The Importance of Artefacts Used During Nkolola Traditional Ceremony among the Tonga People of Magoye District:  An African Oral Literature Perspective

Muyendekwa Limbali

University Of Zambia

2.1 Abstract

Even if it is claimed that human beings are identified by their culture and cultural practices, it is unclear to whether some tribal groups in Zambia still appreciate their culture and cultural practices following the invasion of Christianity and Western education. Therefore, it is in this line of thought that this article draws on a study which focuses on the relevance of artefacts that are used during Nkolola Traditional Ceremony of Tonga People of Magoye District of Southern Province. The study explored various artefacts used among the Tonga speaking people of Southern Province and their general significance to the initiates and the community as a whole. The study sought to address the questions: To what extent do Tonga speaking people appreciate and use the artefacts during initiation ceremony? What role do artefacts play in marriage? The study only used qualitative methods of data collection. The data was analysed thematically after verbatim transcription. The findings were that artefacts transmit a very important message to the initiates. More importantly, the knowledge inculcated into the initiates as a consequence of these artefacts improves their lives and their understanding of the world. The study also reveals that artefacts define and shape human life. The study also reveals that artefacts are cardinal elements in the production and reproduction of social relations and cultural persons. The study also reveals that artefacts  like  beads are so  educative  as  they  teach  women  how to  maintain  hygiene and  entertain  their  husbands. When beads are worn as jewellery, they improve the beauty of women which consequently leads to sexual satisfaction. Lastly, the study reveals that artefacts are conveyers of moral messages to the initiates as they are taught to read signs from these artefacts. The study concludes that artefacts are very much appreciated among the Tonga people of Magoye District in Southern Province, though following the notion of globalisation which has been accompanied by religion and new innovations in technology; their usage is slowly diminishing among the current generation.

Key words: Artefact, Nkolola tradition, Tonga people, African Oral Literature

2.2 Introduction

This article is drawn from a study conducted on the importance of Artefacts used during Nkolola Traditional Ceremony among the Tonga people of Magoye District. The article highlights the historical background, purpose of the study and the statement of the problem. The study further hints on the methodology used in the data collections, results of the study, discussion of the findings and conclusions drawn from the findings of the study.

2.3 Historical background of Artefacts used during Nkolola Traditional Ceremony among the Tonga speaking people.

The knowledge on the artefacts used during the Nkolola traditional ceremony among the Tonga speaking people cannot be fully understood without tracing the areas the Tonga speaking people occupy.  The implication is that the Tonga- speaking people’s cultural practices can be best understood in connection with areas they occupy. According to Chidwayi (2009: 1-11) and Mwiinga (n.d) the Tonga Speaking people can be categorized into five groups.

  • The We (Bawe): These occupy the Zambezi valley of Southern Province in Gwembe, Sinazongwe, Siavonga and Kalomo District on the South Eastern part of the province.
  • The plateau Tonga: These occupy the plateau of Southern Province which comprises of Mazabuka and Monze districts.
  • The Ila: The Ila people occupy the Kafue plains ranging from Namwala District to Monze District and parts of Choma and Mumbwa districts. In short, they occupy the Western part of Southern province.
  • The Central Tonga: These are Balenje/Bena Bukuni/Basala. Bena- Mukuni popularly known as Balenje occupies parts of Chibombo, Mumbwa and Kabwe Districts of Central Province. Basala are situated in Mumbwa District.
  • Southern Tonga: These are Baleya or Toka Leya and are situated in part of Kalomo, Livingstone, and Kazungula Districts. They can also be called Bena–Mukuni as both Lenjes and Toka–Leyas have their chiefs known as Mukuni.

The Nkolola initiation ceremony is practiced among the Tonga speaking people accompanied by the artefacts used by the initiates. These artefacts are symbolic and very important among the Tonga community especially among girls who undergo the three phases of rites of passage namely; separation (seclusions), marginal (luminal), and the phase of aggregation (graduation). These phases are well elaborated by Racing (2001:129) quoting Turner (1967) as follows:

“The first phase, the separation, comprises the symbolic behaviour signifying the detachment  from  an earlier  phases  in the  social  community  or  structure . During the intervening phase, the  marginal  period, which  Turner  (1967:73) calls  the  luminal  phase, the  characteristics of  the  ritual  subject  or  initiate  are  ambiguous ;  the  initiate  passes  through  a cultural realm  that  has  none of  the  attribute  of  the past  or  the  coming  state. In the third phase, the aggregation, the passage is consummated. The individual  or  ritual  subject  is  in a relatively  stable  state  once   more and, by  virtue  of this, has  rights  and  obligation, vis-à-vis others  of a clearly, defined  and structured  type. The  initiate  is accepted  and  expected  to  behave  according  to customary norms  and  ethical standards.”

2.4 Brief history on Nkolola

A brief history will be necessary as it will highlight the transition of the Nkolola ceremony from the past to the present times by drawing comparisons and contrasts between what used to happen in the past and what has been happening in recent times. To start with the preparation of the initiate, it is worthy to mention that a girl passed through several stages before she became a woman in ancient Tonga culture. Girls had to undergo many stages to be fully recognised as mature. Ordinarily, with the onset of mature breasts, the Tonga tradition had to exert its impact. In this case, the woman whose breasts had grown had to have six of her teeth knocked out. Here it is worth stating that, the justification of knocking out of these teeth is not yet established with certainty. However, it could have been done probably for purposes of beauty and identification. The emphasis lay on the fact that a girl had to have her teeth removed before breasts protruded. Therefore, in ancient Tonga culture, the onus of the elderly in society, among other things, was to gauge the age of the girls based on the size of the breasts. It was cardinal that, the girls had their teeth removed before they menstruated. It was a taboo for girls to menstruate before having her teeth removed though the consequences of the taboo has not been established yet.

As the practices mentioned above were taking place, the person in question was no longer considered as a girl anymore. She was now a woman; though still not yet initiated. She was incomplete. Completeness would come by passing through all the stages of Nkolola. Therefore, immediately the teeth were removed, the subject was given instructions about how to become a woman. She was also taught many traditionally feminine tasks such as cooking, weaving of baskets as well as moulding of pots. It should be mentioned that the instructions that the subject was receiving is akin to full time education in modern times. The girls were taught how to cook through a school called Mantoombwa. In this school, girls could erect shelters for cooking various recipes such as okra, spirosa, and other various vegetables. Girls who could cook well were praised even after graduation.

On the contrary, girls who were careless at cooking at this school were considered to be bad cooks even after graduation. Girls would divide amongst themselves and pretend to be husbands and wives. They could apportion roles such as mothers, how to look after children and how to welcome visitors. In some cases, boys and not men would be allowed to attend these performances and witness how girls cooked; the boys could even eat what those girls cooked. Girls also practiced how to brew traditional alcoholic beverages. Elderly women and mothers to these girls could be in attendance and monitor how these girls cooked and fed the people around. Eventually, by the completion of the stage, girls would have learnt, to some appreciable degree, how to look after children; welcome visitors; and how to share what they cooked. This was the period to prepare for puberty and initiation.

With regard to menstruation (Kuyaluka), it is worthy to note that, in the ancient Tonga culture, as was mentioned above, it was a taboo for a girl to menstruate before having her upper six teeth removed. In addition, a girl was not allowed to menstruate in bed in those days when Tonga land upheld its customs with highest esteem, as it was a taboo. Therefore, it was a duty of the mothers to the girls to ensure that they wake the girls up as early as possible to avoid them menstruating in bed. A girl who had a tendency to oversleep was often ridiculed and despised. Some women would gossip by saying “that girl over sleeps, she may menstruate in bed. Why does she sleep like that? A girl with breasts sleeping like that, wake up, wake up”.

It is important to point out that, the day when the girl had menstruated was characterized by celebration in the village especially from the mother’s side. Numerous songs were sung and most of these songs were comprised of sarcasm and insults. A lot of instruments were played such as drums, ‘ngoma’ during the night. In the morning, the women would convene to celebrate the initiate who has menstruated. They would continue playing instruments. When women came to celebrate, they did not come empty handed. They also brought food with them and this was the period of initiating the girl who had menstruated.

With regard to the process of initiating a girl (Kuvwundika Kamwale), it should be noted that, this came after the girl has had her first menstruation. At this point, the girl was no longer considered as such but as a lady. She was and still is called ‘Kamwale’ the initiate. In those ancient times, the initiates would be secluded from the public for five to six months to facilitate initiation. They were taught, fed and their bodies would grow and their skins would change in complexion and texture due to the good nourishment that was made available to them. During this period, the initiate was looked after by two girls called basyaakamwale ‘initiates’ these initiatees came from the mother and father’s side. The job for the initiates was to cook, feed and hide the initiate when they were going to the toilet and when executing other miscellaneous tasks. This period of seclusion, the initiate was covered and was not allowed to walk upright but had to walk while guided by the two initiates to the toilet in a bowing position. The initiates were taught various lessons during the period of seclusion. In those days, they were taught how to look after the family, how to welcome visitors, how to cook, how to mould pots, calabashes and clay pots unlike these days when people using pots and plates from western world. In the olden days, the initiates never used to take a bath. They were smeared with red oppa ‘musila’ and also applied fats from sour milk and other ointment from the trees. There was plenty of beef to feed on in those days and these initiates were a marvel to watch as they were taken care of.

2.5 Modern Trends

In modern times, it can be mentioned that initiation still occurs. However, it is optional. One can go straight into marriage without undergoing it. This is largely due to the penetrating influence of Christianity which in many ways opposes some of the traditional practices. Even the selection of girls for seclusion is no longer based on the protrusion of breasts but on general maturity as can be perceived by the people responsible. Nevertheless, in the event that the initiation occurs, still the quality of the ceremony has diminished remarkably in the spectacles of traditionalism. As opposed to the earlier observations of culture and practices, in modern times, there are just piecemeal preparations. Though the central theme is similar, that is, to prepare the girl/woman for adult life, the intensity of preparation has dwindled. For instance, instead of six months seclusion, only about two weeks is allowed in contemporary times. Moreover, mantoombwa, the school of catering is not as effective as it used to be. Initiates are not taught everything due to the brevity of the seclusion time. More so, taboos such as menstruating in bed are no longer considered; no more enacting of husband-wife relations since marriage is not the main reason this is done but the emphasis recently lies on hygiene. Besides, there is not much emphasis on hospitality lessons such as looking after visitors. Finally, animals are no longer slaughtered probably due to economic reasons – animals are scarce.

Despite these reservations, it can be mentioned that the departure of modern initiation ceremony from the traditional can be justified – especially with the consideration of the dynamism of culture. Certain practices surely were uncomfortable for the initiates and they had to be stopped – such as the knocking out of, not one but six teeth. Modern initiation ceremony also strives to be compatible with the school curriculum system. This is probably the reason it is accorded such a brief time especially when it comes to the seclusion of the initiate.

2.6 Initiation Ceremony (Nkolola)

Nkolola is the period of celebrating the initiate when coming out of seclusion, liminal and graduation stage. This period is of festival mood. During seclusion and graduation, there is brewing of local beer and drinks like Chibwantu made from maize. In olden days cattle were killed for people to eat while celebrating. Rich families would kill two or three animals during seclusion. These animals were killed in the evenings, and their blood was collected in the calabash for initiate to drink. Before the initiate tasted the beef from these cattle, no one was allowed to eat this beef. The initiates were made to jump the copses of the slaughtered animals and were advised not to step on these animals as it was a taboo. After this process, the women would start singing songs pertaining to this occasion of Nkolola initiation ceremony. They would sing while going round the slaughtered animals.

The following day when the celebrations are starting, relatives to the person who is likely to marry the initiate would officiate the commencement of the initiation ceremony ‘Nkolola’. They were also the same people who invited people to participate in the celebrations. The man who was known to be courting the initiate with his relatives was given a place for them to enjoy drinking local brewed beer and food. The beer and beef were shared according to the number of villages and people invited to commence the initiation ceremony. For those who participated in the preparation of brewing and cooking food for the initiation ceremony, were given portions of beef and beer to carry home after the celebrations as a way of thanking them.

These initiates became mere beautiful and it was difficult for a man to bypass the initiate without looking at her twice or thrice because of the cosmetics which were applied on their bodies. The initiate had to stay with her parents until such a period when the lobola (bride price) was pegged for the groom to – be and until when the bride price was paid could the groom marry the bride. This period, the initiate was called Nakalindu ‘a lady’ as she was no longer a girl anymore. Before joining the groom, the bride was supposed to brew beer and perform other rituals and wore a crown on her head. After doing this process, the bride was allowed to join the groom to become a wife and a husband. The initiates were not allowed to put on the crown on their heads before brewing the local beer. That is how some Tonga people practiced Nkolola at a large scale in olden days and to some extent few are still practicing Nkolola initiation ceremony due to diversity of culture from (Chidwayi 2009: 1-11).

The main  focus of this article, is  on  artefacts  used  in  Nkolola ceremony  of  the  Tonga  people.  These  artefacts  are  one  way  of  conveying  massages  as  they are symbolic.  Nkolola  initiation ceremony  is a very  important  school which  prepares  a teenager  to be ready  for  keeping  her  husband- to – be  and  graduate  into   womanhood. The  initiate  has  to learn   the  customs  and  values  of  her  culture  through  some  of  the  artefacts  discussed  in this  paper. The  initiation ceremony  is  valued  by  well-meaning  Tonga people  through  the artefacts  that are  taught to the  initiates  as  they  prepare  them  to  be  ready for marriage life.

The word (art + faction )  literally  means “ something  made  by  skill  or  craft” and  may  refer  to any artefact products. In  common  usage  artefacts  denote  an  object , manufacturer  or  modified  by human hands. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines artefact as “… an object that is made by a person, especially something of historical and cultural interest.” However, Bauman (1992:205) observes that, “Most dictionary definitions and  representative  examples  not  only  confer  simplicity  and  primitiveness  upon  artefacts, but are  themselves  deceptively simple, concealing  both the tangled connotation of the  term and  the  overwhelming  diversity and complexity of human makings as well as the uses, meaning and valuations  thereof.”

Implicit  in the  conception  and  the  collection of artefacts  is the  assumption  that  cultures   not only create, represent, and  re-create their  distinctive  patterns  through what they  say  and  do, but  through  articulations of the  material  world, and what  the former  not  only can  but, in many  cases , can  only be  reconstructed  and “ready “ through  the  latter. The making and using of objects (homo Faber) coexist with language, thinking, and symbol-using (Sapens) in all definition of humanity. Clearly, we would not  have  collected, arranged  and  displayed  millions  of  artefacts  if  we  did  not  believe  that  the things  people have  shaped  to their  use  and  pleasure  are  informed  with  significance, and  that  artefact-related  communication is  constitutive  of  the human  conditions  (Bauman,1992:205).

Arts and crafts are common in every African society. Some of the art is decorative, intended to make things look beautiful and attractive. Decorative art is found on stools, drums, shields, spears, pipes, pots, gourds, sticks, baskets, dress or cloth materials, mats, domestic animals and even on people’s bodies. The main purpose or reason of African art is to convey religious feeling and meaning. Therefore, it is produced in connection with religious ceremonies and rituals, and some is used in secret societies or in the training of apprentices in various skills and professions…There are many other cultural activities, but we cannot deal with them all here. These examples are, however, enough to show what treasures are to be found in our cultures if we look for and study them well (Mbiti,  2003: 9-19).   Among the Tonga people there are various artefacts in form of musical instruments and other ornaments and some are discussed below.

The common artefacts used among the Tonga  initiates ‘Bakamwale‘ or ‘Bamooye’ are  Kalumbu  ‘hand  xylophone’, Maaya  ‘mini-skirts’ made  out  of  reeds  or  animal  skins  or  fibre  from  trees,  Kankobela  ‘hand  organ’ Mantimbwa  ‘initiate  or  girl’s  friction  bow’  ndandala ‘ ‘flat  drum  beaten  by  a stick  or  a  hand’, Mwaandu ‘made  from  clay  pot  and  animal  skin’,  and  few  others  which  will be  discussed  in the findings. These  artefacts  have  an  aesthetic  value  among  the   different  societies  and some  of these artefacts  have  same meanings  among  different  societies  and some  artefacts can be  similar    but  with different  meanings. The artefacts  shape and define culture of  human life  and  among Tongas  they are embraced  as  they  transmit the way  people should  live socially  and  these  artefacts  are  to  be  taught  to the  initiates  to  enhance Tonga culture. Some of these artefacts start from Mantombwa  ‘teenage school of catering until teenagers are introduced to Nkolola ‘traditional initiation school’ and  finally  to the  outside  world  when  they  graduate  from  the  three  phases  of  rites of passage  as they  prepare  for  marriage.  The  person  who  is  initiated  as  called  Mooye or Kamwale  ‘initiate’ and  the  one  who takes  care  of  the initiate ‘Mooye’ is called  Hakamwale ‘caretaker’. Mostly, the caretaker is a young girl who brings food and maintaining hygiene for the initiate. These rites of passage prepared a girl for her future life and at this stage she is a novice yet to graduate from childhood to adulthood.

2.7 The Artefacts used by the Initiate ‘Kamwale’ Or ‘Mooye’ Cosmetic

Mukula: ‘Red Oppa’ : these  are small stones  which  are  crushed  into  some  liquid  and  is  applied  on the body  of  Kamwale  or Mooye ‘initiate’.  The  initiate  is  just  covered  in blanket  and should  not  cook  but  bath and eat   and  beautify  herself  for  a period between one  to six  months  unlike   today when  the period  is  too short  due  to  formal  school. During this  period, the  lady  should  neither be  outspoken nor converse  with men  or  boys. She  should  not  walk  upright  outside   the  house  instead she should  be  guided  by  the Hakamwale “young girl”. The Hakamwale ‘young girl’ is also  supposed  to bring  food  for  the  initiate ‘Kamwale’ or  ‘Mooye’ and  this  food is  prepared  by  the  initiate’s mother and  in some cases by  the  well-wishers.

Entertainment Instruments for Kamwale ‘Initiate’ include:

Mantimbwa- this  is  a strong  bow  harp  rubbed  by one  finger  and  resting  on  a tin for  good  resonant (sound). She plays   different tunes which to her are for trying to entice the suitors.

Mweembo – the instrument  is  made  out  of  kudu  horn  which  is  blown  from  it narrow  tip  to produce  a very loud  but  dip sound . This  is  for   breathing  exercise  for  lungs  and  will be  directed by  the  sound  of  Mweembo  trumpet to inform  them   that  there  is Nkolola  ‘initiation ceremony’ and  the same  instrument  is  used  to  call  the  servant  girl  ‘Hakamwale’.

Beads– beads among  Tonga  women  are  made  by  putting  them  on string  to be  worn  on the  waist  as  jewellery. The initiate  is  taught how  to prepare  the beads  for  wearing  around  her  waist  under  her  clothes . They are  only used  for  marriage purposes  and  for pleasure  of  the  husband and  not   a boyfriend . The husband  will be  touching  the  beads  which  will later   on arouse  his  feelings .These  beads  can be  made  as necklace  as well as  jewellery  for the wrist.

2.7.1 Types of Beads

In the Nkolola tradition, different colours of beads represent carry different connotations. For instance, the White beads represent innocence, fidelity or purity. They also symbolize that the woman is no longer in her menstruation period, and so the husband is free to have his conjugal rights.  Red beads, on the other hand, represent  menstruation  and  during  this  period  no  mating  between  the wife  and  her  husband is allowed. The menstrual blood is considered as dirty and infectious. Therefore, no woman should mate with the husband during this period. Moreover, no woman  is allowed  to cook any  kind  of food  during  menstruation let alone put  salt  in the  food for fear  of causing  chronic dry  called ‘Kakwekwe’. It should be noted that ‘Kakwekwe’ is similar to Tuberculosis (T.B.). Furthermore, if the woman disregards this and mates with a man during this period, it is believed that she will have continuous bleeding called ‘kalobola’ while the husband will have incurable boils called ‘Kafwungo’. The latter is associated to cancer. Worse still, the husband could become impotent – a condition locally known as ‘Kutazyala’.The other types of beads are those of mixed colours. These beads are essentially for decorations.  They may be interspaced with pieces of sticks known as ‘Mpimpi’ and these are used as charms. Mpimpi are designed to entice and entertain the husband. These beads are for enhancing the arousal feelings in a man and woman.

In contrast to other types of initiation ceremonies such as the Cinamwali of the Eastern province of Zambia or the Cisungu of the Bemba people in the Northern province of Zambia, Tonga women are not  taught to entertain men  in bed  during  Nkolola ‘initiation ceremony’ or  during  period  of  rites  of  passage.  The reason given  is that, from  the days of  rain  makers  when  the Tonga people were just  developing as a tribe and were still migrating  from one place to another, they  discouraged  the unmarried  people from taking  part in sexual activities  hence  they were not taught how to perform  in bed. It was believed that if an unmarried person engaged in sexual activities then the drought could ensue in the land.

The other significant artefact is ‘Masebele’. These are  dried  round  fruits  which  are strung  together  in some pattern and tied  around  the legs to make  a rattling  sound  as  the  ‘Kamwale’ or  ‘Mooye’  initiate dances.  The tree which produces Masebele is called Mukumbuzu and  the  fruits  are called Makumbuzu. These may also be  used  as  a necklaces  for  some  initiates ‘Bakamwale’  or ‘Bamooye’  and  dancers . They  can  be  used  as  bangles  to  be  worn  loosely  around  the  wrist . They are for entertainment and enhancing beauty.


(Source: Kirby, P.R. (1934) Musical Instruments of the Native Races of Southern Africa. London: Oxford University Press.)


The other artefact of equal importance is Maaya which is made  of  strings  and  cowry  shells  tied  at  the end  of  each  string  so that  the string  can  hang  properly. The  upper  part  of  string  is  served  into  a  belt  which  goes  around   the wrist. This  belt  is  made  of  cloth  or  back  of  trees woven  into  a  nice  pattern  while an animal  skin  could  be used  as  belt   for  holding ‘Maaya’. ‘Maaya’ is a short string skirt and it was initially made from the strings obtained from bark of the tree or animal skin.

(Source: Kirby, P.R. (1934) Musical Instruments of the Native Races of Southern Africa. London: Oxford University Press.)


Other artefacts used from separation phase up to the period of aggregation (graduation).

The drum ‘Ngoma’ is a significant artefact in this phase. Suffice it to mention that Africans are very fond of music in general. Therefore, music, dance and singing are found in every African community. We also find many kinds of musical instruments, the commonest being the drum. There are drums of many shapes, sizes and purposes. Some drums are used only in connection with kings and chiefs: these royal drums are often considered sacred and may not be played commonly or by anybody. There are war drums, talking drums, ceremonial drums and so on…Music is used in all activities of African life: in cultivating the fields, fishing, herding, performing ceremonies, praising rulers and warriors, hushing babies to sleep, and so on. African music and dance have spread to other continents…They are one of the chief treasures of the African culture and heritage (Mbiti, 2003: 9). The Tonga community appreciates the use of drums greatly also. However, this paper will focus on those uses pertaining to the Nkolola initiation ceremony where the drum is seen as an artefact. Equally important, drums are used to alert people in the community that the initiates are graduating. There are three types of drums used during Nkolola initiation ceremony namely; a) Ngoma  Yakusunta  ‘small drum’ – this  drum  is used  for  smaller sound  called  syncopation to  produce  high  pitched  sound, b) Ngoma Yampalanga ‘medium drum’- used for setting the pattern of dancing and, c) Ngoma  Mpati ‘big  drum’- is used  for bass  or  deep  sound  and  when the three drums are beaten together  they  produce  very  melodious  instrumental  music  which  is often  accompanied  by songs. Behind music and dance, drums are common as seen among the Tongas with their famous drums during initiation ceremony of Nkolola. As indicated earlier, these drums are not only played during Nkolola but also other activities such as funerals and in olden days the drums were used to inform people about looming wars or any form of pending danger. The drums were also sounded during the veneration of ancestral spirits and others for social dances and to date drums are part of African culture though not at a large scale as it used to be in the past.

Kalumbu ‘percution  bow’ used for  playing  music  by  the  single  young men  to attract  the girls  including  the  initiate ‘kamwale’. Kankobela ‘piano’ is used  for  playing  music by  elderly  men  who  cannot  run  around  dancing. This is for   entertainment during graduation of the initiates ‘Kamwale’ and is used for   emotional expression ‘carthasis’.

(Source: Kirby, P.R. (1934) Musical Instruments of the Native Races of Southern Africa . London: Oxford University Press.)

(Source: Kirby, P.R. (1934) Musical Instruments of the Native Races of Southern Africa. London: Oxford University Press.)

Ndandala ‘cylindrical drum’- is played by men of all ages. it is  beaten as the singer  walks  around  during  the graduation  of  the initiate ‘ kuzwa  kwa  kamwale’ and also played  on the  eve  of  the  graduation of  the  initiate ‘kuzwa   kwa kamwale’. These drums  are used  to symbolize  a  very  important  event  taking  place  in the  village  and  the   one   who  plays  it  praises  himself. Together with the initiate, he will  be  claiming  all sorts  of  big things  Kulibanda’ like  being  rich, great traveler,  great fighter, producer  of  beautiful  women  mostly  referring to  the  initiate ‘ Kamwale’.

Banjo ‘ board  zither’; – is used  by  young  boys  to play  songs  for  the  age mates  of  the  initiates to  dance  and sing  songs  praising  their  boyfriends’ achievements. The banjo may be accompanied by a whistle and hand rattles.

(Source: Kirby, P.R. (1934) Musical Instruments of the Native Races of Southern Africa. London: Oxford University Press.)

Mpeta ‘war  horn‘ was formally  used  by  warriors going  to war.  Later, it was used by  herd  boys  and  men during  Nkolola initiation  ceremony. During graduation, the user of Mpeta ‘war horn’ would not utter words while  blowing the instrument but during  intermission they  would  claim  great  things  they  have done or great things they are expecting  concerning   the  initiate  ‘Kamwale’.

2.8 Methodology

This was a qualitative study embedded in phenomenology research design. This is because it is dealing with participants’ lived experiences (Creswell, 2008). The focus was thus on understanding from the perspective of the person or persons being studied. This design was used in this study, over a number of reasons, one being that it seek to address central research question in a phenomenological form as it ask questions such as, what are the lived experiences of a group around (specific phenomenon? Or what are the meanings, structures, and essence of the lived experience of a specific phenomenon? (Prereira,2012). Therefore, going by the above justification, employing the above design in investigating the significance artefacts used during Nkolola traditional ceremony practiced by the Tonga speaking people was appropriate in this study.

The sample design for the study was non-random purposeful sampling. Under non-random purposeful sampling the study utilized the purposive and snowball sampling. The 18 initiates took part in the study were identified using both purposive and snowball sampling. Here it is worth mentioning that, the sample size was determined by the sampling technique which was used in this study. In this case it is the snowballing sampling. In qualitative research, there is no exact way of determining neither sample size nor the ‘right’ answer in the same way a power calculation may yield a sample size in quantitative research. The sample size depends on consideration of a number of factors including: “the quality of data, the scope of the study, the nature of the topic, the amount of useful information obtained from each participant, the number of interviews per participant, the use of shadowed data, and the qualitative method and study design used” (Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2007; Morse, 2000, p.3). Therefore, what determines the sample size is data saturation. Saturation is used as a ‘marker for sampling adequacy’ (O’Reilly and Parker, 2013). It is the above justification which limited this study to a sample size of 18.

Purposive sampling is used by qualitative researchers to select individuals, groups and settings that maximize understanding of the phenomenon (Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2007; Hancock et al, 2009). In this study’s context purposive sampling was best suited due to its advantages with the use of people knowledgeable and in a position to identify the required participants for the study. Snowball sampling was also suited for this study because it is appropriate in identifying population that are not easily identifiable or accessible to participate in an interview (Kombo and Tromp, 2009; Onwuegbuzie and Leech, 2007). The target population were women that have underwent Nkolola initiation ceremony before their marriage. The study utilized the following qualitative methods of research: in-depth interviews and personal narrative. The secondary data was collected from relevant documents pertaining to the Tonga Culture. The data analysis was done thematically after verbatim transcription.

2.9 The findings of the Study

This study set out to investigate into the relevance of artefacts used during Nkolola initiation ceremony practiced by the Tonga speaking of Magoye District. The study sought to address two pertinent questions. These were: To what extent do Tonga speaking people appreciate and use the artefacts during initiation ceremony? What role do artefacts play in marriage? In this study, the primary data was collected through in-depth interviews and a personal narrative from eighteen women who had undergone Nkolola initiation ceremony training and six trainers (Siakamwale). Because of their vast experiences, it was felt that they would make positive contributions to this study.

When asked to state the extent to which artefacts used in Nkolola initiation ceremony are appreciated among the Tonga natives, diverse views were received from the participants.  Out of eighteen initiates interviewed in the study, sixteen indicated that Artefacts used during Nkolola initiation ceremony among the Tongas are very much appreciated as they play an important role. Their views are that artefacts are accompanied by moral values as they enhance Tonga culture through their associated didacticism. The implication here is that people could derive some moral lessons from these artefacts such as hygiene, kindness, tolerance, submission, hard work, perseverance, decency, fidelity, among others. Yet four participants further gave one example on how artefacts can impart a moral lesson. They said that the use of beads and their appropriate interpretation between husband and wife promote hygiene. The beads, depending on its colour, can indicate whether it is safe to engage in conjugal activities or not. A case in point, red beads indicate that the woman is having her menstrual period while the white ones mean the woman is ready for conjugal activities. Thus, red is dangerous and unhygienic while white is welcoming and hygienic. Therefore, it is observed that the artefacts being presented are very significant as they contribute to the wellbeing not only to the initiates but also to the Tonga society in general.

Six trainers were of the view that artefacts  used  during  Nkolola  initiation ceremony  training are  mostly  for moral  lessons  and  entertainment.  The six participants drawn among the trainers further pointed out that looking  at  the  artefacts  starting  from  Mukula  made   from  stones,  Mantimbwa, Mweembo, beads, Masebele,  Maaya, Ngoma, lkalumbu, Kankobela, Andandula,  banjo and  Mpeta,  all  convey message  which is  in form  of   code  of  conduct  or  morals, entertainment, hygiene and  cooperation or  unity  the Tonga  people.

Furthermore, ten participants drawn among the trainees further indicated that artefacts unite the Tonga people especially through the institution of marriage. The various lessons that women are taught during the initiation ceremony enable them to live with their husbands peacefully. Besides, in the ceremony, they are also taught how to live honourably in the community. These initiation ceremonies result in particular ambience with regard to uprightness of values among the Tonga people. Ultimately, initiation ceremonies lead to stable marriages which in turn lead to a community that is reliable and conducive for the upbringing of good and cultured children.  When the trainers were further probed on the current status on the usage of artefacts in Nkolola initiation ceremony among the Tonga speaking people, they lamented that the usage of artefacts is slowly losing value due to globalisation and invasion of new religions which denounce whatever is of African tradition as demonic and barbaric. Consequently, the African tradition is being forgotten by the new generation. On the same, the trainers also blamed Christianity as a religion that affects the preservation and appreciation of artefacts.

2.10 Discussion of the findings

The study found that the usage of artefacts among the Tonga speaking people is still valued. The study further established that the usage of artefacts among the Tonga speaking people united them through marriage. Artefacts conveyed powerful message in form of code of conduct or morals, entertainment, personal hygiene, cooperation and posterity.  Above all the study also established that the usage of artefacts contributed to the well-being of the Tonga people in general. Lastly, the study also established that even if the usage of artefacts among the Tonga speaking people is still valued, it is slowly diminishing due to globalisation and invasion of westernisation.

2.11 Conclusion

For the artefacts to be preserved, it is up to the old folks to go back to the roots and revive them so that the new generation can know the value of upholding them for the continuity of the African culture. Therefore, it can be reiterated that the artefacts play a very important role of inculcating knowledge to the initiates ‘Bakamwale’. The  artefacts  like  beads are so  educative  as  they  teach  women  to  maintain  hygiene and entertain  their  husbands something which  could  lead  to sexual  satisfaction, and  beautifying  them  as  they are worn  as  jewellery. The artefacts are conveyers of morals messages to the initiates as they are taught to read signs from these artefacts. These artefacts play  a major  role  of  instilling a sense  of pride  especially among  some  Tonga people who  still practice  ‘Nkolola’ initiation ceremony. The  parents  whose  children  passed  through  the Nkolola initiation ceremony are  proud  as they  do not  risk  being  disappointed  by  their children  when  they  get  married.  Artefacts on Nkolola have  a variety  of explanations  especially  in the area  of  beads and  it  is  difficult  to exhaust this  subject area. It has been observed that the importance of artefacts has to some extent lost value in Magoye district due to dynamism in culture and this was as a result of westernization which has changed the mind-sets of people not to value their own culture. There are only few who have preserved the knowledge of artefacts which means that African Culture has failed to resist change from outside world. However, despite the diminishing of the usage of artefacts in Nkolola initiation ceremonies, the Tonga people are encouraged to preserve and use the artefacts. It has also been established that the current generation associates themselves with the modern civilization which should not be the case. Therefore the study recommended that a future study should focus on methods of preserving cultural heritage


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