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13— From Ethnic Identity to Tribalism: The Upper Zambezi Region of Zambia, 1830–1981
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The Luvale History Project, 1938–1981

The Luvale History Project is something of a misnomer in that it had its roots in the 1930s but did not reach its current state of organization until the late 1960s. The original impetus to write a synthesis of Luvale oral traditions—or more correctly, the Luvale political traditions—came, as I have shown, out of the


struggle with the Lozi, the creation of a functioning political and administrative hierarchy and the beginnings of the Chavuma dispute. It received an enormous stimulus from the appearance in 1941 of Thomas Chinyama's Early History of the Balovale Lunda, from the social stigma that Luvale felt in the towns and the consequent lack of economic opportunity, and especially from those Luvale civil servants who after independence felt that the national Luvale social and economic position could be improved if the whole nation was as aware of their history as it was of the history of other ethnic groups.

For those Upper Zambezian people long resident in town during the colonial period, and perhaps even more strongly after independence, improving their 'tribal' image by making available to their fellow citizens books about their customs and their history—written almost always in English, for writing in Luvale would have been to lose their most important audience—was one method to create local pride and to counteract existing prejudices. The continuation of earlier stereotypes has stimulated—indeed commanded—Luvale intellectuals to reinterpret Luvale custom and history and thus give the concept of a Luvale or a Lunda tribe a modern, as well as an ancient, significance. It has also created the intellectual dilemma of attempting to show the vitality and variety of their 'tribal' life without threatening the often enunciated anti-tribal policies of the Zambian state.

This process has involved many individuals. During a long and difficult beginning, Senior Chief Ndungu Sakavungu and Mose Sangambo led the Luvale through the harrowing years of the Lozi and Chavuma disputes. Today it involves the Mwondela brothers, John and Willie, who began their careers as mission teachers and who are still important figures in both national and local politics. The Mwondelas became the driving force of the Luvale History Project and the source of funds and inspiration for the revival and elaboration of Luvale customs. John Mwondela is largely responsible for the revival of the Likumbi lyaMize (Mize Days), a ceremony held each August which recalls Luvale history and custom and demonstrates many of the old crafts and skills now rarely practised.[50] Willie Mwondela has, from his positions as Zambian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China and currently the Republic of Kenya, written extensively on Luvale custom and tradition. James Chinjavata, originally a research assistant to C.M.N. White, participated in White's research into Luvale language, history and customs. These are but a few examples of the Luvale who have used their literacy to conserve and explain Luvale history to a broader world.

I have far less information about the Lunda, but they also seized the opportunities offered by the Plymouth Brethren mission schools and they too, like the Luvale, sent some of their 'best and brightest' to Chitokoloki, Chavuma and Sakeji schools. Among the currently important Lunda who attended Brethren schools are Samuel Mbilishi, who has served on the Central Committee of the United Independence Party (UNIP), and Dawson Muhongo, who worked first as a boma messenger and then for many years as a hotel waiter in Salisbury, and who was installed as Senior Chief Ishinde in the 1950s because he was considered an educated man who could 'deal' with Europeans. He forcefully directs Lunda affairs today as he has for the last thirty years. Then there is Thomas Chinyama, a Lunda with a prestigious Luvale name, who wrote the first Lunda history after the end of the Lozi dispute.

Sangambo and his colleagues, notably Nelson Cikomo, supported by the administrative and financial resources of local patriots and townsmen, had worked on the History Project since its beginning and collected substantial, if at times uneven, amounts of data. By the late 1960s what was needed was someone


to help rationalize the data and give it a publishable form. They initially found this aid in the person of Dr Arthur Hansen who, with his wife Dr Anita Spring, was then conducting anthropological research in the Chavuma area. Dr Hansen helped Sangambo to collect data among Luvale chiefs and provided an outline for the book. On the departure of Hansen and Spring in 1972, 1 arrived in Zambia to conduct historical research among the Luvale and was immediately enlisted into the project.[51] My main contribution was providing Sangambo with transportation as I went about my own research; I also made a visit, with him, to the Ruund and to Inkalanyi in 1973. In 1979 Hansen and I edited Sangambo's material into a book and 500 copies were printed as Mose Sangambo's A History of the Luvale People and Their Chieftainship, with Hansen and myself as editors. The books arrived in Zambezi District in 1980 and were sold out in three weeks. Sangambo's history book had been, like Chinyama's forty years earlier, a bombshell in local politics.

In keeping with the gentle pace of local affairs in Zambezi, Sangambo's book was perceived in the first instance as a rebuttal to Thomas Chinyama's of 1941, which had elevated the Lunda over the Luvale chieftainship.[52] Sangambo also made a vigorous historical assertion of Luvale claims to Chavuma. But it also transcends local disputes and sets out Luvale political history for all Zambians to read, hence his insistence that it be published in English. This brings to national attention rural and urban Luvale wishes for higher ethnic status, a greater role in Zambian affairs, and easier access to employment. And, perhaps most importantly, it is the gift of Sangambo and all of the people who worked with him over decades to future generations of Luvale and Zambians.

The Lunda in Zambezi District regard the book as the newest and perhaps most dangerous of all Luvale attempts to control Chavuma. They are not surprised by this, but they are profoundly offended by Sangambo's assertion that their Senior Chief Ishinde was only a headman when he 'left' Uruund, not a chief, and that he became a chief years later through his own initiative and not through actual genealogical connections to the Ruund royal family. In this view, he is seen as a jumped-up latecorner, brought into Northern Rhodesia at the time of the British restructuring of chieftainships, when compared with the antiquity of Luvale chieftainship and settlement in Chavuma.

Lunda reactions to these claims were direct and immediate. Years of accumulated ethnic separatism and tribalizadon surfaced at the appearance of Sangambo's book. Once again Luvale and Lunda dared not travel through each other's territory. The shops and 'tea carts' in the boma, now entirely locally owned, were strictly patronized by one or the other tribe, reflecting a hardening of long standing practices. Violence broke out again in Chavuma as Luvale and Lunda partisans especially identified with tribal politics were the victims of crop and house burnings. The roads leading to Chitokoloki Mission hospital were temporarily blocked as Lunda protesters sought to prevent the Luvale Senior Chief from attending a ceremony dedicating a new wing of the hospital.[53]

At the provincial and national level the Lunda sought to have the book banned, confiscated and burned. The Luvale reacted with equal vigour, threatening to 'march to the President' if the book was banned and if my research, part of which was directed towards preparing a new, expanded edition, was prohibited. After weeks of meetings between the District Governor, an Mbunda man of inexhaustible patience and moderation, Luvale and Lunda delegations and myself, it was unanimously decided to permit my research, on a limited scale and in a very restricted part of Chavuma. The Lunda are still seeking a banning of the book; Sangambo remains adamant that what he writes is historically true—that it is only


a coincidence that it supports Luvale claims—and that he will not retract it publicly or in further editions.[54]

The Lunda say they are beginning new historical research to give a 'clearer' idea of their past and to challenge elements in Sangambo's interpretation. This was one of the compromises reached in our meetings; that the proper answer to the Luvale claims was a new Lunda book. The Luchazi, whose history I had originally attempted to include in my own research and who had refused to be lumped together in a 'Luvale' book reproached me for their exclusion but have embarked on a book of their own.[55] The Kaonde and Mbunda have also begun local history projects.

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