Annual Chewa Traditional Ceremony

Every year, like other African tribes, the Chewa people hold a traditional ceremony to celebrate their traditions and pay homage to their king. They belong to the Bantu ethnic group and number over 10 million people, in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They’re know for their traditional dancing and masks: representatives from all over Chichewa-speaking communities converge to display their dance and costumes on stage. Oddly enough, of all places, the little, otherwise obscure town of Katete hosts this enormous event, where thousands of people from all these countries come together in solidarity. For a few weeks, Katete becomes a bustling centre of all things Chewa.

A huge sprawling market springs up near the celebration grounds.

You can buy anything from clothes to food to gadgets.

This is how Nshima or Nsima is a staple food in Zambia and Malawi, made from boiling Maize flour. I saw variations of Nsima in many other African countries like Tanzania.

People are very keen to come and chat to foreigners! While interactions were always friendly, it can be a little disruptive!

One of my favourite parts would have to be when the women broke out into songs – it just sounds so beautiful!

To take photographs, you had to buy a ‘press’ card! Guess I can say I’ve been a member of the press before :p

The king arrived to much fanfare.

It was a really hot day but the Chewa seemed to tolerate the heat much better than we did.

The dancing and the strange costumes were just amazing to watch!

Each clan had their own drummers who brought them along from their own village or town.

These guys were doing somersaults!

We were a bit nervous at this point!

The kids got in on the action too.

The king was presented with gifts including such things as fridges and washing machines! At the end we walked home but for a long time were in the thick of the crowd due to the number of people! We found these guys close to a nearby village.

Getting home was not easy as a lot of the transport was done in typical Chewa style which we weren’t very comfortable with! But, at only 2 kwacha, a ride on a truck was dirt cheap!

We loved the Chewa ceremony. Compared to the Ngoni people celebration, it was definitely much larger, with more dancing and greater variety of costumes, but I loved the Ngoni celebration in Chipata (earlier in the year) just as much because it was small, easier to get around and a little less chaotic!

If you are in central or southern Africa, see if there’s a traditional ceremony happening and check it out. Don’t forget to buy your Press card! :p

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