Art and Initiation in Western Zambia

by Manuel Jordán
Musical Instrument Museum (formerly Birmingham Museum of Art)

Mask and musicians at annual chief’s ceremony, Palace of senior chief Ishinde. Lunda peoples, Mukandankunda, Zambia, 1991. Photo by Manuel Jordán.


Lunda, Luvale, Luchazi, and Mbunda chiefs in Zambia hold annual confirmatory ceremonies meant to reaffirm the mandate and political authority of their senior chiefs. Chief’s or court musicians play drums and xylophones to call the community to ceremonies and to provide a musical backdrop to chiefly processions and ancestral mask performances. These public events are normally held outside palace walls. Colorful murals with human, animal, or decorative motifs may be created or repainted for these important occasions. These ceremonies may coincide with seasonal cycles of renewal to ensure fertility for the land and success for all members of a community.