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/

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