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.   

For over a hundred years, while Mboo and his descendants continued to expand the Luyi empire, the Kwangwa and Kwandi people grew, and, one assumes, prospered.  There were, at the time, few outside threats to their lives.  The Kwangwa had no chief after Mange, but came under the chief of the Luyi, paying tribute.

In the 1830s things were to change.  The Kololo arrived and took over the large empire that the Luyi had built up over the years.  The Kololo, a southern African tribe had left their original homes because of the warring Zulus. 

It took 4 years of fighting between the Kololo and Luyi before the Kololo managed to subdue the people of the land.  No doubt the Kwangwa were involved but we have no record.  During that time many of the ruling Luyi clan, their supporters and allies fled.  There were several groups but many Kwangwa left for the north to a place known as Lukwakwa. 

However, once the chief of the Kololo had taken control he proved to be a worthy ruler and peace largely reigned in the empire.  It wasn’t until the chief died in 1851, 12 years later, that tensions began in the realm.  The next chief was unworthy of his position and killed many of the people.  Finally, the Luyi resolved to take back their empire. 

The Kwangwa supported their own nominee, Mbua, but they failed to oust the Kololo. Instead, another group headed by Njekwa, was successful. Njekwa was unwilling to take on the chieftainship and Sipopa became chief. Sipopa had stayed at Mongu under the Kololo, but he was a true descendant of the original chiefs of the Luyi. Sipopa was to reign for the next 12 years until he was killed in another coup.  Sipopa, during his time dealt severely with any supporters, including the Kwangwa, who had challenged his claim to the throne.  Many more Kwangwa fled north to Lukwakwa. 

During the time of the Kololo, the Kololo language (Sotho) had become the lingua franca of the realm.  The Kwangwa, however, maintained their version of the Luyi language. 

It was at the end of Kololo rule that the Luyi people became the Lozi.

On the map, you can see Lukwakwa and, between Lukwakwa and Mongu, was the village of Mwito. Mwito is next to a floodplain on the Luena River and was a popular spot to hunt lechwe. (There is/was a circle of Waterberry trees which are the growths of stumps planted around the camp where the hunters stayed.) Mwito was also one of Sipopa’s outposts to protect the central authority from incursions from Lukwakwa.

The first chief of the Kololo, Sebitwane made his capital at Linyanti. (Where he met David Livingstone in 1851). Old Sesheke is where Sipopa made his captial (now Mwandi).

The Kwangwa were known for their skills as blacksmiths, smelting their own iron ore and making tools and spears, like their neighbours, the Totela.  As the Totela were the original inhabitants of the area, we can probably assume that the Kwangwa learnt the art from them. 

The Lozi had a hierarchical system for their tributary tribes. The Kwangwa and Kwandi were considered proto Lozi, ie proper Lozi.

One small snippet I found about the Kwangwa:

The Kwangwa liyala dance is a leech who gives his patients medicines in the intervals of a night-long dance.  This leech wears a huge mass of skins about his waist, which he swings high as he vibrates his body; he uses hand rattles and dances to drums and a chorus of men and women.  The diseases he treats are believed to come from ancestral spirits.

I cannot find any reference to people known as the Nyengo, although they are indicated on the official tribal map.  I am going to make an assumption, until I can find any texts proving something different.  When the Kololo arrived we know that many Luyi fled from the floodplain.  One group with the allied Mbunda fled to a place known as Nyengo.  They would have stayed there for at least 20 years during the reign of the Kololo.  I am assuming that, eventually, they became known as Nyengo people.  Certainly their culture and traditions would have evolved during those years to give them a different identity to their neighbours.    

I cannot find, so far, any mention of the Ndundulu, Mwenyi, Simaa and Makoma. I have found other tribal names like Maliuwa who I assume came from the area around Liuwa Plain, but they are not mentioned on the tribal map. We have to remember that when the British came in, for administrative purposes, they named ‘tribes’ so that they could be entered in the ledgers on population statistics and for tax.

While we are on the topic of ‘tribes,’ we also have to remember that, although the centre of any tribal area may have had strong affiliations to their chief and the chief’s customs, around the edges of any tribal area, things were a lot more blurred. Also, the Kwangwa and Kwandi used the old Luyi language, but they would also use Lozi (based on Kololo). Similarly, throughout the Lozi empire there would have been other languages, but they would use Lozi to communicate with each other. Throughout the region it was, and still is, the norm that the people would speak several languages.

I will see if I can find out more …