October 28, 2006

  Nyur men 'flying' at the top of a pole

There are 72 tribes in Zambia. Each tribe has its own language and cultural tradition.  While Zambia has statutory law, tribal law still holds great sway over the actions of many Zambians. Initially after independence tribal traditions were not encouraged by the government. The first President, Kenneth Kaunda, was seeking to unify Zambia as one nation and discouraged strong tribal identity as he believed it would tear the country apart.


The distribution of these tribes don’t respect borders drawn up by the colonial powers. So for instance Chewa tribes are found in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique and may often see their first alliance to their tribes people rather than their compatriots. Of course this isn’t unique to Zambia or Africa, Europe is full of similar cross-border divides and alliances. But the extent to which tribes impact on Zambian life is really significant.

For instance a lady we met recently has very short hair. We found out later it had been part of her ‘cleansing’ after her husband had died. Another part of this was that she had to sleep with her husband’s brother. Initially she refused and the in-laws came round her house and started removing her possessions. The hair cut suggests she may have given in, and this is how tribal law is enforced.

In the Eastern Province boys are encouraged to spend six months with the Nyur men, being taught traditional ways. Some people have resisted this due to the time out of school, and the changes in these boys when they return. The boys will refuse to listen to a teacher who has not been initiated in these ceremonies.


2 Responses to “Tribes”

  1. Eric Kooma Says:

    Kindly send me the list of all the 72 tribes of Zambia, preferably with their geographical locations.

    With kind regards.

  2. Beryl Ligayi Says:

    Kindly,i would love to have a list of all th 72 zambian tribes.
    Thank you!

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