The Jere Ngoni’s Umthetho Cultural Festival begins on Thursday in Mzimba with the M’mbelwa Chiefs Council’s meeting to brainstorm how culture could be used to address effects of climate change.
Umthetho is an annual event that takes place at the foot of the historical Hora Mountain where the local Ngoni and those from South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia converge to celebrate and interpret Ngoni traditions and cultural heritage.
Mzimba Heritage Association secretary Aupson Thole said this year, the three-day event seeks to fight harmful cultural practices that contribute to climate change and promote those that help preserve the environment.
He said: “What the chiefs will discuss and agree during the council meeting will be the message Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa V will deliver to the Mzimba community on the main day of the festival.”
Thole said some of the traditions that have negative effects on the environment include shifting cultivation for millet, wanton cutting down of indigenous trees, charcoal making, sparse settlement and cultivation along river banks.
He said on the second day of the event, the chiefs will have a parade (Umgubho) at the tomb of M’mbelwa I who is the father and founder of the Mombera Kingdom. Thereafter, M’mbelwa V will lead participants up the Hora Mountain for a feast.
The climax of it will be on Saturday when President Peter Mutharika is expected to be guest of honour. Thole said they also expect dignitaries from South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania.
During last year’s event, the Ngonis announced plans to construct a hotel and cultural centre on Hora Mountain after noticing challenges they encounter to find accommodation for visitors.
Thole said, presently, they have designs for the museum whereas those for the hotel are yet to be finalised.
“Apart from accommodation, the other challenge we have is the poor road network. We need our road to be upgraded to ease mobility to the historical and cultural site,” he said.
Hora is important in the Ngoni culture because it is where the first Ngonis settled.