The 73tribes that co-exist in Zambia celebrate their heritage by hosting traditional festivals throughout the year. These are the ones you shouldn’t miss.


The name Kuomboka translates to “get out of the water” and the traditional festival of the Lozi people of Western Zambiainvolves the Kingwho is called the ‘Litunga’ and his wife moving from their summer home in Lealui to Limulunga. They travel in two separate barges with the King’s being the larger of the two. His barge, which is called ‘Nalikwanda’ features a modelelephant on the top and is rowed by specially chosen members of the tribe. His subjects and visitors line the shores of the Zambezi river clad in their Sizibaand Musinsi (Lozi traditional attire) to welcome their leader after his six hours journey. To attend the Kuomboka, fly into Mongu via Proflight then self-drive to the harbor to catch a boat to Lealui.

Kuomboka Ceremony Litunga Canoe

LikumbiLya Mize

The LikumbiLya Mize traditional ceremony of the Luvale speaking people of Northwestern is one spectacular traditional event that draws tourists from within Zambia and Abroad.

Every year in the month of August, Zambezi District of Northwestern Province of Zambia becomes a hive of activities as Luvale speaking people from all corners of Zambia converge and celebrate the Likumbi Lya Mize traditional ceremony.

The main attraction of the Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony is the Makishi Masquerades.

The Makishi Masquerades are linked to the Mukanda, an initiation ceremony that recruits and trains boys for about six months to a year where they undergo several rites of passage into manhood.

This involves learning certain survival skills, hunting, learning about women, how to be a good husband and fatherhood. The Mukanda climaxes into the circumcision of initiates. This symbolize the passage into adulthood.

Makishi Masquerades
Makishi Masquerades

The Luvale speaking people consider uncircumcised men as dirty or unhygienic.

For its magnificent cultural presence and artistry, the Makishi masquerades and Mukanda were in 2005 conferred with a diploma by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for being a master piece of world cultural heritage for posterity thus safeguarding the two practices.

The Likumbi Lya Mize Ceremony has been kept original for the proper transition of culture from one generation to the other for over 60 years now

LikumbiLya Mize Ceremony


The N’cwala ceremony is celebrated by the Ngoni of Eastern Zambia at Mtenguleni village in Chipata. The first crops of the season are blessed by the Paramount Chief Mpezeni. A bull is then sacrificed and some of its blood is drained and offered to the chief. Dancing follows and mock fights between the impis(warriors) recreate the various battles the Ngoni fought and won during their migration from South Africa to Zambia. The N’cwala ceremony takes place in February.  This ceremony is just the same as that on the Ngoni of Zulu land in South Africa. They are basically the same people.

N’cwala ceremony
N’cwala ceremony



TheLunda and Luba people of Luapula province celebrate their pre-colonial victories with the Umutomboko or Mutomboko ceremony. Thetwo-day ceremony begins with Mwata Kazembe (the Chief) visiting various sacred places within and outside his palace. The day concludes with his subjectspresenting gifts to the chief who is covered in white powder. During the finalday, the chief performs the ‘Umutomboko’, the royal dance. For this occasion,he is dressed in a long blue, white and red skirt called a ‘Mukonzo’, a crown andin his hands, he carries an axe and sword. As he dances, his assistant who holds his Munkonzo keeps up with him. The ceremony concludes when the chief iscarried back to the palace. Subjects and visitors continue the celebrations with traditional brew and drumming. The Umotomboko is held on the last Saturdayof January every year.

Umutomboko Ceremony

Chakwela Mukumbi

TheSoli people who are the original inhabitants of Lusaka province commemorate the Chakwela Mukumbi ceremony in Chongwe, a town approximately 25 miles from Lusaka city center. The name of the festival translates to “pulling the clouds”, which refers to the role of theChieftainess Nkomeshya II who prays to the ancestors for rains so as to startthe farming season. Highlights of the festival include the burning of a smallarea in the royal field and planting new seeds. The rest of the ceremonyincludes dances performed by different cultural groups that make up the Solikingdom. Chibwela Mushi takes place during the last weekend of October.


Chakwela Mukumbi Ceremony

UkusefyaPa Ngwena

‘UkusefyaPa Ngwena’ is the traditional festival of the Bemba people of Mungwi districtin Northern Province. It reenacts the migration of the Bemba tribe from Kola(modern day Angola) to their current village. The chief whose title is ‘Chitimukulu’ is escorted from his palace on a throne which is a couch with apaper mache crocodile on the front. The crocodile is an important totem to the Bemba tribe, as legend states that when they migrated into Zambia, they reached a site with a dead crocodile which they took as a good omen and so settledthere. Like other traditional festivals, Ukusefya Pa Ngwenga features dancing, drumming, singing and consumption of traditional food and beer. The ceremony takes place in August.

UkusefyaPa Ngwena
UkusefyaPa Ngwena

Kulamba Kubwalo

TheLenje people of Chibombo district in Central Province celebrate the KulambaKubwalo traditional festival. The pre-ceremony lasts a week and featuresdancing and displays of traditional foods. On the day of the Kulamba Kubwalo, the Chief whose title is Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe is escorted from his palace to eight different sites that represent the stops that were made by theLenje tribe during their migration from present day Democratic Republic ofCongo to Zambia. The chief also visits the Likonde Lya Bankanga shrine, whichis the burial ground of the queen mother of the Lenje tribe. The rest of theceremony features visiting chiefs and subjects paying tribute to the Mukuni forhis leadership, as well as drumming, dancing, eating and drinking. The KulambaKubwalo ceremony is held in October.

Kulamba Kubwalo
Kulamba Kubwalo


Shimunenga, the name of the traditional festival celebrated by the Ila people of Namwala, Southern Province pays homage to the warrior Shimunenga who led the tribe and their cattle to the Kafue flats after a dispute with his brother. The three-dayfestival includes a day reserved for the women to sing and perform traditional dances such as ‘kukonkobela’. On the second day, the women throw sticks at themen to symbolize spears thrown at Shimunenga’s brother. The third day is acattle drive day with cows competing to cross a section of the Kafue River.Shimunenga is held in August.



The Kulamba Traditional Ceremony is an annual event held in Zambia. The ceremony is celebrated towards the end of August each year in Mkaika. All the subordinate chiefs in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique come to Katete at Mkaika to pay their tributes and join in the celebrations with their people.

Kulamba Creremony

The ceremony is a way of bringing together different Chewa chiefs from the three countries to present their reports of grievances to paramount chief Kalonga Gawa Undi. The name Kalonga means the one who installs subordinate chiefs. Gawa is the one whogives out land and Undi means the one who protects the subordinates. The Kalonga Gawa Undi is head of all the Chewa chiefdoms and takes care of all theinstallations of chiefs not only in Zambia but in Malawi and Mozambique aswell.

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 center 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 Chewa’s from neighboring Malawi and Mozambique are entertained to a variety of dances that are from three countries. This ceremony reveals how African people are only separated by border lines among many others across Africa.

Dance during Kulamba

A variety of dances like GuleWamukulu (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 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 colors.

Kulamba Ceremony

Kulamba ceremony is also 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. It is the opposite of the Likumbi LyaMize.

Lwiindi Gonde

Lwiindi is an annual festival of the Tonga people of might southern Zambia. It isa thanksgiving ceremony to appease the gods for the good rains and haverst. Anumber of farm produce are brought for display. The ceremony usually attracts people from around the country and outside. It takes place at a Place calledG onde, near Chief Monze's place in Monze District. The dates for this ceremony is normally, the first weekend of July during the country's Heroes and Unityholidays.

A similar ceremony is hosted by Chief Mukuni of the Tok Leya people of Kazungula district, however it’s important to note that Livingstone town is the closest to this event.

Chief Monze during Lwiindi Gonde Festival
Chief Monze (on the right) during Lwiindi Gonde Festival

Traditional Ceremonies & Cultural Festivals Calendar Zambia

JanuaryLivingstoneToka LeyaLwiindi
MaySenangaLoziKuomboka Nalolo
MayKalaboLoziKuomboka Libonda
JuneMbalaMambwe / LunguMutomolo
JulySolweziKaondeKunyanta Ntanda
JulyMonzeTongaLwindi Gonde
AugustMungwiBembaUkusefya Pa Ng’wena
AugustLuwinguBembaMukulu Pembe
AugustMwinilungaLundaChisemwa Cha Lunda
AugustZambeziLundaLunda Lubanza
AugustZambeziLuvaleLikumbi Lya Mize
AugustSolweziKaondeLubinda Ntongo
AugustKalomoToka LeyaLukuni Luzwa buuka
SeptemberMkushiBisa / Swaka / LalaInchibwela Mushi
SeptemberMumbwaKaondeMusaka / Jikubi
SeptemberIsokaMfungweChambo Chalutanga
SeptemberChilubi IslandBisaChisaka Chalubombo
SeptemberMpikaBisaBisa Malaila
SeptemberSolweziLambaKuvuluka Kishakulu
OctoberKalomoTongaMaanzi Aabila Lwiindi
OctoberChibomboLenjeKulamba Kubwalo
OctoberMumbwaKaonde / llaLikumbi Lyamalumbe
OctoberKawambwaChishingaChishinga Malaila
OctoberMansa, Milenge, ChembeUshiChabuka Baushi
OctoberKabompoMbundaMbunda Liyoyelo
NovemberMpongweLambaChitentamo / Nsengele
NovemberChinyunyuSoliChibwela Kumushi