JB asks Yao people to emulate Ngonis on cultural heritage

Malawi President Joyce Banda on Saturday called on her clan’s leaders to consider setting up their own heritage group as a way of preserving their culture.

The President, who is a Yao by tribe, was speaking Saturday at Hora Mountain in Mzimba district during the annual uMthetho Cultural Festival for the Ngoni people.

While referring to the Umthetho and Kulamba (Chewa), Banda observed that almost every tribe in Malawi had an equivalent of the concept of Umthetho and advised the Yao people to establish their own in order to protect their culture.

President Banda presenting a cheque to the chair of Mzimba Heritage Association

She told Malawians that a few weeks before her ascendency to the presidency, she went to Karonga district to condole the Kyungu family on the death of Paramount Chief Kyungu and was impressed with the richness of their culture.

“I was told about the vibrancy of their culture. Last week, I was in Ntcheu presiding over the coronation of Mswati Kanjedza as Paramount Chief Gomani the Fifth and next week it will be Kulamba and I ask myself what are the Yao doing? If they are hearing me they better do something,” said the President who comes from Domasi in Zomba.

She then advised the Yao people also to look for a historical place where they could be gathering for their annual cultural festival.

Banda said she was aware that every tribe in Malawi had an equivalent of the Umthetho concept, which among others, embodies the values of love for each other and urged “all Malawians, not just the Ngonis, to uphold these values.”

Mzimba Association

She also congratulated the people of Mzimba for founding the Mzimba Heritage Association whose main aim is to preserve and promote the heritage of the Ngoni people.

The association was founded in 2000 and has been organizing the uMthetho Cultural Festival since 2007at Hora Mountain, the Ngonis first settlement in Malawi under Zwangendaba Jere.

The president also said she was aware of the importance of the Umthetho to the culture of the Mzimba Ngonis and her being there connected her with the place as issues of culture have always been of great interest to her.

“People without culture are like a tree without roots and so once more I wish to express my total support for this event,” she said.

The President pledged she would ensure that the place (Hora) is uplifted to better standards that could attract tourists.

She however challenged the Ngoni people to think about how they could revive and promote their language and other related issues through research and advanced studies.

The Ngoni language is still spoken in some parts of Mzimba district, which is a kingdom headed by Inkosi ya Makosi Mbwelwa 4th.

The president then donated K1 million cheque to the Mzimba Heritage Association to help it in its operations.

Among others, the event was attended by guests from South African who included a cultural troupe.

Ngoni culture

At Hola, where Ngoni’s showcase their cultural heritage and share historical and rich moments, traditional dances such as the men’s iNgoma – a very famous dance among the tribe of Mzimba, originally a war dance performed after a successful battle.

During the dance, the men are elaborately decorated in headgear made of feathers and animal skins, ornaments worn on the limbs, a network of beads wrapped across the chest and stomach, and around the neck hang various types of animal skin. They carry a spear or club and a shield. The women wear ordinary ‘Chilundu’ (a piece of cloth) from the waist downwards, and a blouse and a head gear called ‘DUKU’.

In the Ingoma dance, men dance in straight lines while women form lines on the side of the men. Men sing and stamp their feet, wielding their shields, spears and clubs by symbolising a war scene while the women sing, clap and ulutate in unison with the men’s dance performance.

Mzimba district, where the descendents of South Africa’s Ngoni dwell, was formerly called Ngoniland before joining the British Protectorate .

In September 2008 the Angoni were dressed in tribal traditional wear commemorating what was the largest gathering in the past 100 years. The occasion was to celebrate the time 100 years ago when the Mzimba Kingdom signed a peace treaty with England and became part of the “East African Protectorate” later to be Nyasaland then under independence Malawi.

The signing of the treaty was partly responsible for keeping Germany from cutting off the British during World War I. The ceremony was deemed “From Kingdom to Protectorate and Beyond.”—(Additional reporting by Patricia Masinga, Nyasa Times)

President Banda with Chief Mbelwa

South African dancing group at the Ngoni festival in Mzimba

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