Litunga Lubosi Imwiko II, the King of the Lozi people, came to Livingstone to join in the Livingstone Sports Festival.  The Lozi people live in Barotseland, Western Province.  Their land stretches for miles both sides of the Upper Zambezi River and includes vast floodplains which become like an inland sea during the rainy season.  They are boat people who paddle the Zambezi with ease in their dugout canoes called makoras.

The Nalikwanda is the boat which the Litunga uses on the Barotse Floodplain to move him from Lealui, the summer residence, to Limulunga, the winter residence, during the Kuomboka Ceremony.  Before his visit to Livingstone a smaller replica of the Nalikwanda boat was built so that he could be paddled along the Zambezi River near the Victoria Falls as previous Lozi kings have done before him.  This year, because of the drought, the Kuomboka Ceremony was not held, so it was a real treat for Zambia to have him honour us in Livingstone with his presence in a ceremony named Kupuwana, which means ‘playing’.

Previous Lozi kings have visited Livingstone to parade along the Zambezi River.  In 1947, during a visit by the British Royal family, the Nalikwanda was brought to Livingstone.  There is a Youtube video on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcE87C18HSI.  I do not have a licence to show it in this story, but you can ‘copy and paste’ to view it.

Safari Par Excellence had let me travel on the Makumbi boat to watch the whole procession.  We were quite a crowd of Livingstonians with picnic baskets, champagne and cameras.  Setting off from The Waterfront we trundled up the river behind the Litunga’s boat which had been picked up by the paddlers at the Game Park Entrance.

We all watched nervously as some dugout canoes joined the procession.  The Zambezi River is very low this year.  As I mentioned, we haven’t had much rain at all. We could see sand bars just below the surface of the water.  The hippos were popping up here and there and, on occasion, we could see them swimming underneath our boat.  We were really worried for the men in the makoras.  It is rare that a Zambian can swim even though many live all their lives along the rivers – the rivers are full of crocodiles.  Fortunately, there were no accidents.

We reached the end of the Game Park by the picnic site to await the arrival of the Litunga.  All the men were in traditional Lozi attire of a siziba, waistcoat and red cap.  When cotton fabric arrived in Central Africa, the different ethnic groups designed their fashions of dress.  It is thought that the Siziba is styled on the Scottish kilt.  The missionary who worked with the Lozi people for many years was Francois Coillard and he was married to a Scottish girl, Christina.  They would have had many Scottish visitors who, in those days, often wore the kilt as everyday wear.

The oarsmen donned their special regalia of tasseled skirts and fur hats.  In the old days the skirts would have been leopard or lion skin and the fur would have been real, but not in today’s world.  They still looked splendid.  The drums were loaded.

With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the Litunga’s vehicle convoy arrived.  After some formalities he came down to the river bank and boarded his boat.

Being passed overhead came a very large suitcase because the Litunga was to change his clothes while he was on the boat.

A row of ladies dressed in traditional dress – the musisi – were singing a welcome to their king.

The marimba came on, the oarsmen got ready and we were off. (Sorry for my bad video-ing)

We crossed the Zambezi to the Zimbabwe side of the river, travelling along the bank for a few hundred metres so that Zimbabweans could enjoy the treat too.

Then we came back upstream and round the end of Canary Island to the main stream down to the Boat Club.  All the while the men in the guide boat paddled elegantly alongside and the men in the makoras tried their level best to keep up.  All the tourist boats kept well clear of the paddlers as one bow wave from a speedboat could topple the makoras.

When we arrived at the Boat Club there was a large crowd waiting for the arrival of the boats.  Cheers went up, the King’s flag floated overhead.

So that the crowd could enjoy the spectacle, the oarsmen took the boat for a few turns up and down the bank.

And then it was time for the Litunga to disembark.  He emerged in his Admiral’s uniform, much to the delight of everyone.  If you look carefully at the photograph, you can see the Litunga’s helmet in the middle of all the red caps!

In 1902, Litunga Lewanika I went to England for the coronation of Edward VII.  The British royalty were so impressed with the ‘African King’ that he was presented with several medals and an Admiral’s uniform.  All Litungas have followed the tradition of wearing an Admiral’s uniform at special occasions.

These old photographs were found on the Zambian Observer website.  I did find a good photograph of the Litunga during this event.  It was posted by Liwena Mukeya on Facebook.

After leaving the Boat Club, the Litunga went outside to the car park where a platform had been erected and there he addressed his people, hundreds of whom had come out to see him.

History of the Lozi people

The Lozi people arrived in Zambia in the 1600s from the north.  Then they were known as the Aluyi.  Their history is interesting.  If you would like to read more, go to  https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/tribes-of-zambia/lozi/