Mwanga people

Winamwanga (also known as Namwanga or Nyamwanga) are found in northern Zambia and southwestern Tanzania. They speak Nyamwanga or Chinamwanga. In 1993 the Mwanga population was estimated to number 256,000, with 169,000 living in Zambia and 87,000 in Tanzania .

Winamwanga are said to have originally migrated from Tanzania, although some evidence shows that they can trace their roots to northern Sudan. They are a patrilineal people. A Mwinamwanga inherits property, names, and titles through his or her father's line. Modern Winamwanga, however, tend to ignore some of the traditional requirements of patriliny.

The senior chief of Winamwanga, a woman, carries the title of Nawaitwika and is based in Nakonde District. Other chiefs are Kafwimbi, Muyombe, and Mwenechifungwe. These chiefs have their headquarters in Isoka District. The main traditional ceremonies practiced by Winamwanga are: Vikamkanimba, Ng’ondo, Chambo Chalutanga, and Mulasa.

Unique names

Winamwanga surnames are unique in that they contain gender signifiers. All the female surnames begin with "Na" while all the male surnames begin with "Si." Unlike other ethnic groups in Zambia, who use such prefixes to mean "father-of" or "mother-of," Winamwanga have the prefixes fixed with their surnames. We see examples of such use in names like Siwale, whose female counterpart is Nawale or Namwila, Simukonda and Namukonda, Sikapizye and Nakapizye, Sinkala and Nambela, Sichalwe and Nachalwe, Simwanza and Nakawala etc. We find similar use of the prefixes among the Mambwe and the Lungu of Mbala and Mpulungu, respectively. Among Winamwanga, females belonging to the royal clan may have a surname totally different from that of the males. For instance, males of the current royal clan carry the name Siyame, while the females are called Nakamba. Among the Mambwe, however, Nayame is the female equivalent of Siyame.


Winamwanga grow millet, groundnuts, beans, maize, among other crops. They also rear cattle (a main store of wealth and currency for marriage transactions), sheep, goats, poultry and pigeons. Winamwanga are teased often by members of other ethnic groups for their fondness for kumbi or pupwe, a vegetable with a slippery quality like okra. It is prepared with baking soda or soaked charcoal ashes and mixed with beans. The kumbi is usually mixed with beans and served with nsima, (a thick maize meal porridge) common among Africans.

Courtship and marriage

As among other African cultures, traditional Winamwanga lack a concept of dating. Any form of premarital friendship between young males and females is strictly forbidden. Young people, however, find ways around the restrictions. To declare interest in marrying a woman, a man must give the woman of his interest money or beads, called insalamu. The girl who accepts insalamu indicates thereby that she agrees to the marriage proposal. Still, her parents have to consent to the marriage proposal. The man sends a trusted friend or relative as go-between (kateya wa mpango) to the parents of the woman, to convey his interest in marrying their daughter. If they consent, he pays dowry, more often than not reckoned in terms of number of cattle, but also as cash. If they reject the proposal, the man has to look for another woman to marry. In the case where a man gets a girl pregnant before marriage, the man is required to pay damages on top of regular dowry payments. It is taboo for a woman to propose marriage to a man.


Most Winamwanga who have adopted Christianity belong to the United Church of Zambia (UCZ. Formerly, the Free Church of Scotland). Others belong to the Catholic Church, the African Methodist Church, Jehovah's Witnesses Seventh-day Adventists among many other major religious organisations.



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