Famed masque put on hold

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Jeff Kapembwa

Lusaka – The COVID-19 pandemic has put paid to the 2020 Likumbi Lya Mize annual ceremony of the Luvale people of Zambezi on the Angola-Zambia border.

Traditionally held over several days in late August, Likumbi Lya Mize is a cultural masque that showcases the famed masked Makishi dancers.

The festival is named for Mize, the old Luvale capital of southeast Angola and northwest Zambia.

“(The ceremony) is not going to be there because of the coronavirus, and an official announcement will be made in due course,” Isaac Kanguya, the national organising committee chairperson, told The Southern Times Arts.

The ceremony has been held continuously since 1956 in Mize Village under the auspices of Senior Chief Ndungu of the Luvale.

It attracts Makishi dancers – whose styles range from graceful, to gymnastic, to comic – whose acts are largely rooted in folklore but also draw from contemporary situations.

The Makishi dress flamboyantly and use the ceremony to show off their mask-making skills.

Munguli is considered by many to be the most elegant of the makishi, while Likishi Lya Mwana Pwebo is a crowd-puller and perhaps the best known of the makishi.

The Likishi Lya Mwana Pwebo character is a woman dancing on a rope strung 20 to 30 metres above the ground and between two poles.

The Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony also serves as a rite to mark the coming of age of girls into women (Myali), in addition to also being a platform through which people reaffirm their unity and loyalty to the Luvale royal house.

It is also an opportunity to get a rare sighting of the senior chief and his Muchama crown in a parade that has its roots in what is the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Luvale were historically famed fishermen and hunters who started trading with the Portuguese in what is now western Angola back in the 18th century.

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