Friday, October 2, 2009

Movin' Muchembelles

For so many parts of my life over here I sometimes question, “Am I really in Africa?”…then there’s others where its just clearly unquestionable and almost surreal. Last weekend was one of those times. Sunday was the Lusata Cultural Festival where I joined Jessica, Elton, some of their family, and 13 of our kids to the Mafwe Royal Establishment in Chinchimani, along with hundreds of other Lozi people, to honor Chief George Simasiku Mamili VII and celebrate their traditional history, culture, and heritage. Throughout the day there was a continuous lineup of traditional singing and dancing as well as a briefing of their history. Hands down my favorite dancers were the old women (Muchembelles), haha. About midway through the morning performance stopped as all eyes turned toward the arrival of the chief. As mats paved the way to his throne, he was preceded by many women in traditional skins, accompanied by his nephews as bodyguards, and followed by a traditional female singing and dancing group. One guy told me that if anyone would remove the fly switch from his hand then he would no longer be chief…no wonder he needed the body guards. In the middle of the procession, they stopped for the raising of the traditional flag. Then once he reached his throne those before and after him, as well as everyone in the crowd, got down on their knees out of respect. The dancers behind him then continued their dance toward him while on their knees, a sign of respect. Those who were either senior indunas (lower chiefs) or part of his royal party also wore skirts. To me they looked like Lozi Scottish, but apparently that is traditional dress for men of high respect. The traditional entertainment continued for a while before the mats were again laid out and the same processional group lined up to do a lap around the crowd. This time it would be with the chief proudly holding and displaying this ivory scepter given to the Mafwe people by the Germans in 1909. In doing so with 2 hands signified he was not yet ready to give up his throne. When not being used for this occasion, it is kept in a box covered in a cheetah skin, which came before him in the initial procession.

I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity to experience the traditional culture here and watch things in person that I once thought I’d only ever see on postcards or National Geographic.

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