The Lwiindi Traditional ceremony of the Tonga people is an annual festival of thanks giving which is held in Monze in the Southern Province.
Before looking into the Lwiindi traditional ceremony, lets briefly take a look at the origins of the Tonga
Origins of the Tonga people
Incidentally, in case you didnt know, the Tonga people are considered to be the original Inhabitants in Zambia. It is reported that they have been in the Tonga area for at least 600 years.
Evidence of their stay here have been found in places such as Mazabuka, Magoye, Monze, Choma, Kalomo, Batoka plateau and at the top of Sebanzi hill on the edge of the Kafue flats on Lochinvar ranch.
Meaning of the Tonga name
Tonga is a Shona word meaning independent. The name indicates that the Tonga people did not have a central political structure. They lived in small independent family units.
Tradition has it that the present chief Monze descended from a long line dating from the 17th Century. The chief is a spiritual and cultural leader with considerable influence. The current Chief Magunza Monze assumed his chieftaincy in 1990.
The Tonga and the cattle!
The Tonga people are attached very much to the land and cattle. Other Zambian tribes often tease them that when you greet a Tonga, you must also enquire about the wellbeing of each and very cow.
And what more!
Tonga people have traditionally knocked out their front teeth in imitation of their highly prized cattle!
The Lwiindi ceremony encompasses several ceremonies; all of them are connected to praying for rain. The main ones are the Lwiindi Gonde, held southwest of Monze town, and the Maanzi Aabila Lwiindi, in Chief Siachitimas area in Kalomo. They are held annually.
The Tonga lwiindi ceremony would not be complete without mentioning another aspect of Tonga culture the shrines. These are allocated at Gonde, which means thick bush. The Tonga visit these shrine to ask for rains from their ancestors or assistance with eliminating disease.
At the shrines there are two huts built on top of the graves of the sacred Tonga chiefs, Mayaba and Nchete Ilya Mabwe. In praying for the rains the Tonga brew beer, slaughter a black goat or chicken or even a cow.
While in shrines there are rules to follow such as: Women are not allowed if they have their menstrual period, an animal slaughtered at the shrine should roasted and eaten without adding salt, and consumed right at the shrine, everybody must remove their shoes and socks, any person going to the shrines must be clean of mind and body, one should not have sex the night before going to the shrine and a thousand and one rules!
And now, the Lwiindi traditional ceremony
The Tonga dances at the Lwiindi Gonde ceremony
This is the main ceremony which takes place in July. The Reason is that chief Monze is considered to be the most senior leader. The ceremony is held at Gonde, where it is claimed the first Chief Monze just disappeared but did not die. The place became the burial place for all chiefs but so far only two have been buried there.
Lwiindi means thanks giving for the harvests. These thanks are directed to Tonga ancestors, especially the first Chief, Monze Mukulukulu. It is believed that Monze Mukulukulu was blessed with wisdom, was a rain maker and could eradicate diseases.
The Tonga people would travel long distances to come and seek his advice. Before they spoke to him, they would present him with traditional hoes (maamba) made from smelted iron.
Chief Monze celebrates the Lwiindi Gonde ceremony by consuming the first meal of the new seasons harvest. In the process, songs are sung praising the first Chief Monze Mukulukulu, who according to tradition sends down the rain.
The ceremony attracts so many people, including, politicians, representatives of opposition parties, and hundreds of people beyond the province.
The ceremony starts on the last Sunday of June. On Sunday, people watch various dances of the plateau Tonga, the Plains Tonga and the Valley Tonga.
The plateau Tonga
The plateau Tonga perform the Kalyaba dance using only two drums. This a spiritual dance that moves the soul and mind.
The valley Tonga
These display a warrior dance known as Budima. This is the song that brings the chief into the main arena. The performance is also called Nyeele, and is also used to drive cattle into the bush.
The Budima dance is performed by traditional soldiers with long spears, jumping high while blowing trumpet music and shouting chants, while a big drum sounds from the corner of the arena.
A dance is performed by old women and young girls, adorned with bead necklaces and bangles of white beads on their arms. It is an energetic dance which includes older mentor women. It is performed at initiation ceremonies for girls going into marriage.
There you have it! That's all there is to the Lwiindi traditional ceremony!