Likumbi Lya Mize

The Likumbi Lya Mize traditional ceremony of the Luvale speaking people of North western is one spectacular traditional event that draws tourists from within Zambia and Abroad.Every year in the month of August, Zambezi District of Northwestern Province of Zambia becomes a hive of activities as Luvale speaking people from all corners of Zambia converge and celebrate the Likumbi Lya Mize traditional ceremony.

The main attraction of the Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony is the Makishi Masquerades.

The Makishi Masquerades are linked to the Mukanda, an initiation ceremony that recruits and trains boys for about six months to a year where they undergo several rites of passage into manhood.

This involves learning certain survival skills, hunting, learning about women, how to be a good husband and fatherhood. The Mukanda climaxes into the circumcision of initiates. This symbolize the passage into adulthood.

The Luvale speaking people consider uncircumcised men as dirty or unhygienic.

For its magnificent cultural presence and artistry, the Makishi masquerades and Mukanda were in 2005 conferred with a diploma by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)for being a master piece of world cultural heritage for posterity thus safeguarding the two practices.

The Likumbi Lya Mize Ceremony has been kept original for the proper transition of culture from one generation to the other for over 60 years now.



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The Auspicious Likumbi Lya Mize Traditional Ceremony of the Luvale speaking people of Zambia is the time of Recollection on the Luvale history and a day of Feasting and Jubilation through the display of young Girls Initiates ( Myali) And young Boys known as (Tundanji) and various ( Masquerades) Makishi pieces.

This ceremony is celebrated every year in the last week of August by the (LUVALE SPEAKING PEOPLE) known as  Vaka Chinyama Cha Mukwamayi tribal grouping since its revival in 1956.

It’s a ceremony which derives its name from the early capitals of chief Kakenge Chivanda Sakayongo in the present day Angola.

His second capital was built on mize shrubs which grow on alluvial sands.

Chivanda sakayongo would feast his people with plenty of food and beer. This chief is credited with the origination of the present Likumbi Lya Mize annual ceremony.

NOW,every last Saturday of August , all ancestors of Chinyama Cha Mukwamayi (Luvale people) meet at mize palace for his royal highness senior chief Ndungu , in Zambezi district of North Western Province of Zambia to celebrate their annual traditional festival called “Mize Day”.

Festivities begin three days (Wednesday) before the main ceremony, the resurrection of the makishi (believed not to human but spiritual beings) from Zambezi township graveyards followed by their procession through the boma, up to the plains on the eastern bank of the Zambezi River where a cultural panorama performance of the makishi is exhibited.

A cultural panorama that will leave you wanting more.

Late in the afternoon, the second procession is the crossing of the Zambezi River by canoe by the makishi to the other side of the river for more festivities.

On Thursday, the chilende (cultural panoramic festival) takes place on the west bank sandy beach of the Zambezi River till sunset, and involves performance from local groups from the province. The afternoon is not a time to miss as people are treated to various types of dancing including the famous dancing on the mattress floating on the Zambezi River by Likishi lya mwana pwevo (female Likishi).

The third day of the festival (Friday) is mainly characterized by the continuation of dancing by makishi and guest groups from other provinces in the plains a little from the main arena. As the day recedes, the makishi masquerades make a grand entry into the Mize capital in readiness for the main event on Saturday.

On Saturday which is the material day, the main captivating feature is the display of a variety of makishi dances from different places where the Luvale speaking people live, other than North-Western province, as well as the presentation of myali and Tundanji initiates.


WELCOME TO LIKUMBI LYA MIZE which means Mize Day; Mize is the capital of Luvales at senior chief Ndungu’s palace-the mbongi ya makishi , or home of the makishi.

A Royal Hammock, which is a three wheel carriage known as  (Kalikoki), complete with a flag bearing four knives, semi painted in red pointing into two rings in the centre , makes its way near the stands for a full lap of recognition , the cheering subjects creates an animation that reverberates as far as the river bank on the east . Wow! The scene is ignited. The Mize has come alive!

This is after the Guest of Honor and visiting chiefs and VIPs are comfortably and royally received, there is no doubt it’s the makishi appearance that many wait with baited breath for the zenith of Luvale culture. You will be forgiven when you ask but who are the MAKISHI?


On Wednesday as indicated, the makishi traditionally emerge from the graveyards across town on the east of the Zambezi River in what is known as the (kuvumbuka) literally sprouting out of the ground.

They are representatives of supernatural beings that act as the link between the living and the ancestral spirits. You cannot have makishi masquerades without mukanda. This emergence is a culmination of the mukanda( circumcision camp) ceremony during which the boys between the ages 8-12 are secluded from public life at a tradition school and taught various attributes of male adulthood and later are circumcised.

Fine, let us take you back to Mize. There is rising hullabaloo from the main entry.  It’s the main attraction of the day itself! They are here! The .ma…..Makishi yes!

The makishi are on their esplanade towards the main arena. And leading the process with an imposingly large arch-like shield of systematic red and white square box designs on the backdrop is KAYIPU, the king of Makishi.

In tandem is KAPALU, the son and assistant to kayipu. Adorned in knitted feathered headdress, kapalu and his fellow katotola thrive as they impose their presence. People scamper out of sight because kapalu has to make sure the king of Makishi make dignified entry.

This is a moment to savor; but ultimately, a moment of cultural irrefutable climax. But what defines the Makishi? It’s their character and role in the community.

As representatives of ancestors, their roles are suited of societal wellbeing and survival of the luvale people.  It is a notorious fact that the makishi are a phenomenon. When viewed as a whole cast, they can be very intimidating and most definitely not for the faint hearted. 

For sure that’s the way they are supposed to be viewed. They take on forms of different animal and human figures because in luvale culture, all forms of life are respected and can be a source of support to the rest of the community:

 A village cannot be completed without these wonderful creatures of God.

The makishi appearance is the climax of the Mize day, as it plays a major role of entertaining the public. Makishi have a variety of dancing skills such as kuhunga, unyanga , fwifwi and chiyanda.

The makishi masquerades is performed at the apex of the mukanda, an initiation ritual for boys between the ages of the eight and twelv .

This is a ritual celebrated by the vaka chinyama communities , which is include the Luvale, Luchazi, Chokwe and Mbunda people of both North-Western provinces . They also extended into Angola, Namibia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Usually at the beginning of the cold season, the young boys leave their homes and live months in an isolated bush camp. This separation from the outside world marks their symbolic death as children.

The mukanda also involves the circumcision of the initiates, tests of courage and lessons on their future role as men and husbands. Each initiate is assigned a specific masked character, which remains with him throughout the entire process.

In the trails of the MAKISHI CHARACTERS

One of the most outstanding aspects of Likumbi Lya Mize festivities is the makishi characters that take center stage of the ceremony for almost a week up to Sunday, usually held at the both Eastern and western banks of the Zambezi River and at the main arena.

 Makishi practicing communities believe that a Likishi (singular) is a spirit of the dead, as well as representation of animals and natural forces that resurrect upon hearing the complaints emanating from the living.  

Looking at a few examples like kawuyawuya , the butterfly . His form and appearance is pinpointing that of a butterfly but stakes his claims to the circle.

Then there is Utenu (meaning fury), the one character endowed with the unenviable art of fury or anger. He punishes like a correctional officer; he maintains discipline in camp.

Ndondo portrays a potbellied boy teaching about the need not to be gluttons; he is impishly notorious with women.

And then you also have likishi lya mwana pwevo, a teenage girl and great entertainer. This is the Likishi that dances on tilts and also on the mattress floating on the river.

Kalelwa is a leader, teacher and protective spirit for Tundanji , the boy initiates in the mukanda camp. He is aggressive. Chikuza , with a caving conical apparatus that forms part of the headdress, teaches and is associated with fertility and success in hunting . Mupala is the father of the makishi and captain of the makishi.

But save the best for last: Lindeho! This one moves with fire inside his head kit from which smoke can be seen billowing and thus used to scare children with punishment of fire if they misbehave.

This list goes on with chikishikishi, sakashiva but also knon as kambulo. The rearguard of moral direction is chizaluke. He is the leader the elder, the wise man through whom wisdom is generated and he passes it on.

For its magnificent cultural and artistry , the Makishi masquerades and Mukanda were in 2006 conferred with a diploma by UNESCO as a world intangible heritage of humanity , a masterpiece of unique cultural heritage thus safeguarding the practices.

The festivities do continue and end with his royal highness departing for the palace for a royal lunch. Prior to this there is great entertainment from various cultural groups while other climax is the royal salute and the royal dance performed before the chief.

The entertainment and dancing go on until the following morning on a Sunday and there after resume at 14:00hrs until Monday when people depart for their various destinations.

HMMMMM ok this is just a tip of what to expect at this UNESCO recognized cultural festivity. See you there!


  • Mwangana- Chief
  • Lisano- wife of the chief
  • Mwanauta- Prince/Princess
  • Kuvumbuka- emerging from the graves
  • Sakandanji- father of the boy initiate
  • Nyakandanji- mother of the boy initiate
  • Mukanda-initiation camp
  • Jingoma- drums
  • Makishi- masks/ masquerades


  • The chief is only greeted three times by clapping hands in kneeling posture
  • Unless the chief offers himself, it is forbidden to shake hands with the chief.
  • A gift must be placed in front of the chief and not handed to him directly.
  • The chief eats alone, its forbidden to watch him having a meal
  • When you are in the audience of the chief, sit with your legs crossed on a mat if offered a seat, do not sit cross legged.
  • Clap your hands to draw the attention of the chief.
  • It is forbidden to wear a hat/cap in the presence of the chief or in the palace grounds.
  • It is forbidden for women undergoing reproductive circle to enter the palace.
  • It is forbidden to cycle the palace grounds wearing red clothes.
  • It is forbidden to greet tundanji when you are initiated.
  • It is not allowed for any person not circumcised to go to mukanda.
  • Smoking is forbidden in the presence of the chief or the palace grounds.
  • It is forbidden for any person to sleep in the chief’s home (Lilapa)
  • It is forbidden to either visit or stay near the royal Graveyards and shrines without authority.
  • A person with an injury is forbidden from entering the palace.
  • It is a serious taboo to step on the over the Royal hammock (Kalikoki) the charge is heavy.
  • It is forbidden to take a dog outside the palace (lilapa)
  • It’s forbidden to break news about death of the chief; it should be done through the prime minister (ngambela).


The Luvale speaking people are a group of Bantu who came from the north of Lake Tanganyika. This is the triangular area between Kilimanjaro and Kenya mountains.

This assumption is supported by both traditional customs and features of the tribes found in these areas and the royal or chiefly eulogy (Kulifukula) which is similar to the luvale, luchazi, and chokwe.

The introductory remarks in the eulogy relates to the white cloud in the north ‘Kalivwi katoma’; the physical feature being the obviously the snow on the Kilimanjaro and Kenya mountains.

Oral and written history states that the first leader of this group from the ‘north’ was KENGA NAWEJI who during the course of trek became too old to move. She logged her first camp along Lake Tanganyika in the present day Tanzania.

The trek continued until it reached KASALA KATOKI in present day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) formerly known as Zaire. The Luvale Dynasty originated from KHONDE MATETI.

For more about this rich History, Visit Zambezi District during the Likumbi Lya Mize Ceremony. Our tour guides await to take you through!

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