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Every year on the Barotse Plain, as summer gives way to winter, the Kuomboka procession makes its way down the Zambezi River, proceeding in a flurry of vibrant colours, beating drums and chanting voices. This annual procession marks the transition of the Litunga (king) from his summer to winter residence, which is located on higher ground, away from the seasonal flood plains. The exact date changes every year, depending on the ebb and flow of the natural world. It is kept a secret until right before the procession to ensure the safety of the king. It usually takes place in the month of April.
DAY ONE: Echo of the Royal Drumbeats
The first day begins with the beating of the special Moama drum, which is used to signal important occasions. First, the Litunga beats the drums to signify the freedom from the suffering brought on by the floods and call for the royal paddlers to assemble at the Barotse Royal Palace. The drum is then beat by the Natamoyo (Chief Justice), members of the royal family and the Indunas (local area chiefs). After that, the king returns to his palace, leaving the drum to be continually beaten until 11pm by men who have come to celebrate. Against this continual drumbeat, other festivities unfold, including a royal canoeing regatta between the female paddlers and their male counterparts.
DAY TWO: Feathers of Strength
As a new day breaks on the Barotse Plain, members of the extended royal family are chosen by Queen Mboanjikana (sister to the Litunga) to pluck feathers from the lustrous tail of a long-tailed widow bird. From February to April, the males of this species sport long, elegant, glossy black feathers in their tails to help attract females. Mating in a polygamous way, the top males can have up to 10 different nests in their territory. The Lozi people concluded that any male with this many ‘wives’ must have great strength. It is believed that carrying one of these feathers will give the paddlers the strength needed for the long journey ahead.
Before receiving their feathers, the royal paddlers participate in a refresher course at the palace. Afterward, the local Induna will present each paddler with their ceremonial headdress, each complete with one of the feathers plucked earlier by the royal family.
On the final night before the Kuomboka procession begins, the royal paddlers spend the night at the Lealui Palace away from their wives. Per the tradition of Lozi etiquette, royal paddlers may not be with their wives before boarding the Nalikwanda.
DAY THREE: The Procession
Departing Lealui Palace
In the early hours of the morning, before dawn has broken across the plains, a drum is beaten to signify the eminent departure of the Litunga from the Lealui Palace. When the sun finally rises above the horizon, the Mwenduko drum is leaned against a pole facing east, signifying that all is ready, and the ceremony is about to proceed.
First to appear and board the Nalikwanda are the 180 royal paddlers, clad in traditional siziba attire that features red, the colour of warriors. A magnificent sight, the Nalikwanda is painted with bold black and white stripes – black for the Lozi people and white for spirituality. Representing authority of power, a towering statue of an elephant sits atop the first barge, complete with moveable ears. The Litunga’s wife travels on the second boat, which is topped with a statue of an elegant crowned crane, whose wings can flap.
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the community and conservation work done through the Time + Tide foundation The administration costs for the foundation are born entirely by the Time + Tide tourism business. Guest conservation levies and 100 % of external donations fund the project work .Guests have the opportunity to visit different community and sustainability projects that their stay has contributed to.
Recommended Travel Time:
Jan - 15 July and 15 Oct – Dec 2024