Nc’wala Ceremony, Eastern Province, Zambia

The Nc’wala is a thanksgiving ceremony held each year by the Ngoni people to celebrate the first fruits of the season. On the morning of the ceremony, Paramount Chief Mpezeni, the king of the Ngonis, tastes the spoils of the first harvest from his palace in the Luangeni hills, about 45km south-east of Chipata. During this, songs of praise and poetry are chanted in isiZulu, the old Ngoni language. Once the first fruits have been tasted, the paramount chief travels to Mtenguleni village, about 60km south-west of Chipata, where warriors, or impis, from the various Ngoni clans perform war-like dances for the king on a sandy stage. The dances are tribal and rhythmic, reflecting the Ngonis’ Zulu roots; the Ngonis share a common ancestral heritage with the Zulu Kingdom of South Africa and the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe. It’s a fearsome and thrilling spectacle.