As efforts to promote and preserve the cultures of various tribal groups keep going, the Mchinji Ngoni Heritage Association has engaged an extra gear to ensure that it is alive and living up to its core principles. Currently in the middle of raising funds for the upcoming N’cwala ceremony in Zambia, the Mchinji Ngoni Heritage Association is busy. Our arts editor EDITH GONDWE caught up with the group’s spokesperson Brian Banda Sibande to discuss the progress the group has made so far and other issues.
: Mchinji Ngoni Heritage Association is a cultural group. What are some of the major things that you stand for and that you promote?
: We stand for unity. We strive to unite Mchinji Ngonis from the three kraals of Senior Chief Mlonyeni Jere, Chief Zulu Jere and Chief Nyoka Thole to ensure we work together for the common goal. We are also encouraging all subjects to respect our chiefs as they are our leaders in preserving culture and helping them to safeguard our traditions and core values. The group also promotes and protects our language. We attend and participate in meetings and contributing (materially or financially) towards special functions such as N’cwala ceremony as per tradition. Coordinating affairs of the Mchinji Ngoni people on behalf of the chiefs. Promoting and protecting decisions and agendas of the chiefs in developmental activities.
We also take seriously our relationships with our sister groups–Mzimba Heritage (Mziha) under Paramount Chief M’mbelwa V, through the attendance of Umtheto at Hora Mountain in Mzimba and with the Maseko Ngonis (under Paramount Chief Gomani V), through the attendance of Imbizo and Umhlangano cultural ceremonies in Ntcheu District.
: Ever since you establishment what are some of the major achievements?
: The first was to unify the Ngoni of Mchinji – we have been able to bring all Ngonis in the district together. Previously we used to have separate groups for each chief called Vibaya, working individually but now we are doing things as family.
We have also been involved in planning of the annual N’cwala activities in conjunction with our Zambian counterparts for the past two years. This includes initiating fundraising activities to source transport, food and accommodation for the traveling Impis.
We have brought in the spirit of self-reliance among Mchinji Ngonis. They now understand the importance of taking part in developmental issues and contribute towards the key areas such as transport and food for special events.
We have also established a network for all Mchinji Ngonis within Malawi and those in diaspora, to facilitate communications and other agendas. This includes the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp.
: Ngonis in Malawi are distinct when it comes to dressing and pride in their heritage but they do not speak their language. Has your association done anything to revive the dying language?
: We acknowledge this problem and we are working on plans to address
It. We have already identified some members (among ourselves), who are conversant with the language to assist with different approaches on how to teach and sustain the language. One approach to roll out soon, is the introduction of Zulu lessons in our communities. We also plan to print Ngoni materials such as books, branded T-shirts and caps and calendars.
We also plan to engage our brothers and sisters from Mzimba Heritage (who already started such initiatives), to assist.
: As Mchinji Association do you have your own special cultural ceremony if yes what is it…if no why?
: The main one is N’cwala which takes place in Zambia. It is commemorated every February at Mtenguleni in Zambian eastern district of Chipata. The function is attended by Ngonis and people of other ethnic groups from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and the host, Zambia. This function is presided over by his Royal Highness Paramount Chief Mpezeni. N’cwala is a celebration marking the first harvest and Ngonis appreciation to the almighty God for the rains. We have also planned to have mini annual festivals in Malawi as one way of bringing together all Ngonis from Mchinji and across the country.
: Tell us about the membership of the association. How big is the association and who is your supreme cultural leader?
: Membership is very big as Mchinji Ngoni Heritage Association (Mngoha) embraces all Ngonis from Mchinji by birth. However, we are in the process of computing the database to establish the actual numbers within and diaspora.
Our supreme leader Inkosi ya Makhosi Mpezeni Jere, who oversees all Ngonis from the following chieftaincies in Zambia; Madzimawe (Gogo-Nthaonga), Nzamane, Maguya, Saili, Chinyaku, Misholo, Mshaba, Kapatamoyo and Mnukwa. In Mchinji, HRH Mpezeni has authority over three chiefs, namely Mlonyeni Jere, Zulu Jere and Nyoka Thole.
Mngoha works under the three Ngoni chiefs of Mchinji. Then we have a board, a district executive committee and Vibaya (kraals).