Lockdown ‘eats’ harvest ceremony

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Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka –
The annual Mutomolo ceremony of the Mambwe-Lungu people who live adjacently on Tanzania-Zambia border has been indefinitely postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dating to the 15 century, the harvest ceremony has defied the arbitrary creation of a colonial border that threatened to divide the people.

While the ceremony has withstood the test of time, it could not overcome the threat of the novel coronavirus this year and indications are that it may only be held in 2021.

Mutomolo organising committee chairperson Daniel Fwambo last week told The Southern Times that, “Unfortunately we have had to postpone the ceremony because of COVID-19. We looked at various health protocols that we needed to observe before, during and after the ceremony, and we realised it was going to be risky considering that we usually invite an average of 1,000 people to the ceremony in Mbala.”

The ceremony brings together the Mambwe and the Lungu, with their traditional leaders sampling and blessing various harvested food before everyone partakes. A beer known as “katubi”, brewed from millet and drunk through a straw, is a major draw, with tourists flocking to the region to witness the ceremony.

The Mutomolo ceremony has however, remained one of the major traditional events celebrated in the country which, among others, receive the support from Government as part of preservation of the country’s heritage.  It is organised under the Mambwe-Lungu Cultural Association (MALUCA).

Earlier in the year, the Lozi of western Zambia cancelled an annual ceremony dubbed Kuomboka. Kuomboka is held to mark the migration of their king, Litunga, from low to high land when the Zambezi River breaches its banks. 

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