Mar 16, 2017

Barotseland: Kuomboka Ceremony in 2017 Expected to be the Grandest Ever

Photo courtesy of The Barotseland Post 


The annual festivities of ‘Kuomboka’ will start on  8 April 2017, from the Royal Capital of Lealui, and will conclude in the Summer Capital, in Limulunga. ‘Kuomboka’ means “getting out of water” in Lozi. The  quite unique celebration takes place at the end of the rainy season, when all lower lands are flooded by the Zambezi River, and it redraws the move of the king of the Lozi people, the so-called Litunga. This year, the royal barge “Nalikwanda” will demand more paddlers than ever (180 instead of 120), making this celebration the grandest ever. Famous for its big papier-mâché Elephant on the barge, the Nalikwanda takes a whole day to cover the distance between the two villages.


The article below was published by the The Barotseland Post


The Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) has officially announced Saturday, 8th April, 2017 as the date for the Kuomboka Ceremony. Induna Mukulwakashiko, who is also Acting Ngambela Nyambe Mwenda announced the date today in Limulunga royal village.

This year's ceremony is expected to be the grandest ever as the Nalikwanda royal barge will now be paddled by 180 men instead of the usual 120 along with many other guests and auxiliaries making this the largest capacity ever.

Meanwhile, interested paddlers have been called upon to register their interest with Induna Mutwaleti after which the qualified paddlers will undergo rehearsals to sharpen their paddling skills.

‘Kuomboka’ is a Lozi word which literally means ‘getting out of water’, and more specifically, the movement of the Barotse monarch from the flooded lower land Royal Capital of Lealui to the Summer Capital in the drier upper land of Limulunga.

During the voyage and ceremony, thousands of people from all over the country and overseas crowd both palaces to follow the spectacular proceedings clad in traditional and national dress, the Musisi for women and Siziba for Men, amidst various cultural dance performances like Liwale for women and Ngomalume for men.

Other cultural dances are displayed at the Namoo (Royal ground before the Litunga) to entertain the audience such as the Makishi and a lot more.

Paddling the Litunga (The Lozi monarch) in the Nalikwanda makes the Lozi feel proud of their culture and tradition, although there are several other traditional boats, such as the Mbolyanga for the King’s spouse - the Moyo Imwambo of Barotseland and the Notila barge that form part of the voyage.

The Nalikawanda must bear the ELEPHANT and the Litunga's FLAG, the two official symbols of the Litunga and the official Flag of the visiting head of state or distinguished dignitary, while the Mbolyanga must bear the Barotse Crested CRANE bird (Nongolo), the official symbol for the Muoyo Imwambo, the Litunga's principal wife, which symbolizes grace and beauty. (An additional note is here below made to clarify the confusion so often made concerning the two royal barges, the Mbolyanga and the Notila).

The journey from Lealui to Limulunga normally takes seven to eight hours depending on the water levels as well as the time the Nalikwanda takes off, but must be deliberately set in such a way that the Nalikwanda will dock at Limulunga’s Nayuma Harbour just at sunset.

First to arrive at the Nayuma Harbour is the two spy or path finder boats, making the audience happy on both sides of the Muoyo Wamo canal. This is normally followed by ululations and welcome songs by the women (ba liimba) as well as the Mbunda songs of Tamboka limwene and the mumbwe tumuka tukumone songs and many others from across the ethnical languages of Barotseland.

Then the Nalikwanda arrives in grandeur very difficult to describe in words as the crowd go incredibly excited. Before it finally docks it moves back and forth, usually three times, as if finding docking space deemed more appropriate, after which the other boats would follow.

Then the royal drummers beat the manjabila and maoma traditional melodies before the Litunga emerges out of the Nalikwanda clad in his admiral’s uniform, symbolizing he is conqueror of the waters and commander of his marine forces, having triumphed over the imposing flooded Zambezi river. He would then walk majestically (Kutamboka) upwards to the Limulunga Palace with his special guests of honour, usually Zambia’s head of state or any other such distinguished guest, as the crowds follow happily behind.

Upon arrival at the Namoo, Limulunga palace’s open court grounds, the paddlers dance Ngoma Lume and do the traditional salute called ‘Kushowelela’ as the Litunga and his guest of honour watch from their respective distinguished seats, and the festivities would continue to the third day after the Kuomboka started off at the Lealui royal capital.

The actual program of festivities for the particular year’s Kuomboka ceremony is normally made available to the public and would-be guests as the day of Kuomboka draws nearer.


This is the official barge for the Muoyo Imwambo (the principal wife of the Litunga). However, for some Litungas who had many wives, like King Mwanawina III who had Muoyo Imwambo, Muoyo Mbumba, Muoyo Mukena, [Muoyo] Keyi and two others who had no royal titles, the Mbolyanga was used for them all during Kuomboka, although some Litungas decided to set the principal wife in her own barge, separate from others while the Notila was used for other wives.

However, in the event that all wives use the Mbolyanga, the Notila was used by Amatende and all royal concubines.

IMPORTANT: The Mbolyanga must always bear the Barotse Crested CRANE bird (Nongolo), the official symbol for the Muoyo Imwambo, the Litunga's principal wife.


The royal statute of changing names of barges is the root cause of this confusion. When the Namuso (Royal Government) has some barge deficit, they always request for a barge from either the Litunga la Mboela (Litunga of the south) who is the reigning princess at the Nalolo kuta or Mboanjikana, the reigning princess at the Libonda kuta.

NOTE: The royal barges that come to Lyalui (Lealui)'s Kuomboka ceremony automatically change names to follow hierarchy.

So Mboanjikana's 'Mitule' barge changes name at Lyalui. The same applies to 'Notila' barge; when it is used by the Muoyo Imwambo, it automatically becomes the Mbolyanga and this is where those who physically know the barge to be Notila fail to call it Mbolyanga and/or those who know Libonda's Mitule fail to call it Notila.

But the Muoyo's barge always takes the title of Mbolyanga.