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.
The origin of the word Nyendwa is very strange. Here is a story from Christine Saidi:
The origin myth of the Nyendwa clan holds that there was a group of chiefs whose members were trying to agree to work together. They wanted to settle their disagreements by drinking water out of a common gourd cup, but they did not feel they had enough unity to do this. Then a woman urinated in the water pot. After she did this, the chiefs said, “This is what we have been waiting for.” The chiefs then bent over the water pot and sucked all the water up. Then they changed the name of their clans to “Nyendwa,” because they drank water that had come from the loins of a woman.
The Nyendwa Clan, under the leadership of Kunda Mpanda, moved into Nsenga territory east of the Luangwa River. There, three wars were fought between the Ambo and Nsenga. During the last battle, Kunda Mpanda was killed. In a revenge attack, Kunda Mpanda’s brother of the Mpande Clan rallied his forces, came to Nsengaland and killed their chief. The remains of Kunda Mpanda were taken back to Mpande village in Amboland and buried. This was the start of the royal burial ground; the Mpande Clan members became the official guardians of the site.
Time went by under good and bad chiefs with mixed fortunes. The people were generally content with their lives as they were able to plant good crops along the rivers. They were then settled on both sides of the Luangwa River.
In the 1835 the Ngoni arrived from the south, under their Chief Zwangendaba. They settled in Nsengaland, raiding all around the region, including in Amboland. They stayed for four years and must have impacted the lives of the Ambo people greatly. After the four years of raiding, Zwangendaba moved northwards and we can assume that the lives of the Ambo people became peaceful again.
It wasn’t until around 1870 when their lives would be disturbed again, this time by the Chikunda. The Chikunda came from Mozambique, up the Zambezi River, trading with the Portuguese in slaves and elephant tusks. The ‘Chikunda Effect’ lasted for the next ten years with the Ambo losing their people to the slave trade.
The next, very odd bit of history, was the coming of Harrison Clark, ‘’Changa Changa’, a British man who had fled from South Africa after killing a man. Changa Changa organised the Nsenga people, with whom he had settled, to remove the Chikunda slave traders. He then expanded his ‘empire’ to include a vast area including Amboland.
Changa Changa lived with the Nsenga until the British came along and in 1902 he was removed as ‘chief’ and went farming.
During Changa Changa’s time in Nsengaland, the chieftainess of the Nyendwa Clan was Mwape II. Mwape had a harem of seven husbands. The story goes that she killed at birth all her male children and their fathers, keeping only the girls. I am not sure how she knew which of her husbands had fathered the child, but apparently she did. She died in 1910.
Sadly, I can find little more about the history of the Ambo people. They now seem to have been absorbed into either Nsengaland, on the east of the Luangwa River, and Lalaland, on the west.