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Witness the Kuomboka Festival in Zambia
30 Mar 2022


The Kuomboka Ceremony is one of southern Africa's few surviving ancient cultural customs. The ceremony is thought to be at least 300 years old. The ritual is held after the upper Zambezi River floods, and it is celebrated by the Lozi people of Western Zambia.

The word Kuomboka means "to get out of the water," and the ritual commemorates the Lozi king's official relocation from his primary dwelling on the floodplains to his secondary residence on higher ground. The procession takes the king to the safety of higher ground, calling for everyone to follow. The Kuomboka Ceremony's dates change each year depending on rainfall, and this year it will take place on April 9th, 2022.

Thousands of people line the Zambezi's banks to witness the Chief and his entourage come past. In a frenzy of vivid colors, banging drums, and chanting voices, they go on board the Nalikwanda, a gigantic black and white ceremonial barge.

According to legend, a man named Nakambela was commissioned by the High God Nyambe to build the big dug-out boat in order to avoid flooding. It was painted black and white, with the black representing the Lozi people and the white representing spirituality. The barge is powered by 180 royal paddlers, clad in traditional red siziba attire, creating an incredible sight.

A giant elephant statue and a fire are kept blazing on the barge to show observers that the king is in good health. It is rowed by around 100 men, and being an oarsman is seen as a tremendous honor. Three massive royal battle drums, estimated to be over 170 years old, are beaten by royal drummers.

A second boat, decked with a statue of a beautiful crowned crane, transports the Litunga's wife. In a stunning show, smaller boats join the procession, traveling in alternate loops on either side of the major barges.


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