Why Is Ichilanga Mulilo Performed Before The Marriage Takes Place?

Ichilanga Mulilo is another tradition which must be performed before the marriage could take place according to Zambian tradition.


After engagement, the next step is the payment of the dowry and then next it’s time for Ichilanga Umulilo (showing you the fire). The ceremony is arranged by the family of the woman to show the bridegroom the type of food which is eaten by the in-laws and also what the groom should expect the bride to cook for him. 

In addition, this shows the bridegroom that whenever he decides to visit the in-laws, this is the kind of food he will also be eating. 

What can one compare the Ichilanga Mulilo tradition with? For those coming from the western world, it can be compared to a buffet with all kinds of food stuffs. 

In my case the banquet was held at my parent’s home. And word went round that this was going to be done on Saturday. So I didn’t go far and I was prepared beforehand.

Ichilanga Mulilo Procession

As a person hailing from the Northern Province, here is the Zambian traditional food I was served before I got married: 

Game meat, okra, munkoyo, nshima, beans, chikanda, fish, pumpkin seeds, cassava, groundnuts, inswa, sweet potatoes, fruits, meat, ifishimu, and chicken. 

A lot of effort goes into preparation of this food. Quite a big group of women called Inshindishi (the bride is not involved in this) help out to prepare. After everything has been done, these same people provide an escort to the groom’s place with singing and dancing! As the procession reaches the groom’s house, it is customary for his family to offer money before they enter the groom’s property and before entering the house. If the money is not enough, the procession does not move until more is offered. 

Now the pinnacle of all! Before starting eating, the Inshindishi wash the groom’s hands…… 

Could one eat all of these foodstuffs? 

Of course you have got to invite friends. Luckily, I had a lot of friends. I also invited relatives and the go-between.

Why The Go-Between?

Marriage in the Zambian tradition is taken seriously. The bridegroom should therefore know all the intricacies involved. This is where the go-between comes in. 

The man is picked by the groom’s family. His job is truly outstanding and respectable. Among other things, the go-between teaches the bridegroom how to behave towards the in-laws…… 

When served food, the groom is not supposed to finish everything as this will indicate that he is still angry and wants to have more food. He should be taught all activities pertaining to in-laws. Things such as the food he is served, the tone of voice of the in-laws, the greeting and the chair he is offered to sit on all have meaning!

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