By Lubinda Namukolo

One of the functions of the Litunga is to exercise his power over the dangers and havens of nature which looms over the Lozi nation. Every year, the Barotse plains are invaded by the floods of higher levels that creep across the villages and pastures, compelling all the inhabitants to move to the plain’s margins, or indeed, in the hilly areas of the forest.

The Kuomboka, which literary means “getting out of the water”, is the central annual ceremony performed by the Lozi about (38 tribes )people.

The ceremony is performed when the moon is full. This is the prime time the omens are believed to be favourable.


1. 12th APRIL
08:00hrs Fundraising walk in Mongu town
18:00hrs Mr Kuomboka body building – Country Lodge

2. 13th APRIL
18:00hrs Miss Kuomboka pageant – Country Lodge

3. 17th APRIL
Inter Schools debate on climate change – Kambule School


The fist day of the ceremony is characterized by the sight of the maoma, the great royal drums gathered in front of the Lealui Royal palace. In the evening, the maoma around 21:00 hrs are thundered, proclaiming the imminent exodus that will free the inhabitants from the anguish imposed on to them by the floods. In actual sense, the sounds serve as the official summons to the royal paddlers to gather at the capital of Lealui.

The first lap of drumbeating is performed by the his majesty the king of barotseland, the Litunga, the Natamoyo and any other senior induna. In the absence of the Litunga, the Natamoyo, and any members of the royal family or the indunas will have to be authorized by the Litunga himself.

Ordinary members of the public will then take turns to drum immediately the Litunga disappears into the palace. The Natamoyo will then supervise the phase which is strictly limited to men.


03:00hrs Maoma Royal drums sounded for the second and final in Lealui Royal village until 05:00hrs. This is the good time and opportunity for those who want to learn on how to drum them.

On the second day, the royal paddlers from all the walks of life take turns to register their presence upon their arrival in Lealui Royal village.

08:00hrs: Barotse 4×4 Rally challenge, Land rover racing takes place.

The training workshop for the royal paddlers is launched at Nayuma Harbor. The guest of honor his Royal highness paramount chief chitimukulu flags off the canoeing regatta between the Lealui-Nayuma harbor and the Mulamba Harbor in Mongu.

In the after afternoon, the paddlers assemble in front of the Kuta. The registers are drawn, confirmed, and read out loudly according to the number of and sizes of royal barges to be paddled.

14:00 PM football match Lozis vs Tongas
venues: Mongu stadium
venues: Limulunga Primary school playing ground.

18:00hrs : Kuomboka musical festival at Mongu stadium


Early in the morning, the Mwenduko drum, otherwise known as Mutango or Ililimufu, is played in the Limbetelo, signaling that all is set for the journey, and that the Litunga will never spend a night in Lealui on this day.

As the sun breaks the sky, the Mwenduko is taken out to the Namoo where it will be leaned against a special pole. The drum this time will face the east — a visible indicator that all is set and the ceremony is about to take its full course.

The paddlers assemble in front of the Kuta once again to receive final instructions. Other paddlers will carry and load the Tuyami into the royal barges.

The guest of honour his Royal highness paramount chief chitimukulu arrives and is taken to the Kashandi where he will meet the Litunga. Shortly after meeting the guest of honour, the Litunga walks majestically (Kutamboka) with his guest out the palace to board the Nalikwanda Royal Badge.

As the Litunga reaches the boarding site, the Prime Minister of Barotseland, Ngambela bids goodbye to the indunas and people who will remain and take care of the Lealui Royal village.

The Litunga finally boards the Nalikwanda with the guest of honour. The Ng’awawa, Mwenduko’ and Mwatota then play the melodius tune called Ifulwa. The tune signals that the journey has started. One of the songs proclaimed by the Nengwawa is Ndandamwalye which describes how the great Nalikwanda was built by cooperative unison of all the people. The second song, Amalabo, praises the royal paddlers for their strength, bravery, and tact.

The Ling’omboti, in white overcoats with white turbans, set their hands on the Nalikwanda pushing dressed it into the deep waters while the Ifulwa plays on.

The Nalikwanda finally sets off, heading towards Iboka man-made canal. Here, other royal barges will join and will swiftly travel in alternating circles, displaying a very colourful scenery. While at Malile canal, the melody will then switch to Manjabila. This song is played by the Sinkoya Band.

The first melody, Sikota Mutumwa, praises the leader and supervisor of the first royal-canoe makers. The second, Kawabile praises the Litunga. Once it is observed that other paddlers do not paddle in conformity with others, the song suddenly changes to Macabula to alert the languid and unskillful paddlers. The paddlers who fail to catch up will be transferred from the Nalikwanda to other barges. Those who resist are thrown overboard.

The Nalikwanda will travel at least three phases that equally accommodates the drumming of the Maoma as it eventually takes the route cruising towards Nebubela. The Maoma are played to allow the paddlers to relax and take time as they dance in pelican style of bowing their heads.

The Nalikwanda will have to port at a smaller mound to allow the guest of honour mwine lubemba to disembark and board the awaiting motor/helicopter. The guest of honour will meet the Litunga at Mulamba harbour.

The Silozi band will then take over and play the Lishoma (Mwenduko) up to the place known as Nebubela (where Malile canal separates to Butoya bwa mun’ambata and Mulamba canal where all the royal barges will dock briefly to allow the paddlers to take a meal of meat and Ilya, and to relieve themselves.

The Ifulwa will again play as the Nalikwanda leaves Nebubela.

The Lishoma will play briefly, followed by the Maoma.

The Sinkoya band then takes over and plays Manjabila up to the first landing at the Mulamba harbor.

The Lishoma will play up to the second landing.

The Maoma will play up to the third and final landing.

Unlike the Sinkoya tunes of Manjabila, Kawabile, and Macabula, the Silozi Band plays Mwenduko, Ifulwa, Lishoma, and Maoma without an accompaniment of music, but with random praises and eulogies that are proclaimed in Siluyana.

16:00hrs: As the Nalikwanda docks, men give the royal homage (Kushowelela) while women sing and dance Liimba and Limeka.

The Litunga, clad in the admiral uniform, finally disembarks from the Nalikwanda and greets the guest of honour who has been waiting for him.

The Litunga walks majestically (kutamboka) accompanied by the guest of honour to the temporary pavilion and then to the Vehicle enroute to Limulunga Royal village where he will again walk majestically from Mukola area up to the Kuta grounds into his royal pavilion.

The paddlers dance the Lishoma in an open space of the Namoo. Shortly after the guest of honour address the public, the Litunga, majestically leaves the royal pavilion and disappears into the Lyangamba, the royal courtyard.

At night, around 9PM, the Maoma drums are sound.


04:00 AM The Maoma drums are sound.

06:00 AM The Ngambela, members of the royal family, indunas, and the royal paddlers perform the royal homage.

06:10 AM The Litunga, the members of the royal family, the Ngambela and indunas dance Ngomalume in Namoo.

09:00 AM His Royal Highness, the Litunga arrives in the Kuta for church inter-domination Service.
11:30 AM The Litunga leaves the Kuta and gets into the lyangamba.

13:00 PM Lunch Break.
(Royal Banquet inside the Palace with distinguished guests, Sponsors and invited people)

14:00 PM Presentation of variety of performances continues.

14:30 PM The Litunga will appear at the Palace grounds to watch Lozi warriors dancing Ngomalume.

16:30 PM Ngomalume, Nalikanda, and Lishoma dances are performed by men.

17:00 PM The Litunga leaves the Palace grounds and gets into the Lyangamba.

17:30 PM The Moyo Imwambo, togeher with other women dances Liwale inside the Lyangamba.


06:00 AM Liwale is danced at Namoo.

09:00 AM The citizenry together with the school pupils present variety of song and dance styles.

11:00 AM Entertainment continues

13:00 PM Lunch Break.

14:00 PM Presentation of variety of performances starts.

15:00 PM The Litunga arrives at Lutatai (the royal pavilion).

16:00 PM Liwale, Silenga, and Lishoma dances are performed by women.

18:00 PM The Litunga leaves the royal pavilion and gets into the Lyangamba.

The performance and weaving of various paddling styles, dances, songs, colourful scenes, dressing styles, cultural and traditional homage and multitude of tourists perch the Kuomboka Ceremony in the top-list of the water festivals performed the world over.

As the Nalikwanda finally ports at mulamba Harbor, and His majesty the king of Barotseland , the Litunga ascends and tread majestically to the Lutatai, many spectators feel and wish the ceremony could be repeated sooner than later.
Sadly, however, it will take a year for them to witness another Kuomboka Ceremony. And to this effect, many pronounce openly that they will never miss any Kuomboka Ceremony.


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