Inside Maseko Ngonis’ Umhlangano festival

Inside Maseko Ngonis’ Umhlangano festival

Umhlangano Cultural Festival is often associated with a celebration of culture among Maseko Ngonis.

As a matter of fact, the country has several cultural festivals that take place between July and November.

Gomani: Umhlangano means coming together

But there is more to Umhlangano than what meets the eye.

According to the festival’s organising chairperson Inkosi Makwangwala, the ceremony has many aspects that pay attention to detail of observing the Maseko Ngoni rites of celebrating their traditions.

“Umhlangano wa Maseko starts with a special ceremony at the grave of Inkosi ya Makhosi Gomani I, also known as Gomani Chikuse, who died in 1896. He is the senior traditional leader of our tribe,” he said.

Makwangwala explained that on the appointed day, in this case September 2, members of the Maseko Ngoni will rise before the break of dawn to go to Gomani Chikuse’s grave.

Said the traditional leader: “At the grave site, we go while performing ligubo. Ligubo is a special type of ingoma dance which we perform with dance steps as if we are going to war. Once we arrive at the grave, traditionally known as lidiwa, we make a circle around the grave and begin our rites.”

He said upon arrival, the Maseko Ngoni members will offer a prepared mushroom dish.

“Then young men will slaughter a male calf and spill blood on the grave site. This rite is part of offering libation and appeasement to our departed king and ancestors,” explained Makwangwala.

The grave site rites are in their totality known as kukhwisula.

After that, he said the procession starts off at Mkolimbo Ground, the venue where the cultural festival is held located at Lizulu, traditional authory Kwataine in Ntcheu.

“From morning, we will give turns to all our men and women to perform their traditional dances. Many think Maseko Ngonis only dance Ingoma, but we have more traditional dances such as ligubo, khwendo and msindo, among others,” he said.

Inkosi Makwangwala said invited guests will be accorded an opportunity to inspect and appreciate mounted pavilions which carry different aspects of the Maseko Ngoni culture such as dressing, food and utensils used by Ngonis.

In the afternoon invited guests enjoy selected traditional dances, visit Inkosi Gomani I grave and various dignitaries make speeches. This year, President Lazarus Chakwera, Vice-President Saulos Chilima, other prominent personalities and international guests have been invited.

In an earlier interview, Inkosi ya Makhosi Gomani V told The Nation that with his Impis (advisers), they envisioned Umhlangano to be an auspicious heritage where the Ngoni can share cultural values and beliefs of spirits of their forefathers.

“The word ‘Umhlangano’ means coming together of people from different directions. There is a place in Ntcheu called Tsangano which came about as a result of failing to pronounce this Zulu word ‘Umhlangano’. The event is of great value.” The Maseko Ngoni in Malawi settled in various parts of the country after running away from their leader Shaka Zulu due to hostilities between the king and some of his generals.

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