THE irresistible vibrating sounds of the Mbalule drum, the flexible waist wriggling dances by Chewa women and the stylish performances by gule wamkulu are part of the usual attractions at the Kulamba traditional ceremony of the Chewa people from Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
Kulamba is a typical Chewa term, which simply means thanksgiving and is held in the last weekend of August. This year the annual traditional ceremony reached its climax on August 31.
The ceremony takes place at Mkaika Chewa headquarters in Katete district of Zambia’s Eastern Province.
This ceremony, unlike others, is unique as it attracts people from three Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries. It promotes regional integration.
The ceremony presents an opportunity for cross border trade where people conduct various businesses at the ceremony; enhances peace and unity among the people and many other aspirations, espoused by the SADC.
Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry says people should take advantage of such ceremonies to identify businesses that they can conduct.
Lapulani Phiri of Katete’s Chibolya compound says he invested K2,500 in his restaurant at the ceremony and at the end of it all he realised K10,500 and his colleagues who conducted other businesses also realised big profits.
There are many examples of successes in as far as business sector is concerned at the ceremony.
The transport sector is also boosted because people have to travel to and from the ceremony.
Foreign tourists always come days before the actual event.
The Great East Road, which was recently reconstructed by the government with funding from the European Union, and the Katete/Mozambique roads are undoubtedly the busiest roads during the period of the ceremony.
Over 216 Chewa chiefs from the three countries converge at Mkaika to pay homage to His Majesty Kalonga Gawa Undi, who is the supreme leader of the Chewas in the three countries.
From the perspective of the Chewas, the name Kalonga Gawa Undi has a special meaning – one who installs – while Gawa means someone who gives – and Undi is someone who protects.
Arising from this, it can be concluded that all Chewa chiefs from the three countries were put where they are, installed and are under the protection of Kalonga Gawa Undi.
The ceremony reaches its climax when chiefs pay homage to Kalonga Gawa Undi to brief him of the previous year’s accomplishments and present before him samples of their harvests.
There is no boring moment from the time Kalonga Gawa Undi embarks on his procession from Gwarada where visitors pay courtesy calls on him before the climax of the ceremony, entering the Dzimbabwe, passes through the Tsimba where the royal family led by his queen mother Mama, Nyangu, sits during the ceremony until taking his royal seat at Kasusu.
This year, finance minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu represented the Zambian government, and government officials represented the Malawian and Mozambican governments.
Being a traditional cousin of the people of Eastern Province, Dr Ng’andu, a Bemba, received numerous offers from his cousins to test the Eastern delicacy mbeba (field mice).
Gule Wamkulu is a ritual dance practiced among the Chewa in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. It is said to date back to the seventeenth century. This cultural expression was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.
The UNESCO gesture in 2005 was not by mistake.
The dancers came in various forms; Kang’wing’wi, gologolo, makanja, mbiya zodooka and above all the dancer that came in-form of a coffin.
In his welcoming speech read by Brigadier General Nebert Phiri, chairperson of the Chewa Heritage Foundation Zambian chapter, Kalonga Gawa Undi said the Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique growth triangle needed to be revised so that it could meet the targets needed.
He appealed to Malawian and Mozambican governments to put in place measures to mitigate the effects of the floods that hit the two countries in the 2018/19 rain season.
On infrastructure development, Gawa Undi appealed to the Zambian government to consider constructing a rail line from Chipata to Lusaka as it will promote trade and development.
“I appeal to government to expedite the construction of a public university in Katete as land was already made available. We patiently wait on the Katete/Chanida road, Chadiza/Katete road, Chipata/Chadiza road and Chipata/Lundazi road as these roads are currently in a deplorable state. Government should commence the construction of a
district hospital in Katete, land was already allocated many years ago,” he said.
Gawa Undi urged Malawians to exercise tolerance in light of the ongoing political crisis following last May’s general elections.
Gawa Undi saluted Mozambique’s ruling party, FRELIMO, for signing a peace accord with opposition RENAMO.
Dr Ng’andu commended Gawa Undi for being a change champion in promoting girl child education, stopping early marriages, among many others.
He said government was highly indebted to the traditional leader for the support he was giving to various initiatives that were aimed at mitigating climate change.
Dr Ng’andu said climate change was having a disruptive impact on agriculture.
Malawi’s minister of Sport, Youth and Culture Francis Phiso said traditional ceremonies uphold tradition and culture.
Phiso said Kulamba promotes unity among the three countries and boosts revenue through tourism.
Mozambican government representative Arcanjo Jorge Damacene said Kulamba helps in sharing experiences in the three countries.
Damacene said the Mozambican government appreciates the role that Chewa chiefs play by getting involved in development projects adding that the Mozambican government was paying tribute to President Edgar Lungu for witnessing the signing of the peace accord between the
ruling party FRELIMO and RENAMO.
The Mozambican government also stressed the need for the three countries to take care of the environment.
Away from the government speeches, the traditional leaders did the actual Kulamba by paying homage to Gawa and briefing him on the state of affairs in various localities.
As per tradition, Chewa chiefs from each of the three countries are grouped according to their countries and one traditional leader speaks on behalf of others.
After this stage, the traditional leaders sum up with entertainment and this year dances from Zambia came immediately after the traditional leaders from met Gawa, followed Malawi and later Mozambique.
The display of snakes by dancers, dancing on top of very long poles, smashing of a stone with a hammer on a dancer’s head, crawling on a tiny line and a number of activities were among the main attractions of the ceremony.
However, Gawa’s spokesperson Lucas Phiri issued repeated warnings to the people who attended the ceremony not to imitate Chewa technology.
It is hoped that pen pushers who were on a mission of documenting SADC success stories who were in attendance did not develop cold feet to film a dancer who came in of a mock coffin.
The success stories programme is under the Strengthening National Regional Linkages Programme which is commissioned by Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and co-funded by the European Union as part of its institutional capacity building for the SADC secretariat and national stakeholders programme. It is
implemented by GIZ.