Ngoni

The Ngoni arrived in our region in 1835, after crossing the Zambezi River near Zumbo.  We know this because of an eclipse of the sun which happened at the time of the crossing, the story which had been passed down and could be dated exactly. 

Their chief was Zwangendaba and it was he who had taken about 1,000 people away from Shaka Zulu’s war machine in the south.  They had travelled steadily northwards for 15 years, raiding as they went, swelling their numbers.  They were very similar in society to the Zulus, with boys being trained from an early age into regiments of the army.  Raiding neighbouring villages to steal food, cattle and people was their way of life.  Zwangendaba had met up with Mzilikazi’s Matabele at some point.  They fought, Zwangendaba losing, which may have forced him to continue journeying northwards and to the Zambezi River.

After crossing the Zambezi they settled for four years in Nsengaland.   We are told that Zwangendaba was particularly impressed by the skills of Nsenga witchdoctors and, on leaving Nsengaland, he took some with him.  We do not know why Zwangendaba decided to move again, probably it was a case of finding food.  One section of his community had already left, going eastwards and settling along Lake Malawi (Nyasa).  Zwangendaba took his horde of people northwards, settling for a time in Tumbukaland.  And then they moved northwards once more, reaching the east of Lake Tanganyika, in present-day Tanzania.  It was here that Zwangendaba died in 1845, 10 years after crossing the Zambezi River. 

Photograph from Harry Johnson’s Memoirs

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/tribes-of-zambia/mozambique/ngoni/

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Kwangwa

The Kwangwa are an offshoot of the Luyi people.

The Luyi people arrived around Mongu on the Barotse Floodplain in the mid-1600s under the leadership of a woman named Mwambwa.  Mwambwa’s daughter took over the leadership but was challenged by her son, Mboo, who then took charge. 

It was during Mboo’s reign that two of his relatives, Mange and Mwanabinyi, went out to form their own chieftainships.  Mwanabinyi went south to form his own clan named Kwandi; he took over land then occupied by the Subiya and Mbukushu.  (The Subiya are still part of the tribal make-up of Zambia, but the Mbukushu are now only present in the Caprivi and northern Botswana). Mange went east and formed the Kwangwa people; he occupied land which was then land used by the Nkoya.   …

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/tribes-of-zambia/the-kingdoms/luba/lozi/kwangwa/

George Westbeech 1868

Born in 1844 in Liverpool, England, at the age of 17 he boarded a ship to the Cape Colony (South Africa).  For the first 8 years he traded in wildlife products, mainly elephant tusks, between the Cape Colony and Matabeleland (Bulawayo).  Although he would bring various items for trade like cloth, the most valuable trading items he could bring were guns and ammunition.  He became friends with Mzilikazi and then Lobengula, the chiefs of the Matabele.  George Westbeech learned many of the local languages and could communicate easily with everyone he met.  He was also recognised as being honest and fair.  The other side of George Westbeech’s character was that he loved alcohol and ‘the ladies’. 

When, by the late 1860s, elephants became hard to find in Matabeleland, George Westbeech needed a new area in which to hunt and looked northwards to the Zambezi River.  At this time only a few white men had made their way to the Zambezi River.  David Livingstone had reached there in 1851, and had published the book, Missionary Travels and Researches in Southern Africa, in 1857.   Other hopeful traders and hunters had reached Kazungula but it would seem that none of them were entertained by the local people.  George Westbeech would have heard stories and possibly read David Livingstone’s book which had sold in its thousands. 

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/white-tribe/george-westbeech/

Kunda

The Kunda people are an offshoot of the Bisa tribe; the Bisa from the Luba Empire of the Congo Basin. 

It is thought that the Kunda split from the Bisa, while the Bisa were settled along the Luapula River.  This breakaway group moved eastward towards the Luangwa River in around 1840s.  At this time the major slave trading had not started.   We do know, though, that some Bisa had been involved in the slave and elephant tusk trade between the Kazembe Lunda and the Portuguese for some time. 

The leader of the Kunda, who chose to secede from his father was known as Mambwe.  It is not known how they gained the name Kunda, but it is thought possible that it was a place name.  The old folk also mention that they were known as the Awetwe.  The royal clan has the totem, Chulu, meaning Ant Hill, although some chose the name Mbawo, meaning ‘minute insect’.

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/tribes-of-zambia/the-kingdoms/luba/kunda-2/

Twa

The Twa or Batwa lived in Zambia prior to the main Bantu invasions of the 1600s.  It is possible that they were from a very early migration from the Luba empire, but it is possible that they arrived even earlier.

Not much is known of their lives before then but after the coming of the Bantu they moved to three territories in Zambia – the swamplands of Bangweulu, Lukanga Swamps and Kafue Flats.  They lived off the land, had no domestic animals nor grew crops.  They lived on fish, wildlife – notably the lechwe, sitatunga and otter – and vegetables from the swamps – mostly lily plants. 

They did not have chiefs, living in their small communities in the swamps, but when the British administration came in there was one chief recognised, Chief Shikafwe, in the Kafue area.  At that time there were 6,000 people listed as Twa in the Kafue Flats.  The British also enforced land settlement instead of the papyrus islands, so gradually the Twa intermarried with neighbouring tribes and their life-style disappeared, until the tribe no longer existed. 

Eric von Rosen visited the Twa in 1914 in Bangweulu and told us some of their story and gave us some photographs.

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/tribes-of-zambia/pre-bantu-invasion/twa/

Ambo

The Ambo are thought to have come originally from the Luba Empire.  They probably left about 1600, moving to the Katanga region west of the Luapula River, where they were part of the Aushi.  At some point two sons of an Aushi chief moved across the Luapula River into our region.  The system of inheritance among the Aushi/Ambo was not from father to son, it was from father to ‘sister’s son’, ie matrilineal.  So these two sons of the chief knew that they had no way of becoming a chief in their own right except if they founded their own district.  Together the two brothers moved into our region and set up their home on a Mulembo River, east of the Luangwa River.

At the time, clan names were probably more important than their tribal name.  One of the sons was of the Mpande Clan, the other from the Nyendwa Clan.  Mpande is the shell from the coast which had been passed from village to village as a trade item and was valued throughout central Africa. 

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/tribes-of-zambia/the-kingdoms/luba/ambo/

Frederick Selous 1888

Frederick Selous had visited our region in 1877 with the aim of reaching Katanga.  Travelling in the rainy season, he had suffered repeatedly from malaria and eventually was forced to return.  Now 11 years later he again decided to try to meet his friend, Frederick Arnot in Katanga.   

Frederick Selous left Pandamatenga and reached Wankie’s Town eight days later.  He crossed over the river with staff and pack donkeys.  There he met Chief Shampondo of the Tonga people who proved difficult in negotiations for food and porters. 

During his first trip Frederick Selous had come across many slave traders living along the Zambezi River, so this trading had been continuing now for another eleven years.  The Tonga people had changed very much in their attitude towards strangers.  Also, David Thomas, a trader, had been murdered by some Tonga.  Thinking that travelling through Tongaland was dangerous, Frederick Selous decided that he would rather chance his luck through Ilaland.  During this time the Ila people were known as Mashukulumbwe because of the way they tied their hair.

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/white-tribe/frederick-selous-1888/

James Chapman 1862

James Chapman was born in Cape Town, South Africa.  He left school and Cape Town at the age of 13 to work in Durban.  He had various jobs but eventually became a hunter and trader.  He loved to travel and collected specimens of plants, learned Setswana, and wrote down vocabularies of any other people he met.  He spent most of his time in present-day Botswana and Namibia, but, at the age of 32, he visited the Victoria Falls.  On this journey he travelled with Thomas Baines, the famous artist, with whom he got on well.  Their plan had been to go to the Victoria Falls and later build a boat at Wankie’s on which they would sail down the Zambezi River to Tete.  They spent some months at Wankie’s but became ill with malaria and abandoned the project. 

James Chapman is a well-known historical figure in Botswana with Chapman’s Boabab near Gweta named after him.

Thomas Baines was born in England in 1820.  He had an artistic bent and followed this passion throughout his life.  Thomas Baines had joined David Livingstone’s journey up the Zambezi to the Shire River in 1860.  He and David Livingstone had not got on well, I think mainly because, as team leader, David Livingstone was not a ‘leader of men’ and found it difficult to work with people of his own origins. 

Thomas Baines was 42 when he joined James Chapman on the journey to the Victoria Falls.  He did write a journal of their trip but it does not go into the same detail as James Chapman’s.  So I am ignoring most of his scribblings in favour of James Chapman’s.  I will, though, add one of his drawings of the Victoria Falls.  Below is an interaction, as written by James Chapman, between himself and Thomas Baines when viewing the Victoria Falls:

We approached the wet and slippery brink in a perpetual shower of rain, and, holding on to one another, looked down into the awful chasm beneath us.  One look for me is enough, but my nerves were sorely tried by Baines, who, finding everywhere new beauties for his pencil, must needs drag me along the very edge, he gazing with delight, I with terror, down into the lowest depths of the chasm.  We continued along the grassy bank, preceded by numerous lovely little rainbows spanning round us, a forest to our right, the chasm on our left, until at length, not wishing to see any more at present, but gradually to accustom myself to the stupefying effects of the uproar and tumult at work in this “cauldron”, I fairly fled from my companion. 

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/white-tribe/james-chapman-1862/

Colin Harding 1899

Colin Harding came to Barotseland in 1899 as Acting British Resident at the age of 26.  He had been posted to Northwestern Rhodesia to raise a Police Force and to train them but had to temporarily fill in as Resident.  As Resident he travelled widely getting to know the people and the geography. 

He was posted to Mongu, near Lealui, the palace of Chief Lewanika with whom he quickly made friends.  Chief Lewanika helped Colin Harding in all aspects of his role as Resident until, finally the ‘proper’ Resident, Robert Coryndon, returned a year or so later. 

Colin Harding wrote three books, one of which is In Remotest Barotseland which gives us detailed accounts of his travels in the region.

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/white-tribe/colin-harding-1899/

Emil Holub 1885

Toka (Tonga).  Ila.  Totela.  Lozi.

Emil Holub returned to Prague after his first trip to the Zambezi River in 1875.  He had taken with him many items from the trip which he had hoped to use in a new museum devoted to Africana.  This never happened and his collection was spread around many museums.  He wrote articles for magazines, gave lectures and wrote his first book about his travels. 

On his return to Africa he came with 6 other aspiring African travellers, 3 of whom died very early on before even reaching the Zambezi River.  He had married Rosa Hof, 18 years his junior, who also joined the party.

At the time, Loziland was in turmoil.  Sepopo had been killed in 1876, the kingship being taken over by Mwanawina II.  Mwanawina II’s reign only lasted for two years when he too was ousted in a coup by Lubosi (Lewanika) in 1878.  In 1884, Lubosi was ousted and replaced by Akafuna Tatila.  Finally, in 1885 Lubosi regained his throne but began many revenge attacks on anyone suspected of supporting Akafuna Tatila. 

The whole empire under Lozi control was unpredictable and in a state of turmoil as Lubosi consolidated his position as king.  All the people who lived under Lozi rule had become fearful and often unfriendly.    The Lozi empire, at this time included much of the land from their capital at Lealui up to the Kafue River.  It is no surprise, therefore, that Emil Holub’s last trip into our region was often fraught with danger and ended in failure.

Because of the unsettled state of the nation, Emil Holub was forced to hire porters from one village to the next as few people were willing to accompany him for the whole journey.  He needed 90 porters at the start to carry all the items for barter – mostly cloth and beads.  Payment for porters was usually a ‘sitsiba’, which is 2 metres of cloth.  This was enough, usually, for 2-3 day journey from one village to the next. 

To read more: https://traditionalzambia.home.blog/white-tribe/emil-holub-1885/