Chief Dakamela calls for  hosting of Inxwala ceremony Chief Dakamela (with red) poses for a photo with participants at the Inxwala memorial lecture held at MacDonald Hall in Mzilikazi on Monday. (Picture: Kudakwashe Takundwa)

Langalakhe Mabena and Mthabisi Tshuma

THE Bulawayo Arts Festival (BAF) marked a significant milestone this year with a special Inxwala memorial performance lecture, held in collaboration with the Bulawayo City Council.

The event, held at McDonald Hall in Mzilikazi, was co-ordinated by renowned Jazz artist, Gog’Bekezela (real name Bothwell “Bekezela” Nkomo) and was aimed at educating those in attendance about the traditional practices performed during the Inxwala ceremony.

Historically significant among the Ndebele people, the Inxwala ceremony involved rites and rituals that fostered a deeper connection with their cultural heritage and ancestors. Inxwala was held annually just after the first crops ripened and was a religious ceremony aimed at pleasing the ancestral spirits and celebrating kingship while thanking the King for bringing the rain.

The ceremony has significant cultural and historical significance and was viewed as a crucial element of political aggrandisement by state and royal authorities.

The event started off with a walk from Mzilikazi K Square bus stop to MacDonald Hall.

It was curated by music, dance and poetry from Bekezela, Great Stars Ijongosi, Magogo emkulwini, Intombi ZoMhlahlandlela (Amatshitshi) and IButho Inkwali.

Chief Dakamela was among the notable faces present for the lecture. Musicians, Hwabaraty, Bhila, Madlela Skhobokhobo, Imbube ensemble Ijongosi, Dr Gasolo, Memory Kumbota, Zenzo Nyathi, Dumisani Mhlanga, Ashely Siwela and Ntando Ndlovu, also attended the lecture.

According to Chief Dakamela, the ceremony’s revival would not only rekindle national loyalties, but also rejuvenate the nation, ensure abundant harvests and mitigate negative influences within the community.

“When the white people found us here in Africa, we had our own way of living and it was interrupted by the settlers as they came with their own way of living, which they instilled in us, like Christianity. Despite us acknowledging the power of uNkulunkulu (God), we were told that our culture was evil and barbaric yet we were worshipping the same God.

“Inxwala and other traditional practices were abolished when the white men came to our territory. As a traditional leader, I’m happy that BAF designed this lecture to revive our culture and share the knowledge of the different procedures conducted during the Inxwala ceremony,” said Chief Dakamela.

He pointed out the historical significance of the Inxwala ceremony, noting that it was last performed before the disappearance of King Lobengula. “This is a significant day and I’m happy it was held at Mzilikazi Cultural Centre. We’ll realise that it has been 151 years without us performing the Inxwala ceremony.”

He referenced Gogo Bekezela’s presentation, which stressed that the Ndebele people were once a united and self-sufficient nation. “If we were still performing the Inxwala ceremony, do you think we would be having these droughts? There’s a need for Inxwala to be revived.”

Chief Dakamela said relevant authorities should bring together various stakeholders and ensure the hosting of the event.

“Various stakeholders should come together to ensure that this comes into reality. There’s a need for those that need to lead Inxwala to be identified and tasked,” said Chief Dakamela.

Inxwala means “something taboo”. The one taboo aspect was the song sung on the day of the main ceremony. After its singing, it was erased from the people’s mouths, only to be sung the following year at the same time.
Only the King presided over the ceremony.

The cultural practice was used to express the importance and unassailable person of the King and a cultural thanksgiving practice to the ancestors and God who provided bountiful harvests. In any case, even among the commoners, the oldest among them was first to pick meat and the rest followed according to age.

According to renowned historian Pathisa Nyathi’s writings, Inxwala was performed every year at two different intervals. “Inxwala, in its dual manifestation as Inxwala enkulu and Inxwala encane served as the iconography for political aggrandisement and symbolic legitimisation of the kings’ and chiefs’ governments. These two authorities viewed themselves as intermediaries between their followers and the ancestral spirits and in the final analysis, God. Royal and chiefly authority were expressed in celestial metaphors.

“Inxwala enkulu came a lunar month after the conduct of Inxwala encane on the day of the new moon. The timing expressed the reason behind the holding of the ceremonies. A new moon symbolises regeneration, rebirth and revitalisation. The condition of the State and nation were tied to that of the moon at the emergence of a crescent moon.

“A moon’s movement is tied to the passage of life. The stages are birth (emergence of a new moon), growth (waxing of the moon), decay (waning of the moon) and death (when the moon does not appear in the sky. This is the time when the king senses vulnerability to forces of evil and draws into seclusion till a new moon emerges.

“Full moon is maximum potency and is ideal for the timing of the holding of rituals aimed at the regeneration and renewal of both State and nation. The king embodied lunar mystery. As long as medicines were properly administered, he remained responsible for the germination, growth and maturity of crops. Hence it was the king who consecrated the first fruits — products of his symbolic spiritual intervention.

“It was the king who presided over the death of a new season and the welcoming of a new one known as ukunyathela. The Inxwala ceremony, in particular, the sampling and tasting of new crops, was known as ukuluma (to bite) or dolo qina, ‘knee be strong’. There was a belief that if ukuchinsa was not done, crops weakened one’s body. ‘The king grows with the moon’, say the Swazi,” wrote Nyathi.

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