MUCHINGA TRADIONAL CEREMONY FORMALLY CHIKUNGU CEREMONY OF MWENIPOKA CHIEFDOM RE-LAUNCHED
The people of Sub-Chief Mwenipoka Chiefdom of the Namwanga people of Isoka district in the Chiefdom of His Royal Highness Chief Katyetye will celebrate the Muchinga Traditional Ceremony formally Chikungu Traditional ceremony on 29th June, 2022.
The Mwenipoka Chiefdom is 86 Km East of Nakonde and about 88 Km North-East of Isoka in Isoka Constituency. Its headquarters is at Nzoche which is named after the 8th chief of the chiefdom. The Muchinga ceremony was formally called Chikungu which was celebrated by both the Namwanga people in the Mwenipoka Chiefdom and the Lambya people of Mweniwisi Chiefdom way back before British colonial rule.
Following the installation on 14th August, 2020 of Mr. Charles Siame as the new Sub-Chief Mwenipoka of the Namwanga people of Isoka district which was graced by His Royal Highness Chief Katyetye, he renamed the ceremony Muchinga to distinguish it from the one performed by the Lambya people and also restore the original meaning of Chikungu Ceremony which meant ‘ukupyela’ to sweep or to cleanse the chiefdom.
Muchinga in the Namwanga language means ‘one who protects’ or ‘that which protects.’ It is a clan name which several people in the clan bare. During the ceremony, the Sub-Chief arrives at the arena accompanied by Senior Chief Kameme of the Nyiha people of the Republic of Malawi as his guest of honour and god-father. This gives the people assurance of him being a’ Muchinga’ the one who is deemed to be the protector as he is charged with the duty of performing rituals that would cleanse the chiefdom and give it a new beginning and hope.
Sub-Chief Mwenipoka and Senior Chief Kameme have a unique relationship which is traditionally recognised by the Royal Highnesses in Isoka district such as Chief Katyetye, Chieftainess Nawaitwika, Senior Chief Kafwimbi and Chief Mweniwisi. The two, Sub-Chief Mwenipoka and Senior Chief Kameme install each other. The installation of Sub- Chief Mwenipoka of the Namwanga people of Isoka district in Zambia is presided over by Senior Chief Kameme of the Nyiha people of the Republic of Malawi. Sub-Chief Mwenipoka is also responsible for the installation of the Chief in that Chiefdom. According to tradition, Senior Chief Kameme cannot ascend to the throne without Sub-Chief Mwenipoka performing the traditional honour of anointing and installing him. This reciprocal act between these two Chiefs has united the people of the two neighbouring countries of Zambia and Malawi in that area. The two are traditionally interrelated and interlinked and one cannot exist without the other. The anomaly of it all is that a Sub-Chief in Zambia installs a Senior Chief in Malawi.
Senior Chief Kameme (with a walking stick and traditional hat adorned with ivory) and Sub-Chief Mwenipoka walk to the arena at Nzoche Palace on 14th August 2020 during the installation of the Sub-Chief.
Muchinga Ceremony is a celebration of the end of year and the beginning of another. It is a time when the Chief gathers his people. A time of reconciliation and cleansing of the chiefdom. It is a thanks giving ceremony to God for the new harvest and the protection rendered throughout the year.
The Chief receives reports from a representative of the villages under his jurisdiction. He then addresses his people and responds to issues raised in the report. He also touches on many development issues.
On the eve of the ceremony no family is allowed to light fire in the whole Chiefdom. The highlight of the ceremony is making of fire by rubbing sticks on dry wood. This is performed by a person appointed by the chief. After successfully doing so, the people are then allowed to practice the art of making fire in the same manner. This symbolises survival and hard work. This act by his subjects is an assurance made to the chief that the people are ready to work hard and overcome challenges.
The newly made fire also means that the Chief is well and alive and that the Chiefdom is safe. It is also a symbol of protection from enemies and wild animals. When fire is lit, it is given to all village heads to symbolise a new season and a new beginning. Fire in the Muchinga Ceremony is also meant to sweep and cleanse the chiefdom of all wrong doings. The wrong doers are either corrected, punished or banished from the chiefdom depending on the gravity of the offence committed.
The ceremony is characterised by songs of praise of the Chief whom they refer to as ‘etatakulu.’ There is eating and drinking and merry making. The royal drums grace the night as people dance in jubilation. Dancers come as far afield as Tanzania and Malawi
(Steven Mpoha, the author is a lecturer at Mulungushi University)