Mando my Bemba girlfriend and Chibembe Language

Kasama Travel Blog

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Bemba, also known as Chibembe is the language spoken in the northern part of Zambia and in countries like Tanzania and Congo. The Bemba are a dominant tribe in Zambia and their language is the most common spoken by majority of the population. I found a lot of the traditions of the Bemba are not too different from those of the Bantu people in my own country (Uganda). It was interesting to learn that the family of my friend had actually emigrated from the Congo and that she was from a royal lineage.

My girlfriend and I had studied together in Uganda and while we were completing our undergraduate degrees in Political Science & Literature/ History, we both took keen interest in the history of each other’s country and especially the indigenous tribes. I taught her about my people (the Alur - who I must confess I know little about) and she taught me about the Bemba, she always insisted that our ways were not very different after all and that if I ever visited her home, she would take me to her village.

Victoria Falls, Zambia.

Her father happened to be a history professor of African History with special emphasis on the Bantu people/ grouping of Africa. When we arrived at her village in Kasama her mother had a huge pot cooking outside the house (reminded me of my mother as I was growing up - it seemed there was always something cooking). We were welcomed with hot tea and food at about 9:00 am (awesome!). Mando’s father seemed eager to talk to me and play host because she had bragged about my mother’s hospitality for the 4 years she had spent in Uganda. He took his three legged chair (nyangalakata in my mother tongue) and sat by the side of the house where we had been given a mat to seat on. He began talking about the history of his people: starting with the Portuguese.

I learned that in the 1800s the Portuguese and Arab traders came to Zambia and traded in the Bemba regions.

Victoria Falls, Zambia.
It explains why the Bemba language has many Portuguese and some Arabic words and sounds close to Swahili. I understood many of the words as Mando and her family spoke and the children made me laugh with their innocent expressions. I felt so much at home with the traditional food having so much taste, it seemed the greens were especially prepared for a long distance guest. Mando’s mother gave me a wrap (Kanga-in Swahili). When one visits Zambia now, not only will they hear Portuguese and Arabic words in the Bemba language, but there has been a strong influence from South Africa’s Afrikaans. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the languages until one can distinguish the intonations of the words and the sentence construction. I should have learned some words but my girlfriend was speaking English most of the time and I responded in the same. I did not stay long enough to pick up on the language but I know I would survive well among the Bemba given an opportunity. I should love to return to Zambia sometime if time and money permits, the people are warm and hospitable, but like many African countries most are poor and destitute. In the Capital city Lusaka it may not be apparent until one goes a little out of the city limits. Within the city one will see what is typical in Africa, orphaned children on streets begging for money, the disabled sitting at street corners begging for something to eat while others sell money making things like cigarettes by the stick, ground nuts, candy and many more.

PS: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain 

"Travel is an exciting and adventurous passion, it is quite expensive but the reward outweighs the expense. If you can afford it, do it!" Africancrab.


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Victoria Falls, Zambia.
Victoria Falls, Zambia.
Victoria Falls, Zambia.
Victoria Falls, Zambia.
Kasama
photo by: Africancrab