Famous for its Nyau secret society dancers, the Kulamba festival celebrates the Chewa thanksgiving that is held on the last Saturday in August.
In the Undi village, the Chewa people, mostly in Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, come together and young women perform initiation rituals into womanhood. While the ceremony is going on, male masked dancers move through the crowds.
UA cultural expedition in the Eastern Province of Zambian to visit the world famous South Luangwa National Park and to attend the Kulamba (“Paying Homage”) ceremony of the Chewa people. Accommodation is Lodging both in the park and during the celebrations of Kulamba. You will be followed by a local guide and a local chef to maximise your experience.
The Kulamba Ceremony takes place at the end of August and is a moment when all the subordinate Chiefs of the Chewa people, currently spread between Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, meet in Mkaika to pay homage to the Paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi and celebrate the history and culture of the Chewa.
The ceremony was banned by the colonial masters in 1934 but paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi Chivunga revived the ceremony in 1984. Since then it has been an annual event. On the day of the ceremony, the centre of attraction is the main area where all the dignitaries are seated. The entrance of paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi into the arena signifies the start of the ceremony. Visitors from Zambia and Chewas from neighbouring Malawi and Mozambique are entertained to a variety of dances that are from three countries.
A variety of dances like Gule Wamukulu (Nyau), Gologolo, Makanja, Muganda, Chinamwali, Chimtali (the female dance) and many others are performed during the ceremony. The Nyau or popularly known as the Gule Wamukulu among locals, is the most celebrated dance among the Chewa people.
The Nyau dance (Gule Wamukulu) was officially recognized by UNESCO in 2006. Nyau dancers are referred to as Vilombo (animals) in Chewa, believed to emanate from dead spirits. There are a lot of Nyau dances at any ceremony. The type of the dance depends to a larger extent on the nature of the occasion. More than 30 different Nyau dances are performed at a single festival with each dancer adorning a different mask in an array of colours.
Some of the Nyau masks are a reflection of human behaviour in true life. The people can tell the type of Nyau entertaining them through its dress or mask. Some Nyau are frightening while others are fun.
Also part of the Kulamba ceremony is an annual initiation ceremony for the young girls who have come of age. The Anamwali or young girls have been in confinement where they have spent time being taught skills and responsibilities of womanhood.
Kulamba traditional ceremony brings together chiefs from 137 chiefdoms in Malawi, 33 in Mozambique and 42 in Zambia. The significance of this is its ability to bring Chewa under different chiefdoms and countries to Mkaika, capital of the Chewa and palace of paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi, to celebrate these festivals together regardless of today’s political boundaries