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Wim van Binsbergen

Mukanda, Part I


homepage | Mukanda overview page | Mukanda Part II

?1992-2002 Wim van Binsbergen

1. Introduction

The attainment of political independence in much of Africa in the early 1960s was one of the main factors in the emergence of an African history that was to be a history of Africans and for Africans, rather than a history of European involvement in Africa. In the process, in which African history has gone from strength to strength over more than a quarter of a century now, ever more daring research questions were explored hand in hand with the emergence of new methodologies enabling us to add, to the time-honoured but admittedly limited body of documentary sources, vast new domains of information from the fields of archaeology, comparative linguistics, and oral history. From the beginning (cf. Ranger & Kimambo 1971), the study of African religion represented a particular challenge in this field. For how could one convincingly reconstruct the religious concepts, practices and organizational forms of a pre-literate past, and even trace the evolution and succession of cosmological and aetiological systems, patterns of symbolism and solutions for the universal problem of meaning, on the basis of data that initially seemed so arbitrary, soft and hypothetical? My earlier work (especially van Binsbergen 1981a; converging with e.g. de Craemer et al. 1975) revolved on the claim ?specifically with regard to the societies of the savanna of South Central Africa ?that not only had autochthonous African religion a distinct and exciting history, but that it was possible to trace that history in close association with patterns of political and economic change occurring in a region or sub-continent over extensive periods of time In those early years, the quest for sweeping syntheses and the struggle with definitional and theoretical problems that enabled us to formulate paradigms of historical process (e.g. in terms of the evolving emergence and subsequent articulating of various modes of production in a regional social formation), however illuminating perhaps, often went at the expense of a detailed, culture-specific examination of historical detail. Now that the claim for the historicity of African religion had stood out in the first somewhat hurried trials, it is time that we revert to the painstaking handiwork of detailed historiography, even if this means sacrificing, for the moment, the broad regional, comparative and theoretical perspectives. It will be a long time yet before this more detailed work can be expected to be subsumed under a new synthesis, which will then hopefully be methodologically more sophisticated, less reductionist, and less vulnerable in its reliance on partial and perhaps somewhat fashionable theoretical paradigms of the 1970s and ?0s.

          ?          ? The present paper is, therefore, a rather humble attempt to trace aspects of the history of one religious complex, Mukanda, in one small corner of Africa (western Zambia) over a period scarcely exceeding two centuries. At the same time it is very much a first draft, written under great pressure of time and while I have not quite made up my mind how much digression, a la Herodotus (Historiae, IV: 30), are really to remain part of my plan. Mukanda is the name of the circumcision complex ?or more in general, the male puberty ritual complex ?which is one of the principal symbolic expressions of the Lunda culture in Southern Zaire and, by extension, in western Zambia among ethnic groups which today are known under such names as Lunda, Ndembu, Luvale, Chokwe, Mbunda, Luchazi, Kaonde, etc. Mukanda[1] involves, among other aspects, the organization of the circumcision lodge; the esoteric knowledge of cosmological concepts and historical traditions, myths, medicines and practices necessary for the male puberty ritual to take place at the lodge during a prolonged period of seclusion; the definition of specialist roles in this connexion and their control by royalty; the actual circumcision; and the performance ?both in seculsion and in public ?of masked figures (Makishi) archetypically representing a limited number of key social roles (e.g. the king’s son, the young girl etc.) around which the teachings of Mukanda are organized.

          ?          ? Mukanda has played a significant but contradictory role in the establishment of Nkoya states in the southernmost Lunda periphery (western Zambia) as from the eighteenth century, and in the subsequent formation of a Nkoya ethnic consciousness right to our times.

          ?          ? In this paper, which is largely based on my recent book Tears of Rain: Ethnicity and history in central western Zambia (van Binsbergen 1991), I shall trace such aspects of the history of Mukanda in the Nkoya context as can be elucidated on the basis of the sources at our disposal. These sources are of three different kinds:

(a)      ?          ?the ordinary documentary sources from travelogues, colonial reports and archives;

(b)                 ?raw oral sources such as were tapped by me in the course of participatory field-work in the 1970s and 1980s in western Zambia, against the background of a synchronic anthropological study which allowed me to subject these sources of information, and their production, to detailed historical criticism; and finally

(c)      ?          ?sources of a type I propose to call ‘literate ethno-history? compilations and reworkings of sources of type (b) by local writers who are first- or second-generation literates and whose production of historical texts, typically contaminated by the well-known ‘recycling?of published historical material on their region, is primarily aimed at the underpinning of emergent ethnic identities as fostered in the colonial and post-colonial period.[2] For central western Zambia, the most extensive source of type (c) is Rev. J.M. Shimunika’s Likota lya Bankoya (‘The history of the Nkoya people?, a book-size manuscript now available both in a popular edition for local use (van Binsbergen 1988) and an annotated edition with English translation (van Binsbergen 1991: parts II and III).

          ?          ? The Nkoya ethnic identity is of recent origin. Nkoya today recognize that a few centuries ago their ancestors were mainly known under the name of Mbwela, a name which is still in use for a sub-section of today’s Nkoya and, as an ethnonym in its own right, for related groups in Zambia, Angola and Zaire (cf. McCulloch 1951).[3] In the mid-nineteenth century Nkoya was not yet the name of an ethnic group or people, but only the name of a locality (a wooded area near the Zambezi/Kabompo confluence)[4] and the name of a dynastic group associated with that area and owning the royal title of Mwene[5] Mutondo, one of the many royal titles that circulated in central western Zambia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of these titles, only those of Mwene Mutondo and of Mwene Kahare survived, as recognized though incapsulated chieftaincies, the incorporation of that area into the Luyana (= Lozi, Barotse) state as from c. 1860, and into the colonial state as from 1900. Kahare was mainly asociated with the Mashasha (sub-)ethnic label prior to the emergence of a pan-Nkoya ethnic identity in the course of the twentieth century.

          ?          ? In this paper I shall only deal with the role of male puberty ritual as a political and cultural boundary marker. The logical complement of this institution is, of course, female puberty ritual. The situation among the Nkoya today, as in most matrilineal groups in Zambia including such widely diverging groups as the Tonga (Colson 1967: 277f) and the Bemba (e.g. Richards 1956; Corbeil 1982) is that they do have female puberty ritual, but not the male equivalent. Among the Lunda and the Luvale, who are historically-related to the Nkoya in ways which we shall presently explore, both male and female puberty ritual is found and there the two institutions are closely intertwined (White 1969); the same is true for other groups of the Southern Lunda cluster, e.g. Luchazi and Chokwe (McCulloch 1951). We hit upon a twofold puzzle which, in the limited scope of the present paper, cannot be explored in full:

          ?          ? First, whereas the history of a now non-existent male puberty ritual among the Nkoya can be traced on the basis of existing sources (our project in the present paper), all three kinds of sources are remarkably tacit on the topic of female puberty ritual; the elucidation of the latter’s history would require a study in its own right, and one largely still to be undertaken.[6]

          ?          ? And secondly, according to ample and converging historical evidence it was at the Upper Zambezi, in the eighteenth century, that the dynastic groups that were to control the ‘Nkoya?/span>[7] states in western Zambia in the nineteenth century went through their crucial formative episode, in violent confrontation with groups more closely associated with the Lunda empire centring on the Mwaat Yaamv title and its capital named Musumba, in what is now southern Zaire.

          ?          ? Investigations at the Luvale and Lunda end of the precolonial history of western Zambia have established beyond doubt that in the Lungwebungu/Zambezi area Luvale and Lunda immigrants[8] partly chased, partly subdued, both culturally and politically, the ancestors of today’s Nkoya (called Mbwela in the Upper-Zambezi context). However, Nkoya sources from Kaoma district today are, again, remarkably tacit on the point of this Upper Zambezi connexion ?of numerous violent confrontations they can only name what they have termed ‘the Humbu war? the Humbu being one particular Lunda subgroup near the sources of the Zambezi. A group interview with the Kahare Royal Council did not come further than the information, volunteered, that originally the Nkoya had villages in the Mwinilunga district, near the source of the Zambezi.[9] The only extensive treatment at my disposal of the Upper Zambezi and eastern Angolan connexion in Nkoya history came from Mr S. Mulowa, summarized here:

‘The Nkoya came from Kola, from Mwaat Yaamv. [In this connexion the name Nkomba is mentioned, probably a clan name.] In the early days the Nkoya were ruled by Lady Mwene Tete. From Kola the Nkoya were led by Mwene Kachembele. Their journey went via eastern Angola; then to Chavuma, then to the Kabompo, and onwards to the Lundazi and the Lufizi. My father was born in Chavuma.

          Kahare remained in Lukolwe, whereas Kachembele went to Namitome (ten miles north of Mongu). The Nkoya name for the Bulozi flood-plain was Ngula ya Mikaka, ‘valley of the day journeys? for they could not cross it in one day. Mulambwa Notulu, the Kwangwa Mwene, found Kachembele there. Luyi [the Nkoya word for Lozi] means ‘foreigner?in the Nkoya language. Kachembele left one of his grandchildren, Shihoka Nalinanga, at Mongu. Mwene Mutondo was also left there by Kachembele. Then Kachembele died at Jididi [= Jizino, a small tributary of the Luena].

          Kachembele was succeeded by his younger brother Muyowa. Muyowa was succeeded by his uterine nephew Katupisha. Katupisha died in Angola, after a misunderstanding with the Lozi. His grandson Mutondo then came to take over.?/span>[10]

Significantly, Angola and Kachembele as reference points in early Nkoya history were angrily rejected by another informant.[11]

          ?          ? The causes of this collective amnesia require further investigation. One obvious set of reasons ranges from embarrassment to historical trauma; another is geographical distance: it is only under Luhamba, after the Humbu war, that the Nkoya Myene are claimed to have reached the presentday Kaoma district, hundreds of kilometres from the presumable scene of the confrontations between the ‘Mbwela?and Luvale/ Humbu/Lunda.

          ?          ? In the present context it is especially important to realize that the emerging history is a reconstruction, whose contents largely escapes the conscious awareness of the Nkoya today.

2. The Nkoya

The Nkoya, an ethnic group of c. 30,000 members, are primarily found in what today is Kaoma district, in the eastern part of Zambia’s Western Province, the former Barotseland Protectorate which at Independence (1964) ?when Northern Rhodesia became Zambia ?remained incorporated in Zambia under special conditions stipulated by the Barotseland Agreement (Mulford 1967). When the boma (colonial administrative headquarters at district level) was established in 1906 (Clay 1945: 16), the district was named Mankoya ?a name deriving from the word ‘Nkoya? but with a plural prefix derived from the Lozi language.[12]

          ?          ? In addition to those in Kaoma district, there are minorities of Nkoya-speakers and people identifying as Nkoya in all the adjacent districts and even provinces.


          ?          ? In Kaoma district the Nkoya[13] live in a rather well-watered and densely-wooded savanna area between the Kafue and the Zambezi valley, in the west fringing on the Kalahari sands, and in the east artificially bounded by the large Kafue National Park, an uninhabited area since the 1930s. The region (cf. diagram 1) is characterized by its specific agricultural systems for subsistence crops (Schultz 1976), and until quite recently offered its population ample opportunities for hunting and fishing.

          ?          ? As the diagram indicates, the Nkoya are surrounded by a considerable number of other ethnic groups, outstanding among which are the Lozi to the west, the Luvale to the northwest, the Kaonde to the north, the Ila to the east, the Tonga (and related groups such as the Subiya and the Totela) to the southeast. The linguistic boundaries are seldom sharp, bilingualism is a common occurrence especially near such boundaries, and the latter do not neatly coincide with the region’s equally vague cultural boundaries.

          ?          ? In this fluid set-up, it is little surprising that local attempts to define Nkoya-ness in cultural terms (and such attempts were invariably the result of prompting by myself as an alien researcher) never yielded clear-cut and totally convincing indicators. Yet such self-definitions are worth looking at.

          ?          ? Thus, in a group discussion of at one of the Nkoya chief’s capitals in 1977, the Kahare Royal Council,[14] being Nkoya was defined by the following five criteria:

?a)                mastery of the Nkoya language;

(b)      being born from Nkoya parents;

(c)      observing the institution of kutembwisha kankanga, the female puberty ritual;[15]

(d)      practising the central expressive complex of song, music and dance known as makwasha;[16] and finally

(e)      the specification ‘Nkoya?as tribal affiliation in an individual’s colonial tax document (shitupa) as in use during the colonial period, and on the post-colonial National Registration Card.?/span>[17]

          ?          ? The point is that these criteria are either begging the question (b), or externally imposed (e), or not really distinctive: bilingualism creates borderline cases with regard to criterion (a); the dominant position of Nkoya music all over western Zambia[18] makes for a much wider distribution of the makwasha complex (d) than simply among the Nkoya proper; and forms of female puberty ritual (c) which only in detail differ from the Nkoya practice can be found all over central western Zambia and surrounding areas.

          ?          ? An attempt at even more stringent definition was made at another Nkoya chief’s capital,[19] where a group of traditional councillors claimed that being Nkoya was simply dependent upon the presence of specific patterns of scarification:

(a)?in men: a specific pattern of facial scars; incisors filed to a slightly pointed shape (this is admittedly not general and might be a Lozi custom); pierced ears; three horizontal scars on the biceps; circumcised penis (the latter has admittedly become very exceptional, in fact no longer occurs);

(b)?in women: scars on the buttocks proving that the woman in question has gone through the female initiation rites ?a criterion therefore corresponding with point (c) in the previous list.

However, never in my experience have I known a person to have been identified as Nkoya on the basis of an examination of these patterns of scarification. Yet it is remarkable that puberty rites, primarily female but also (in the second source) male, feature so prominently in the Nkoya self-definition.

          ?          ? In the perception both of the rural population and of the post-colonial state, being Nkoya is primarily defined not so much by these or other cultural traits but by allegiance to state-recognized traditional rulers, called ‘chief?in Zambian English,[20] and Mwene in Nkoya. If the Mwene?is Nkoya, the vast majority of his subjects are counted as Nkoya ?the main exception being very recent immigrants into the chief’s area, who have not yet been assimilated and who retain their original ethnic affiliation.

          ?          ? Nkoya chiefs today operate within four superimposed political complexes, each stemming from a particular phase in the historical genesis of the socio-political structure of central western Zambia. These complexes are:

(a)?a very vague association with the historical Musumban Lunda empire of Mwaat (King) Yaamv in southern Zaire;

(b)?the internal structure of incapsulated Nkoya polities;

(c)?the remnants of the Barotse indigenous administration; and

(d)?the post-colonial state.

          ?          ? Of these four complexes we can only discuss the first two in any detail here. However, we should constantly remind ourselves that in actual fact, whatever their differential historical origin and reference, each complex in its own way informs the current socio-political structure of central western Zambia.

3. Mutondo and Kahare: moiety-like structure and the struggle for seniority

In the process of incorporation in the Lozi, the colonial and the post-colonial states, Mwene Mutondo and Mwene Kahare survived as the sole royal Myene, partly because of their stronger initial position in the process of Lozi incorporation, and partly because all the other Nkoya chieftainships disappeared under the encroachment of Lozi representative indunas. The two Nkoya chiefs managed to hold their own throughout the colonial period, and when Lozi powers began to wane with Zambian independence, these Nkoya chiefs?stars rose both in the district and at the national level. In the process of Nkoya ethnic identity formation both Myene have occupied a central symbolic position.

          ?          ? Formally, neither the colonial and post-colonial state, nor the Lozi neo-traditional administration, has specified that either Mwene should be senior to the other. In the Zambian local government structure, both are officially designated as simply ‘chief?[21] Formally speaking, Kaoma district does not have any senior chiefs, although in practice the Lozi chief of Naliele is considered senior to both Kahare and Mutondo.

          ?          ? On closer analysis, the moiety-like pattern, dividing contemporary Nkoya society into two balanced halves, is far from stable in this respect that the subjects of Mwene Kahare and those of Mwene Mutondo are involved in constant rivalry lest either should claim to be the senior Nkoya Mwene ?or would be considered as such by the outside world, particularly the central Zambian state. This is a recurrent theme in many discussions of Nkoya political history.[22]

          ?          ? The rivalry between the subjects of Mwene Mutondo and those of Mwene Kahare is largely articulated by contemporary concerns: the Mashasha and Nawiko are continually comparing each other’s performance and success vis-a-vis the central state, the provincial and district administration, and the Barotse neo-traditional administration. Even issues which to the outsider would add splendour to the emerging Nkoya ‘nation?as a whole (such as Mr Kalaluka’s election to parliament in 1973; or the first election to the national House of Chiefs of a Nkoya Mwene, Kahare, in 1970) immediately triggered resentment among that half of the district’s Nkoya population that can identify less closely with the person or matter in question.

          ?          ? By contrast to such equality of the two Myene as springs from their similar position in the Lozi indigenous administration and the central state of Northern Rhodesia and later Zambia, there is the more specifically local, Nkoya perspective. Here there is a tendency for Mutondo to be considered senior: both Kahare and Kabulwebulwe address Mwene Mutondo as yaya (elder brother), while the latter calls them mukonzo (younger brother),[23] in an idiom reminiscent of perpetual kinship.

          ?          ? The local, largely informal recognition of Mutondo seniority today does not preclude that the subjects of Mutondo jealously watch such political advancement as Mwene Kahare and his subjects are making in modern Zambian society. Mwene Kahare Kabambi was not only a member of the national House of Chiefs through the 1970s, but also a UNIP Trustee, and a member of the Kaoma Rural Council (where Mwene Mutondo was, for much of the 1970s and 1980s, only represented by his court president and former Mwanashihemi, as well as by the granddaughter of a previous incumbent of this kingship). Mr Kalaluka grew up at the Kahare lukena[24]as Mwene Kahare Kabambi’s close kinsman.[25] Mutondo’s subjects tend to see all this as a plot, on the part of the Mashasha, to wrench seniority from the hands of Mwene Mutondo.[26]

          ?          ? Between 1948 and 1980 the record of the Mutondo chieftainship was less impressive due to the relative aloofness of Mwene Mutondo Kalapukila vis-a-vis the Lozi neo-traditional administration; the latter had put him in office in the first place, after demoting his cousin Muchayila for opposing Lozi overlordship.

          ?          ? For the subjects of Mwene Mutondo today Muchayila’s demotion, which made Kalapukila’s accession possible, forms not only a source of continued animosity vis-a-vis the Lozi, and a reminder of what might be in store for any other chief defying the Lozi dominance ?but also a major occasion when Mutondo/Kahare rivalry manifested itself. Mwene Kahare Timuna did not openly oppose Muchayila’s demotion. In 1947-48, when the conflict occurred, he is reported to have said:

‘My father accepted the Lozi overlordship. I follow my father, I have no quarrel with the Lozi?[27]

          ?          ? Shimunika, in his early Muhumpu pamphlet (anonymous n.d. (a)), added fuel to the fire of Mutondo/Kahare rivalry by stating that Mwene Timuna paid the excessive tribute of a leopard skin in order to ingratiate himself with the Lozi at the time of Muchayila’s dethronement. This allegation has been deeply resented by the Kahare subjects ever since Muhumpu was published. Shakupota, the then Mwanashihemi of Mwene Kahare who would have overseen such a payment of tribute if it ever took place, is quoted as forcefully denying that it ever did.[28] In an interview with the present author[29] Shimunika admitted that his allegation was based on ‘just a rumour?and that he himself should have been more responsible than citing it in what was intended to be an objective historical account, and as a statement of (pan-) Nkoya ethnic identity at that.[30]

          ?          ? When after Kalapukila’s death his aged predecessor once more acceded to the Mutondo throne, Muchayila’s powerful and buoyant personality soon allowed him to reclaim such psychological seniority as his predecessor had lost to Kabambi’s political instinct, cool and reticence. When Kazanga, a new Nkoya cultural society, was founded in 1982, and the annual Kazanga royal ceremony[31] was revived as a (hopefully) touristically attractive challenge to the time-honoured Lozi Kuomboka festival, it was self-evident that the first festival of this nature was to be held at the Mutondo royal establishment in 1988 ?in recognition of that lukena’s precedence over Kahare’s, Momba’s and Kabulwebulwe’s. As a piece of neo-traditional ‘bricolage? the Kazanga festival today lacks virtually all ritual content ?with the exception of a short dance of the members of the Mutondo royal family around the royal ancestral shrine which consists of a collection of stylized statuettes under a low shelter. The modern festival amounts to a one-day presentation of the full range of Nkoya musical and dancing repertoire (streamlined, rehearsed, organized and even in part remunerated in a move towards ‘folklorization?, before an audience of not one but several Nkoya Myene, guests of honour, and hundreds of local people assembled in the specially constructed festival grounds adjacent to the lukena fence. In 1988, Mwene Muchayila presided over the proceedings with compelling dignity, his hair shining with three zimpande royal ornaments,[32] while it was common knowledge that Mwene Kahare did no longer possess these regalia.[33] All the same, it was agreed that the Kazanga ceremony would alternate between Kahare and Mutondo, from year to year, but the 1989 festival was again staged at Mutondo’s lukena, hosting this time not only Kahare but also Kabulwebulwe and Momba. At a few hundred metres?distance from the Mutondo lukena the three visiting chiefs ?subject to severe rules of avoidance vis-a-vis each other ?each had their own temporary camp erected out of reed rushes, poles and vegetable rope ? where they were lodged with their people in a fashion which must have been similar to that of the nineteenth-century travelling Myene as depicted in the sources.

4. The distant Lunda association

The contemporary Nkoya political culture retains a lingering notion that ultimately, across the ages, Nkoya kingship derives (via an intermediate stage of dwelling near the Zambezi/Congo watershed) from the Musumban Lunda empire of the Mwaat Yaamv[34] in southern Zaire. Although there appear to have been no actual contacts with Lunda courts for decades (cf. Mutumba Mainga 1973: 19, n. 43), members of Nkoya royal families still pride themselves on being from Lunda stock; they sometimes speak Lunda when among themselves.[35]

          ?          ? In this connexion a peculiarity needs to be addressed: the fact that the Nkoya oral sources as well as Likota lya Bankoya insist on an origin, at the same time, ‘from the Luba people?(2: 1) and ‘from Mwantiyavwa? Until a few decades ago it was customary, in synthetic academic accounts of demographic, cultural and political expansion from southern Zaire southward, to speak obliquely of ‘Luba-Lunda? Meanwhile detailed historical and linguistic research by Hoover (1980) and Reefe (1981), among others, makes it impossible to maintain this indiscriminate use of ethnonyms. Reefe (1981: 73f) clearly distinguishes two parallel belts in Southern Zaire, one (designated Luba) north and east to the other (designated Lunda); Mwaat Yaamv belongs to the Lunda belt and is usually identified as such in our days. Does this mean that the Nkoya claim a distant ethnic origin in the northeastern Luba belt, while only at a later point in time they (or more precisely, the ancestors of their ruling groups) were caught in the political sphere of influence of Mwaat Yaamv?

          ?          ? The problem with such an interpretation is that not the slightest collective memories appear to exist among the Nkoya as to what such a Luba connexion, as distinct from that with Mwaat Yaamv, might have consisted of.

          ?          ? An ethnonym however does not constitute a timeless and permanent datum, but is necessarily subject to constant redefinition in time and space. An easy solution to the Luba/Lunda puzzle, at least with reference to the Nkoya and to central western Zambia, is suggested by the fact that in the earliest Portuguese sources relating to the region, the term Lunda is not found and Mwaat Yaamv is identified as Luba. One of the first published references to a region adjacent to that of the Nkoya ?notably the head-waters of the Zambezi, then called the Land of Levar or Loval, from which no doubt the Luvale ethnic group takes its name ?is by M. Botelho de Vasconcellos in 1799, as quoted by Sir R.F. Burton in the introduction to his famous edition of The lands of Cazembe (Burton 1873: 24, 25, n.).[36] Almost a century later, Capello & Ivens (e.g. 1886, i: 427) use the ethnonyms Lunda and Lua [Luba] as interchangeable, and refer to Mwaat Yaamv as Lua. This most probably reflects the local usage at the time on the Kabompo river (along which they are trekking) and in adjacent areas. Much as Mbwela, the Luba ethnonym (which actually shades over into Mbwela) is associated, from the point of view of western Zambia, with the head-waters of the Zambezi and the country immediately north of them across the Zambezi/Congo watershed, rather than with the far Zairean interior. Therefore, when the Nkoya identify as hailing from ‘the Luba?they are merely repeating, rather than complicating, their claim of Mwaat Yaamv association.[37]

          ?          ? Capello & Ivens (1886, i: opposite 333, 412-19, ii: 12) also make clear that by the late nineteenth century Mwaat Yaamv’s empire was still a presence on the Upper-Zambezi. They claim to have crossed the Barotse/Lunda boundary and entered his realm at the Lunda chief’s Chilembe’s capital, near the Kabompo/Zambezi confluence, i.e. as far south as 13 ?0?and only 80 km north of the Lozi village of Libonta on the Zambezi. Clearly Chilembe’s was a rather isolated outpost. It is only after trekking in a northeasterly direction along the Kabompo through 300 kilometres of forest (sparsely inhabited, as Capello & Ivens describe, by Lozi, Mbunda, Mbowe, Mbwela, Luena and Nkoya), that they claim to have crossed again into Mwaat Yaamv’s territory. However, had they gone due north they would have reached a contiguous Lunda area within only about a third of that distance. These are important geographical parameters to keep in mind when, in the course of our analysis of Nkoya state formation, we shall discuss the Humbu war (c. 1780) as an attempt to force the Nkoya Myene back under the control of Mwaat Yaamv. This war was fought in the Upper Zambezi area, where a hundred years later Musumban overlordship was not a distant nominal association (as it is today among the Nkoya) but still a living reality.

          ?          ? Ideas of Lunda links were rekindled in the time of the Mushala guerilla in Zambia’s Western and Northwestern Province in the late 1970s: along with other major ‘chiefs? Mwene Mutondo featured, at least on paper, in grand schemes that, after the envisaged abolition of the post-colonial state in its present form, stipulated a confederation of neo-traditional states extending over much of Zambia, Zaire and Angola (cf. Wele 1987: 153).

          ?          ? Significantly, in everyday conversation and in court proceedings, neither the very distant Mwaat Yaamv, nor latter-day Lozi rulers (whose generic title is Litunga) would normally be referred to by the term Mwene, although Nkoya traditions use it freely for Barotse rulers prior to Lubosi Lewanika I (1842-1916), under whose reign Lozi domination over much of western Zambia was consolidated and carried over into the colonial period. While references to the Lunda tend to be limited to a distant past, the Lozi are a main reference point in Nkoya ethnic and political identity: they are seen as an ethnically and historically closely related people, who nevertheless have politically dominated and socially humiliated the Nkoya ever since Lewanika’s rise to power, and throughout the colonial period. If the Nkoya consider their historical experience as bitter, it is by exclusive reference to the Lozi (cf. van Binsbergen 1985a, 1991).

          ?          ? Beyond the general and frequent statement that ‘we have come from Mwantiyavwa?(Mwaat Yaamv) Nkoya traditions are remarkably aloof on the point of the specific connexions between presentday ruling groups among the Nkoya on the one hand, and Musumba and Mwaat Yaamv on the other. But perhaps the Musumban connexion can be detected in statements which to the presentday Nkoya themselves no longer carry any Musumban reference.


The name ‘Nkoya?/span>

The first of such indications may be the name Nkoya itself. The sources continuously speak of ‘the Land of Nkoya?(Litunga lya Nkoya) ?much in the way early European travelogues would discuss the Land of Cathay, or, in the Central African context, in the way the Lunda or Musumba homeland called ‘Kola?crops up in many traditions, from Angola to Malawi.[38] In fact, I am not convinced that as a toponym Nkoya is not simply a dialectical form of ‘Kola? It is, all over the world, a common feature that after migration toponyms from the homeland are being projected onto the new place of settlement. As a toponym the meaning or etymology of Nkoya remains obscure. I failed to identify other lexical roots with which it could be associated. Only one informant claimed to know what the word Nkoya means:

?‘‘Nkoya?’’ That means ‘‘soil’’, litunga (= land), ‘‘this country’’,?/span>[39]

but the circularity of such a statement does not bring us much further.[40]

          ?          ? The mental image of the Land of Nkoya as the Promised Land of the Nkoya people ?a transformation involving considerable ethnic manipulation and biblical projection ?is certainly part of the contemporary Nkoya ethnic consciousness, whose most vocal expressions are put forth by literate people with a solid grounding in fundamentalist Christianity, using Christian prayer in the Nkoya language as a mobilizing ethnic idiom at social, political and family gatherings. The image can be detected, for instance, in Mr H.H. Mwene’s introductory description of Mwene Libupe (cf. Moses) leading the Nkoya people across the rivers (cf. the Red Sea) from Zaire (cf. Egypt) to ‘this land of Zambia?(cf. the land of Israel). There are even indications[41] that this is not mere contemporary Christian rhetorics: that the departure from Zaire, of the dynastic core that was to become the Mbwela, aimed in fact at the liberation from humiliation at the hands of the Mwaat Yaamv. However, in Rev. Shimunika’s own main text of the Likota lya Bankoya this final dimension of the Land theme is little manifest.

Kapeshi ka Munungampanda

Another implied reference to the Musumba connextion lies in the story of Mwene Kapeshi ka Munungampanda, which circulates through central western Zambia and has also been included in Likota lya Bankoya. The protagonist Kapeshi is presented as an incumbent of the Kahare kingship as recent as the early nineteenth century, but bearing a name which means ‘Ladder consisting of Joined Forked Poles? and said to have engaged in the entirely unrealistic exploit of building precisely such a ladder into heaven in order to sdecure the moon (of emphatically feminine connotations) as a royal pendant for his son...

          ?          ? On a symbolic level the story is not difficult to interpret: Kapeshi, the Ladder, forms the means through which violent males (as represented by Kapeshi’s father) seek to usurp the cosmological legitimation underlying female kingship. Given the wide spread, throughout South Central Africa, of the story of the cosmic ladder or tower into heaven,[42] it would appear as if Mwene Kapeshi’s historical status is altogether different from that of the dynastic figures that surround Kapeshi as parents and children, within the Kahare dynastic line. One has the strong impression of the insertion of much older mythical material, the Kapeshi/Ladder theme, into a dynastic account which, referring to the first half of the nineteenth century, otherwise could be considered as fairly factual: the migration of what was to become the Kahare dynastic line from the Maniinga river to the Tumba plain, the subsequent move to Kayimbu, the confrontation with the Yeke, etc. Significantly, Kapeshi is the only allegedly nineteenth-century Mwene whose grave is nowhere to be found.[43] That Kapeshi is an alien insertion in this otherwise perhaps quite factual genealogy relating to the mid-nineteenth century, is also clear from the fact that he is made to bridge the gap between Kahare I and Kahare II, but is claimed to do so through two instances of patrilineal succession ?whereas matrilineal succession is dominant in Nkoya precolonial dynastic relations.

          ?          ? The situation is only made more complicated and enigmatic by the fact that Sandasanda, in his Kaonde history cited above, discusses a Chief Kapeshi Kamununga Mpande [sic], of the ants totem, whose reign extended from 1922 to 1937 (Sandasanda 1972: 12). Nothing in that discussion suggests (but nothing contradicts either) that this chief revived a title that had been in existence for a long time.[44]

          ?          ? Perhaps more is involved here than merely an anachronistic play of the imagination. In the version of the tower story as quoted by Schecter,[45] the location of the story is Musumba ?the Lunda capital ? the requesting child is not Mwana Mwene Kapeshi but the first Mwaat Yaamv, and instead the tower itself is called Kaposhi. The entire episode is presented as the occasion for the exodus of humiliated Mbwela from Musumba ?perhaps the very first phase in the dispersal of Lunda offshoots all over South Central Africa. The Nkoya today claim for themselves a glorious, central place in the history of Zambia; is it possible, after all, that this claim is more than merely a megalomaniac compensation for the historical trauma the Nkoya have suffered at the hands of the Kololo and their political heirs the Lozi, since the middle of the nineteenth century? Particularly the analogy between the titles of Mwaat Yaamv and Kahare is intriguing. Do the seemingly preposterous transformations (especially ‘Kaposhi as tower? ‘Kapeshi as requester? point to just a literary, rather than a historical, link between the two versions? The emphatic mention of the Mbwela in the Schecter version suggests otherwise. Is it at all possible that the ancestors of the later dynastic group around the Kahare kingship, in ways lost to contemporary Nkoya collective memory, did play an exceptional key role in Musumban out-migration and the early spread of the Lunda political culture south across the Zambezi/Congo watershed? In that case Shimunika’s insertion of this mythical element in the nineteenth-century history of the Kahare kingship, however anachronistic, would suggest a significance for Nkoya history beyond the wildest ethnic dreams of the Nkoya today.

          ?          ? The story of the ladder or tower into heaven is of great significance, not only because it has a link with traditions of early Musumban history, but also because throughout South Central Africa it is associated with the origin of ethnic heterogeneity: a widespread variant of the story has it that mankind formed only one ethnic group when the Ladder was built, and that only after the Ladder’s downfall, when the people dispersed in discord and confusion, the many languages and ethnic groups of the present came into being. Even though this point is not made explicitly in the Likota lya Bankoya rendering of the Kapeshi myth, contemporary Nkoya readers yet see that account as proof that ‘the Nkoya?were actually the first of the ethnic groups to arrive in Zambia from the Zairean homeland, and perhaps the origin of all the other ethnic groups.[46] As one oral source puts it:

‘Before Kapeshi there were only Nkoya. Through the episode of the Ladder all the other tribes came into being.?/span>[47]

          ?          ? Moreover, contemporary Nkoya readers who are subjects of Mwene Kahare see the myth, as situated by Shimunika in the history of the Kahare kingship, as proof that, among the Nkoya Myene, Mwene Kahare was certainly the most senior and ancient, particularly taking precedence over his contemporary counterpart Mwene Mutondo.[48] The story and its interpretation thus becomes charged with the political rivalry between the contemporary Nkoya ‘moieties??the subjects of Mwene Kahare and Mwene Mutondo. To streamline this type of argument, informants are inclined to disagree with Shimunika as to the specific genealogical position of Mwene Kapeshi: they tend to situate him at the top of the Kahare dynastic genealogy.[49]

5. Kingship, violence, and Mukanda as a bone of contention

Nkoya states emerged from the impact of dynasties which represented an early Lunda ‘diaspora? upon the pre-state society of hunters, fishermen and agriculturalists of western Zambia. In this particular society women appear to have dominated as clan heads, and to have regulated the relations between humans, the land, and the supernatural. The mythical language of Likota lya Bankoya on this point inevitably lends a strong element of conjecture to our analysis on this point. However, the available oral sources cast a much brighter light on the connexion between clan leadership and later political leadership. Thus in a group interview with the Mutondo Royal Council[50] it was clearly stated that in the past all clans had their own Myene, and a detailed list was produced:

‘clan        ?                  Mwene

Nyembo[51]                  Mwene Kahare

Sheta                          Mwene Mutondo

Lavwe[52]  ?                  Mwene Kabulwebulwe

Nkonze                      Mwene Shakalongo*

Mbunze                      Mwene Nyati*

Ntabi                          Mwene Kingama*

Shungu    ?                 Mwene Nyungu*

Shihombo?                 Mwene Shilulu

Nkomba  ?                 Mwene Mukambe

Le                              Mwene Yuvwenu.* ?o:p>

Table 1. Clans and Myene among the Nkoya.[53]

(for the meaning of the asterisks, see text)

          ?          ? One was well aware of the fact that some of these chiefs are now sub-chiefs, and have no orchestra. Some titles (those marked with an asterisk in table 1) were claimed to have been ‘killed by the Nkamba? i.e. their royal status was eclipsed by the action of the Lozi representative indunas posted in their area as from the second half of the nineteenth century.[54]

          ?          ? This evidence is extremely interesting because it corroborates two ideas which have emerged on the basis of analysis of other traditional materials and passages in Likota lya Bankoya: not only the emergence of latter-day Wene, as a structure of political domination in the hands of males, out of the much more ancient clan organization; but also the idea that the contemporary moiety-like bifurcation of Nkoya society in Kaoma district between Mutondo and Kahare is spuriously projected back into the past. What the above list shows is that the clan connotations of Wene persisted right to the twentieth century, and that even at the onset of incorporation in the Lozi state Kahare and Mutondo were rather primi inter pares among a whole array of Nkoya Myene ?more exalted than most of them because of the elaboration of Mutondo’s and Kahare’s regalia (foremost the elaborate royal orchestra ? the other clan chiefs only had zingongi, royal bells, a symbol of royalty throughout Central Africa), but all the same completely on a par with Shakalongo, who also boasted a full royal orchestra. The latter-day moiety-like structure partly stems from some sort of survival of the fittest, on the part of Kahare and Mutondo, in the process of incorporation into the Lozi state and the colonial state by the turn of the twentieth century.

          ?          ? The first violent test to which the emerging, Wene-centred organization was put, is said to have been the Humbu war, c. 1780:

‘The Humbu war was the first war the Myene of the Nkoya fought, as a result of a request from a Lihano[55] to the effect that the Mwene should go to Mukanda, along with the entire land which resorted under the kingship. 2 The Nkoya refused to adopt that custom, and the war started. The Humbu were at first defeated, for the Nkoya outnumbered them. The Humbu had come from the north, crossing the Zambezi and the Kabompo. Another, greater army came and many of the Nkoya were killed. The Humbu had come to take the land of Mwene Luhamba. They came from Mwantiyavwa following his order:

‘‘Go and kill for me all the Nkoya Myene.’’

3 The Humbu went all over the land killing the members of the Sheta clan, including Mwene Shilayi Mashiku and all the other Myene, with the exception only of Luhamba and his sister Katete Mashiku. When the war intensified Luhamba fled with his sister Katete Mashiku to hide among the Mbunze. 4 The Mbunze hid Luhamba in a bark container and Katete Mashiku in a mat. The war continued and the Nkoya defeated the Humbu. The Humbu said:

‘‘We did not want to fight against the entire tribe ?all we want is the Sheta[56] of Luhamba son of Shilayi.’’ ?(Likota lya Bankoya, 6: 1f)

          ?          ? The Humbu or Amahumbu constitute an ethnic group in northwestern Zambia and eastern Angola. It is remarkable that in that environment, where historical links with the empire of the Lunda dynasty of the Mwaat Yaamv in what is now southern Zaire are stressed as a source of political and cultural prestige, the Humbu, more than any other group, have Mbwela connotations. Likota lya Bankoya puts the Humbu in a very different position: that of the most conspicuous exponents of a Lunda expansion that went at the expense of Mbwela autonomy on the Upper Zambezi.[57]

          ?          ? Likota lya Bankoya suggests that, along with more obvious reasons of territorial expansion, the Humbu war was triggered by Lunda irritation at the emergence of independent rulers among the Nkoya ?asserting their independence by a rejection of the Musumban Mukanda. That would at least be a likely reason why the Sheta, the clan which (from the Mutondo-centred perspective of Shimunika) owned Wene, were singled out for battle by the Humbu. Initially, independence from the politico-religious power of the Lunda (which was concentrated in the imperial capital of Musumba) was expressed by a total rejection of Mukanda on the part of the (proto-) Nkoya.

          ?          ? Although the Nkoya are claimed to have come out victorious, the Humbu war brought home the great vulnerability of their underdeveloped socio-political system in the face of military attack. Also, many Myene (emphatically not all of them female, which is further brought out by the fact that circumcision in this part of Africa is an exclusively male affair) are said to have been killed. This cleared the way for Luhamba as the first male Mwene.

          ?          ? The Humbu war is a watershed in Nkoya history: it marks the emergence of fully-fledged states. For whereas Wene is already described for an earlier phase, it is only with reference to periods after that war that all the characteristics of Nkoya states appear in Likota lya Bankoya. It traces the emergence of male leadership, and its taking on secular and military overtones, to this dramatic event.

          ?          ? With reference to the period after the Humbu war, the book begins to make mention of what until today constitute the central characteristics of a royal establishment or court: the royal village, distinguished from other villages by a generic name (lukena), a peculiar appearance and spatial arrangement (a reed fence supported by pointed poles), and regalia reserved to Myene: the mpande ?a shell ornament ? and further primarily musical instruments: xylophones, iron bells, and various types of drums.

          ?          ? In Nkoya history, the Humbu war accelerated the movement towards states dominated by men (whereas it was women who dominated the political and religious system in the pre-state society which had been organized on a clan basis). The process was characterized by an increase of violence and by the rupture vis-a-vis the harmonious and integrated cosmology of an earlier age.

          ?          ? After the Humbu war, in which his mother was killed, the male Mwana Mwene[58] Luhamba took over Wene. No explicit explanation is offered as to why his sister Katete, who escaped with him, did not accede to the throne, but the context suggests that the war experience called for a male leader, and that there were already some male Myene at the time. With his brother and his sister Katete, Luhamba had been brought up to be Mwene, emphatically after the example of their mother and grandmother who had been female Myene.[59]

          ?          ? There are several indications that at first succession by male incumbents was not considered a matter of course, and needed some additional (though not quite convincing) justification, as if in fact there was a serious succession dispute whose arguments still reverberate across the centuries.[60] Also in other ways male Myene continued to justify their position by reference to female predecessors.[61] Moreover, so often are early male Myene accompanied by their mothers or their sisters, and so often are these women mentioned without any obvious reason in the context, that one gets the impression of some sort of mystical bond, or as if the male Mwene needs his sister and/or mother as a basis for his own legitimacy.[62] Initially, female Myene still maintained prominence, like Mwene Shinkisha (the first Mwene Mutondo, c. 1820) and her sisters:

‘Mwene Kashina Lishenga’s sister Mwene Shimpanya lived at the Makubikufuka with her Mukwetunga[63] Mabizi. 4 Mwene Kabandala lived in the valley of the Miluzi near the capital of their sister Mwene Shinkisha at Kalimbata. Lady Mwene Kabandala had brought her[64] children, whose names were: Kashina Shiyenge; Mukamba Kancukwe; and their sister Shihoka. When Shihoka acceded to the kingship she adopted the following praise-name:

‘‘I am Mwene Komoka

Who has Surprised the Nkoya.’’ ?(Likota lya Bankoya, 27: 3f)

          ?          ? Under these circumstances, the men who were so obviously taking over the kingship from the women were in need of a solid economic, ideological and organizational basis by which to justify and maintain their power at the increasing exclusion of women.

6. Mukanda, legitimation and power

By contrast with, for instance, the Luyana state (i.e. Lozi, Barotse) of the Middle Zambezi, and despite the (proto-) Nkoya’s historical links with Musumba, the Nkoya states failed to adopt and to utilize to the full potential the most efficacious institutions of the Lunda political culture: positional succession, and perpetual kinship. Exploding the traditional cosmology with its feminine connotations, the Nkoya political elite therefore found itself in search of alternative principles of organization, power and legitimacy.

          ?          ? Meanwhile, we should not overlook the economic resources through which men could back up their political aspirations. Likota lya Bankoya suggests, for the period coinciding with the emergence of male-headed states, a marked development of hunting (for meat, skins and ivory ?both for external circulation as objects for trade and tribute, and for local use as food and royal hoards), and a concomitant shift away from fishing ?in other words a relative shift from economic activities that both women and men engage in, to economic activities that are exclusively male.[65]

          ?          ? In a context of state formation, we must realize that hunting is much more than a source of food and marketable commodities. Like elsewhere in South Central Africa, to be a hunter is a paroxysm of manhood, and as such a central expression of a male-centred ideological system featuring violence, arms, control, blood. Moreover it is an activity that entails secluded male group activities in the forest: the exclusively male hunting camps in which the activity is organized, are also places of instruction for boys.[66] Besides, hunters have their own elaborate rituals and magic.[67] Thus hunting provides men with a basis of gender mobilization, solidarity, expertise in physical violence and in magic, and regional networks: it is a considerable source of power, even in excess of the social power generated by the circulation of game meat within the local community and beyond.

          ?          ? As such the social and political implications of hunting are comparable with the male circumcision complex, as well as with the female puberty complex (whose central taboos refer to fish and fishing!).

          ?          ? Another line open to men ?and one on which we cannot elaborate here[68] ?was however the adoption of Lunda regalia (especially the royal orchestra) as a male prerogative, suggesting that they were henceforth incompatible with menstrual impurity. This shows that men were developing an ideological perspective which further eroded the symbolic and conceptual basis female Wene had once had. Views of Wene must already have shifted towards a dominant male perspective for notions of menstrual pollution to acquire legitimating force. Men claimed the regalia as a male prerogative on the basis of pretexts which women were de facto (given the concomitant rise of hunting, trade, military exploits, patriliny) no longer powerful enough to ignore.

          ?          ? Yet another male legitimating device was the (re-)adoption of Mukanda. Again, male puberty ritual is more than meets the eye. Much like hunting, it brings men to identify and be solidary on a gender basis, to seclude themselves spatially and socially, and to build extensive regional organizational structures and leadership. It, too, is an important source of power in the societies of the savanna. That men repeatedly failed to establish or at least to consolidate male puberty ritual among the Nkoya, might be attributed partly to the fact that they had already in the developing institutions of hunting a very similar functional alternative. However, absence of male puberty rites put the men at both an ideological and an organizational disadvantage, as against the rich development of Nkoya female puberty ceremonies.

          ?          ? At this point in Nkoya history (when the Musumban threat was no longer an immediate reality), the experimentation with new ideological options capable of underpinning the newly-emerged Nkoya states included a partial re-Lunda-ization, first through the adoption of Lunda royal regalia, but also through Mukanda (which had always constituted a formula for interregional organization and exercise of power of eminently male connotations). This option was particularly pursued in the state of Mutondo. Both the emphasis on the regalia, and the readoption of Mukanda, amounted to a partial rapprochement vis-a-vis the Lunda political culture, notwithstanding the fact that the dynasties had emigrated from Musumba and fought the Humbu war in order to assert their independence from Lunda.

          ?          ? The Mbwela on the Upper Zambezi, although they may have initially rejected Mukanda, could not permanently escape re-Lunda-ization[69] by later groups from the Lunda core area. In the process of mutual cultural accommodation between the Mbwela and these later groups, the Mbwela groups which remained on the Upper Zambezi adopted Mukanda. But also among the Mbwela who left the Upper Zambezi and whose descendants are now found in Kaoma district as Nkoya, the rulers, operating within the same general context of selective re-Lunda-ization, time and again sought to explore the political potential of Mukanda. The best documented case is that of Mwene Mutondo Munangisha in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Probably in Kaoma district Mukanda remained limited to the aristocratic clans, and never spread to the population as a whole. At any rate the source of Mukanda appears to be to the north of Kaoma district; there is no reason to follow Luc de Heusch’s suggestion (de Heusch 1978) that male puberty ritual reached western Zambia after a detour via South Africa.

          ?          ? By means of Mukanda, the capital of Mutondo sought to differentiate itself from the other Nkoya states, and particularly from that of Kahare, with which rival title the Motondo state has been involved in a constant struggle for seniority throughout the nineteenth century and right down to the present time, i.e. through such shifting contexts as constitutional independence, incorporation in the Luyana state, in the colonial state, and in the post-colonial state. Going back to an earlier point in time, and with an identity which is more directly inspired by the exodus from Musumba, the Kahare state has always refused to re-adopt Mukanda, and even among the non-aristocratic subjects of Mutondo the institution could no longer be enforced after c. 1870.

          ?          ? Then Mwene Mutondo Munangisha (a contemporary of the Lozi ruler Sipopa who reigned 1864-1876) attempted to re-introduce Mukanda:

‘During the reign of Mwene Mutondo Munangisha, he revived the custom of Mukanda at Lizuna. The Mukanda which Munangisha organized at the Lizuna capital was the last to reach here in Nkoya, [even though] Munangisha wanted to stage Mukanda again at his Mabala capital near the Mangango.?(Likota lya Bankoya, 48: 6)

          ?          ? The actual development of male circumcision among the Nkoya turns out to be less straightforward than Likota lya Bankoya suggests. The Nkoya today abhor and ridicule male circumcision, but in fact the rejection of Mukanda was less than total in the period prior to the massive twentieth-century immigration of circumcising non-Nkoya groups into Kaoma district. Mukanda is consistently claimed, by such authors as Stirke (1922) and Clay (1945: 4), to be a practice associated with the Mutondo lukena. Moreover, from oral sources a handful of members of the Mutondo royal family are known to have been circumcised as late as the early decades of the twentieth century.[70] Circumcision as a practice of the Nkoya on the Kafue is also stressed by Nicholls.[71] The insistence on Mukanda by Mwene Munangisha as related by Likota lya Bankoya is explained by the Mutondo Royal Council by the dubious fact that his mother came from Lunda.[72]?According to Likota lya Bankoya, Munangisha’s mother was Mwene Shihoka Komoka, by no means a Kaonde immigrant; however, his father Mukwetunga Lwengu may have had Humbu, and hence Mukanda, connexions. Oral source [18] supports the Lunda connexion through an in-marrying Lihano, but makes no specific reference to Munangisha. His principal Lihano, Liziho, came from Kaondeland (Liktoa lya Bankoya, 44: 2) and hence from an area where Mukanda has been practised for centuries (Melland 1967); but she specifically came from the village of Kalembelembe ?a Mbwela ruler who was related to the Kahare kingship and might well have shared that kingship’s rejection of Mukanda.

          ?          ? Another source inverts the parent’s gender:

‘Kambotwe came just after Lipepo. Kambotwe introduced Mukanda, for his father, a Mukwetunga, was from Lunda.?/span>[73]

Other oral sources even sought to explain the fundamental cleavage in Nkoya socio-political structure today, that between Mutondo and Kahare, by reference to Mukanda: ‘Kahare?rejected the institution whereas ‘Mutondo? insisted on it.[74]

          ?          ? Meanwhile the evidence so far presented suggest that the men had great difficulty in eradicating the female strands of cosmology and symbolism even from the political sphere of life they had increasingly monopolized. Despite the rejection of female physiology and the emphasis on unpolluted maleness, men continued to legitimate their positions of power partly by reference to female predecessors, and they were unable to impose male circumcision as a central institution of male identity. But if the old cosmological order was not so easily redefined, adapted or supplanted so as to accommodate a male perspective, one could always try to forcibly break out of that order, in an effort to shatter it even if a suitable, integrated alternative was not yet available.

          ?          ? Making allowance for several others which are less well documented, at least the two royal lines of Mutondo and Kahare had crystallized into two different states. The statement requires three qualifications: it remains uncertain whether these two kingships were as superior to other Nkoya kingships at the time as a projection of the colonial situation might suggest; we do not know if all incumbents of Wene in both lines really identified explicitly with the Kahare or Mutondo title rather than with their own or some other personal name; and we do not know whether both titles had a common origin. And even if there were then two separate states, only a limited number of generations before, the regional mobilization for the Humbu war ?which seems to have precipitated Nkoya statehood in the first place ?had hinted at possibilities of interregional cooperation and identification which used the potential of the clan organization to the full, involving a plurality of clans and Myene, and being triggered perhaps by the latter’s very aspirations of autonomy vis-a-vis the Mwaat Yaamv’s Musumban state. Such aspirations would at least be a likely reason why the Sheta clan, who owned Wene, would be singled out for battle by the Humbu.

          ?          ? That the Mutondo dynasty derived part of its identity from a renewed rapproachement to Mukanda is also clear from evidence relating to outlying groups which throughout the nineteenth century remained loosely attached to the Mutondo state. This is particularly clear in the case of the Kabulwebulwe title.

          ?          ? The extent of autonomy of Mwene Kabulwebulwe vis-a-vis the two main titles of Mwene Mutondo and Mwene Kahare has been a bone of contention ever since the onset of the colonial period; the creation of Kafue Park, in the course of which Mwene Kabulwebulwe with his people was moved eastward into Mumbwa district, has further complicated the situation. At the lukena of Mwene Mutondo continued close relationships are claimed with the Kabulwebulwe title, in line with the picture sketched in Likota lya Bankoya.

          ?          ? There are indications that at the Hook of the Kafue Kabulwebulwe’s people largely still identified, as Nkoya, with the Mutondo kingship around the turn of the twentieth century. The written evidence is however a bit of a puzzle, in which the ethnic names used locally must be considered in conjunction with such other cultural traits as hair styles, dental practices (!) and circumcision, if we are to identify the specific groups we are dealing with.

          ?          ? Val Gielgud wrote:

‘I have been unable to discover a generic name for the people living in the Hook of the Kafue and have been told they are, Monkoia [Nkoya] and Abalenji [Lenje] but am of [the] opinion that neither of these names can be applied to them collectively. (...) [In] most place[s] [they] knock out the front teeth as a tribal mark.?/span>[75]

These characteristics return in Gibbons? account of the same area, a few years earlier:

‘The Mankoyas [Nkoya] are a race of hunters, are shorter than their neighbours, and, though generally supposed to be inferior, I must confess I was agreeably surprised with them. They use poisoned arrows, which are also carried by every Mashikolumbwe [Mashukulumbwe] warrior. The physique of the Mashikolumbwe is (...) their only good quality. (...) They knock out the four upper central teeth and the back lower ones (...) [A] few Mankoyas on their borders [and some others do the same]. (Gibbons 1897: 143)

A decade later G.H. Nicholls, administering the Baluba sub-district, was to distinguish the following four ethnic groups in his area of jurisdiction: the Ila, Lumbu, Luba, and Nkoya. He insisted that Nkoya, inhabiting the western banks of the Kafue,

?..are a race apart and have few or no dealings with the Baila. The Balumbu are indistinguishable from the Baila. (...) The Bankoya have mixed up with these Balumbu to some extent, but they still preserve their independence as a race[;] their custom of circumcision tends to this, and they always wear their hair long and matted.?/span>[76]

The essential indicator as to a continued link with the Mutondo kingship among these eastern Nkoya is the fact that they observe circumcision, which among the Nkoya-speaking groups is a distinctive feature of the Mutondo group. We are sure to be dealing here with Mwene Kabulwebulwe’s people, at a phase in their history when their original links with the Mutondo dynasty (as described in Likota lya Bankoya) were still particularly strong. The ethnonym Nkoya in this context does not yet have the pan-Nkoya connotations of the colonial and post-colonial period, but still refers uniquely to the Mutondo kingship, even though at the time its lukena was situated nearly two hundred kilometres to the west of the Hook of the Kafue.

          ?          ? The cultural and ethnic continuity has its counterpart in an economic one. The Nkoya on the Hook of the Kafue continue to share in the tribute network that links the Mutondo lukena to the centre of the Lozi state:

‘Every man possesses a gun and is a hunter, and a good deal of the ivory which finds its way to Lealui comes from the Bankoya.?/span>[77]

[1]            ?The literature on Mukanda is extensive, e.g. (mainly on Zambia) McCulloch 1951: 85f; Papstein 1978: 175, 200, 234; Kubik 1977; Gluckman 1949; White 1969; Turner 1962, 1972: 83f; Mwondela 1970; Melland 1967; and references cited there.

[2]            ?For an extensive discussion of all three types of sources, especially the ‘literate ethno-history?type, and the possibilities for historical criticism they offer, see van Binsbergen 1991.

[3]            ?Cultural and linguistic affinities unite the Mbwela (including the Nkoya) in Angola and Zambia under a common ethnonym which far from being merely situational points to an original, if fragmented, shared identity. This is also reflected in the material culture (e.g. patterns of hunting and collecting, the presence of the munkupele hourglass drum). And even beyond the designation ‘Mbwela? these affinities extend over much of eastern Angola, including such ethnic groups as the Ganguela (also cf. Burton 1873: 17) and the Luchazi. The Ganguela word list as offered by Serpa Pinto[3] shows a great similarity with Nkoya as spoken today in Kaoma district, and this (against the background of the similarity between Nkoya and other non-Lozi languagues of Barotseland, particularly Luyana) may have brought Serpa Pinto (1881, ii: 8) to claim that there were three principal languages spoken in Barotseland by 1878: Ganguela, Luina (Luena, i.e. Luvale and Mbunda) and Sezuto (Sotho, i.e. Kololo or Lozi). Of course, the actual linguistic situation is far more complex than Serpa Pinto suggested (cf. Fortune 1963), but his observation convincingly brings out the linguistic continuity which exists between the Land of Nkoya and much of eastern Angola. McCulloch (1951) confidently ?but not yet on the basis of personal field-work ?discusses all these peoples as one cultural cluster, and only has difficulty fitting the Nkoya in; he reserves a special chapter for them. Much more work remains to be done on this point. What is particularly needed is the type of research as undertaken by Papstein (1978) for the Luvale: extending the field-research, from Zambia, into Angola and Zaire, searching for continuities which have become obscured by the fact that three very different nation-states have emerged in this African region during the past hundred years, each studied by the remarkably self-contained national academic communities in the former metropolitan countries of Great-Britain, Portugal and Belgium, and thus involving publications in English, Portuguese, French and Dutch. Given the relative international isolation of the Zambian Nkoya today, and the political and military insecurity which has prevailed in much of the region, I did not yet venture on such a major exploration, but it has to be undertaken in the near future, though not necessarily by myself.

[4]            ?Oral source [9]. Oral sources are identified in Appendix 1.

[5]            ?Mwene ? ‘king? pl. Myene; abstract noun Wene, ? kingship.

[6]            ?For a few hints, cf. van Binsbergen 1991: 213f. The virtual absence of any historical reflection on female puberty ritual is all the more remarkable since this institution is very central in Nkoya society, the very basis of female identity, solidarity, symbolism and power. On the other hand, if we see the production of history as the production of political charters, the Nkoya in their lack of explicit women’s history are not in a very different position from North Atlantic historiography until quite recently. Significantly, it was only via the detour of linguistic analysis that I managed to bring to the surface an entirely implicit female layer in Nkoya history ?one of which contemporary Nkoya were virtually unaware. The history of female puberty ritual appears to be older than state formation in western Zambia ? considering both oral sources at my disposal, and the extremely wide distribution of this institution all over South Central Africa ?including the pre-Lunda, Tonga-Ila substratum. In Likota lya Bankoya, the early, predominantly female, Myene are obliquely associated with fish symbolism. Fish taboos dominate presentday Nkoya menarche and female puberty training. This suggests some historical link, through intermediate symbolic transformations, between female Myene and female puberty rites, but the precise nature of this link requires further research. In view of the very liberal treatment of other non-Christian elements in Likota lya Bankoya, however despised and persecuted by Christianity, it is unlikely that the omission of female initiation ritual from Likota lya Bankoya is due to any Christian prejudice. Instead, other systematic factors influencing Shimunika’s perception and historical argument are involved here. Perhaps that for ideological reasons deriving from the aristocratic perspective and the insistence on ethnic unity in the face of the local commoner/immigrant ruler opposition, Shimunika could not afford to enter into his historical account the totality of contemporary Nkoya culture (assuming that female initiation belongs to the ‘local-commoner?pole of the opposition), but had to concentrate on such elements as could be accommodated in the perspective of male-centred dynastic history.

[7]            ?In this draft version ‘Nkoya?as pan-ethnic label, as toponym and as name specifically associated with the Mutondo kingship has not yet been systematically distinguished.

[8]            ?Cf. Papstein 1978; Derricourt & Papstein 1977; Schecter 1980a: ch. 8.

[9]            ?Oral source [18] 13.10.1977. The existence of Nkoya in Mwinilunga district was also acknowledged by Mr Katete Shincheta, letter to the author, 25.10.1979.

[10]             Oral source [20].

[11]             Oral source [17] 1.10.1977.

[12]             In 1969 President Kaunda revised the special status of Barotseland and, in an attempt to excise all ethnic connotations from toponyms in western Zambia, the district was renamed Kaoma, at the same time as Barotseland changed its name to Western Province (a name until then reserved for what then became Copperbelt Province), and Balovale became Zambezi district (cf. Caplan 1970).

[13]             On the Nkoya, cf. Brelsford 1965; Clay 1945; Derricourt & Papstein 1977; McCulloch 1951; Brown 1984; and my own publications as listed in the bibliography.

[14]             Oral source [18] 13.10.1977.

[15]             As described in van Binsbergen 1987a.

[16]             Cf. Brown 1984, ch. 5: ‘Makwasha, the most ancient repertoire of Nkoya royal music? pp. 151-182.

[17]             The latter part of this final criterion is certainly spurious: the Zambian National Registration Card specifies the bearer’s chief, but not his or her tribe ?in line with the general administrative aloofness (also manifest in e.g. national census questionnaires) of the Zambian bureaucracy vis-a-vis aspects of social life that could be regarded as ‘tribalist?

[18]             Nkoya music, played by Nkoya musicians to the accompaniment of texts in the Nkoya language, is the established court music throughout Barotseland. Brown’s (1984) excellent study of Nkoya music is not confined to Kaoma district but also deals with this form of cultural domination of the Lozi by the Nkoya in the Lozi heartland, which somehow counterbalances the political domination which has worked the other way around. Musical instruments ? drums, including the munkupele hourglass which has also been reported (Papstein 1978) for the Luvale, xylophones and zingongi, ‘royal bells??have played a major role in Nkoya history as principal regalia. Nkoya oral sources and Likota lya Bankoya trace the position of Nkoya music at Lozi courts to friendly exchanges between the Lozi ruler Mulambwa and the Nkoya Mwene Kayambila in the early nineteenth century. Royal orchestras are widely referred to in the literature on Barotseland (cf. Brown 1984). An extensive early description is by Holub (1879: 57, 135f), who offers perfect illustrations of the instruments, but makes no mention of the special role of the Nkoya in this connexion. Amusingly, he calls the double zingongi, ‘of which the Lozi king Sipopa had two pairs? Stahlhandschuhe, ‘steel mittens? which is perhaps what they look like to an explorer from a northern temperate climate (Holub 1879: 143). On African royal bells in general, cf. Vansina 1969.

[19]             Oral source [19] 19.10.1977.

[20]             On the ambiguous nature of this term, cf. Apthorpe 1960; and van Binsbergen 1987b.

[21]             Northern Rhodesia 1943, 1960; these lists of chiefs are still largely valid.

[22]             E.g. oral sources [4], [5] and [7].

[23]             Oral sources [2] and [19] 18.10.1977.

[24]             Lukena, pl. zinkena, royal capital.

[25]             Mr Kalaluka is the FFZDS of Mwene Kabambi.

[26]             Oral source [8].

[27]             Oral source [13].

[28]             Oral source [5].

[29]              ? However, in the presence of the informant of oral source [5]!

[30]             Oral source [22]. Largely on Mr D. Kawanga’s initiative, editorial committees for Likota lya Bankoya were set up partly in Kaoma district in order to prevent a repetition of the internal friction among the Nkoya as caused by Muhumpu.

[31]              ? Historically, Kazanga is the name of a traditional harvest ritual, in which the Nkoya Mwene was the main officiant; each Mwene would stage his or her own Kazanga in the local polity. The ceremony involved among other things the doctoring of an anthill through human sacrificial blood flowing in a furrow in the earth; oral source [17] 30.9.1977. In the middle of the twentieth century, selected unbloody remnants of this ritual were incorporated in a first-fruits ceremony belonging to the Bituma cult ?adepts of the cult were not allowed to eat the year’s new maize harvest without staging this ceremony (author’s field-notes; cf. van Binsbergen 1981a).

[32]             Mpande, pl. zimpande: the polished bottom of the Conus shell imported from the Indian Ocean; the convolutions of the shell have left a characteristic spiral pattern on its surface. With a string attached through a hole bored in the centre, the mpande is worn around the neck of the Mwene, as one of the regalia.

[33]             On the occasion of the second Kazanga festival, 1st July 1989, Mwene Kahare was given a mpande from Malawi by the present author, in recognition of my great indebtedness since 1972. In all fairness it cannot be ruled out that our close relationship may have lent some slight partiality to my discussion of Mutondo-Kahare relations in the course of my argument below.

[34]             Cf. Vansina 1966; Bustin 1975; and extensive references cited there. In Nkoya this ruler is called Mwantiyavwa.

[35]             In an undated, untitled manuscript notebook in the possession of Ntaniela Mwene Mulimba in 1977 (cf. oral source [16]), Mwene Kahare is listed as a Lunda chief, along with such well-known Zambian Lunda chiefs as Musokantanda and Kanongesha.

[36]             Prins (1980: 255, n. 31) cites an even earlier, 1795 reference to Bulozi i.e. Loziland, contained in a late nineteenth-century Portuguese publication I could not trace.

[37]             Probably a similar argument applies to the puzzling Luba group east of the Lumbu.

[38]        ? Roberts 1973: 39, 50, and passim; and references cited there.

[39]             Oral source [22].

[40]              ? Meanwhile, another oral source ([22]) clearly distinguishes between the words Nkoya and Kola; interpreting ‘Nkoya?as referring not to an area but to a group of people (see main text immediately below), it states:

              ?               ?‘They were already called Nkoya when they came from Kola. The meaning of the name is unknown.?o:p>

              ? Yet even this statement could be read as suggesting that the name ‘Nkoya?derives from ?[N]Ko[l/y]a?

[41]             In Musumban oral traditions; cf. Schecter 1980a: 41 as discussed below.

[42]             Roberts 1973: 346 and references cited there.

[43]             Mr H.H. Mwene in his discursive account of the burial sites of Nkoya Myene; cf. van Binsbergen 1991: 341f.

[44]             In July 1989 I interviewed a Mwe Kapeshi in Shipungu village, Kabanga stream, Kaoma district (oral source [25]). Of obviously very advanced age, the informant claimed to be a contemporary of Mwene Munangisha (died 1898, cf. Likota lya Bankoya, 48: 2). This informant’s fellow-villagers consider him to be a close relative of the Kapeshi who had the tower built, or even as that very same person himself, suggesting (perhaps with symbolic implications of dynastic conflict) that merely ‘by stepping aside had he escaped death when the tower (or ladder) collapsed? But despite the great expectations which the identification of this informant kindled, extensive questioning could not penetrate the mists of time and senility. As was perhaps to be expected, the informant’s link with Kapeshi ka Munungampanda turned out to be more and more distant and mythical as the interview proceeded.

[45]             Schecter 1980a: 41; collected outside a contemporary Nkoya context.

[46]             Oral source [18] 13.10.1977.

[47]             Oral source [22].

[48]             Oral source [7] 22.10.1977.

[49]             Cf. oral source [16].

[50]             Oral source [19] 18.10.1977.

[51]             Also called Kamanisha.

[52]             Also called Shihondo.

[53]             Oral source [19] 18.10.1977.

[54]             Oral source [19] 20.10.1977.

[55]             Lihano, spouse of a male Mwene.

[56]             The Sheta are the clan owning the Mutondo kingship, cf. table 1; as much in Likota lya Bankoya, what claims to be the history of the pan-Nkoya ethnic group as it has emerged in the course of the twentieth century, is in fact the history of the Mutondo dynasty (from which the entire ethnic group derived the name of Nkoya in the first place).

[57]             Cf. Verhulpen 1936; McCulloch 1951: 6 and appendix map; Schecter 1980a: 293f, specifically on the Lunda/Mbwela confrontation; Papstein 1978: 78, and references cited there. I have not seen Lema 1978, specifically on the Humbu. The Mbwela wars are also discussed in detail in Sangambo’s (1979) History of the Luvale, another Zambian specimen of literate ethno-history, whose geographical coverage (including the areas of the Maniinga, Kafue, Kabompo and Lukolwe rivers) partly overlaps with the region dealt with in Nkoya traditions.

[58]             Mwana Mwene, ‘Mwene’s Child? i.e. prince.

[59]             Likota lya Bankoya, 5: 2.

[60]             E.g. Likota lya Bankoya, 13: 1.

[61]             E.g. Likota lya Bankoya, 12: 4.

[62]             E.g. Likota lya Bankoya, 38: 2.

[63]              ? Mukwetunga, spouse of a female Mwene.

[64]              ? Classificatory use.

[65]             Speaking about the Luvale but with reference to the area (northwestern Zambia) where today’s Nkoya dynastic groups used to live prior to their migration to Kaoma district and surrounding regions, Papstein (1978: 84) argues a production shift in exactly the opposite direction, from hunting to fishing. He comes to this view mainly on archaeological grounds: the variation in arrowheads suggesting an early emphasis on hunting; further research appears to be required on this point. Below I shall argue the ambiguous gender symbolism of fish and fishing, articulating the way in which the female domain (water) is set off by the male domain. If this makes sense, a symbolic equation would seem to hold:

              ?               ?female/male = water/fish = Mbwela(Nkoya)/Luvale,

              ? and the shift away from fishing might be historically related to the intrusion of Musumban elements and the subsequent out-migration, from the Upper Zambezi, of the Mbwela element, henceforth coming to specialize in hunting in a different part of western Zambia. However, in the final analysis (6.3, ‘from contemporary Nkoya culture to Likota lya Bankoya: examples of transformations? it will be argued that fish cannot be simply equated with one pole in the male/female opposition, but in a liminal, ambiguous fashion stands for the very opposition itself.

[66]             Not necessarily in a context of male circumcision.

[67]             For a study of a contemporary Zambian hunting group which in many ways resembles the Nkoya hunting complex, cf. Marks 1976; also White 1956; Turner 1957.

[68]             Cf. van Binsbergen 1991: ch. 5, which also contains a further analysis of the Kapeshi theme.

[69]              ? Hypothetical as the notion of re-Lunda-ization appears to be as yet, the process of cultural and ritual interaction in the destination area between various waves of immigrants from the same area of origin may have been somewhat parallel to the process of Bena Ngandu accommodation in early Bemba history; cf. Roberts 1973; van Binsbergen 1981a: 119f.

[70]             Oral source [2], [17] 30.9.1977

[71]             G. H. Nicholls, ‘Notes on natives inhabiting Baluba subdistrict? 1906, p.?, in Zambia National Archives, enclosure in file number KTJ 2/1: Mumbwa ?some important papers.

[72]             Oral source [19] 19.10.1977; the same information in oral source [10].

[73]             Oral source [16] 16.10.1977. Through the reference to Lipepo, Kambotwe is situated in the context of the Mutondo kingship; see below, where the Kambotwe name becomes crucial in succession conflicts around the Kahare title.

[74]             Oral sources [10] and [16] 16.10.1977.

[75]             Val Gielgud to Administrator Northeastern Rhodesia, 14.10.1900, enclosure in Zambia National Archives, BS 1/93, Gielgud-Anderson expedition.

[76]             G.H. Nicholls [Collector, Baluba sub-district, March 1906], ‘Notes on natives inhabiting the Baluba sub-district? 22 pp., enclosure in Zambia National Archives, KTJ 2/1 Mumbwa ? some important papers; my italics. The matted hairstyle as a distinctive feature of the Nkoya in this area is confirmed by Holub (Holy 1975: 184f), who also mentions a superior type of bows and arrows, but not circumcision.

[77]             G.H. Nicholls [Collector, Baluba sub-district, March 1906], ‘Notes on natives inhabiting the Baluba sub-district? 22 pp., enclosure in Zambia National Archives, KTJ 2/1 Mumbwa ? some important papers.

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