringing with it a movement of wildebeest as they journey south to calve near the lodge. Liuwa Plain is known for its apex predators of lion prides and large hyena clans as well as endangered and rare bird species that thrive in this region. It is a land unchanged by time.
Nestled between the imposing mountain escarpment to the north and the mighty Zambezi River to the south, the Lower Zambezi Valley has a variety of activities that few, if any, other destinations can offer. It has been described by guests as their "happy place" because of its beautiful scenery, peaceful riverside woodlands and abundant wildlife. The Lower Zambezi is just a short 30 minute flight from Lusaka and offers guests the thrill of tiger-fishing to peaceful wildlife sightings on the banks of the river while canoeing or boating. Our guides strive to make each guest feel like they are part of the landscape and not a mere spectator.