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Sebenze Dance Group at Gorges Lodge

Zambian Culture

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The People

Zambia is a country along the northern stretch of what is typically considered Southern Africa. The country is sparsely populated compared to many of its neighboring nations. The largest concentrations of people are found in and around Lusaka and along the corridor known as the Copperbelt running along the north. In total, 72 tribes living in 9 provinces are found in Zambia’s borders.

Before the colonial era, Zambia used to be named Northern Rhodesia and was comprised of a number of free kingdoms each with economic links to free states outside its borders. Main exports used to be copper, ivory, and slaves which were all traded in exchange for jewelry, textiles, and salt. During this colonial period, many tribes formed a partnership with common economic interests to spur change. This in part has helped to create a new culture that has more of a national identity than one of tribal sectarianism. This young Zambian culture is especially observed in urban centers. Many rural inhabitants retain their unique custom and traditional values and religious beliefs.

The Arts

Zambia gained independence from colonial rule in 1964. After this independence, the government began to explore the question of national identity and created institutions commissioned with the task of protecting and promoting Zambian culture to help preserve the tribe heritage. Many private museums and artisan villages were founded to help ensure the craftsmanship would be preserved. Wood carving, basket weaving, and pottery are all valued art forms.

The Language

English is the official language, though it is rarely the first language for most residents. Main tribe groups speak Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi, and Tonga. Bemba is the most widely spoken native language with about 2 million people adhering to this dialect. Society here is very unhurried, and formal greetings when seeing someone is very common.

Religion & Festivals

Religion in Zambia is quite varied, with an “official” religion stating that it is a Christian nation, or at least according to the 1996 constitution. Traditional tribal religious thought blends quite easily with Christianity and many syncretic churches help smooth that merge. Religion is very important to the people in general. Easter and Christmas are celebrated of course. Other traditional holidays include Shimuenga, which is celebrate to give thanks for the crops and livestock. Another famous festival is called the Kuomboka, which is an annual live event where Lozi paddlers come together on the Zambezi River for the celebration of the end of the rainy season and its flooding. The ceremony has been being conducted for more than 300 years.

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