Shrine of Nakabutula
First of all let me explain the word Nakabutula. It simply means "to bear children" or "birth".
It was related to fertility of the Mwata or his chiefdom. But is no longer connected to that.
The most sacred and revered item for the Kazembe Kingdom is some sacred stones called Nakabutula. It is what the Lundas call the spirit of the land around the village of Kazembe. The spirit of Nakabutula resides in these stones and are revealed only to the Mwata and the spiritual caretaker.
The one who communicates and keeps the rituals of the spirit takes on the name of the spirit. So the priest is called Nakabutula.
The custodians task is to:
To check on the welfare, consult & communicate with the Nakabutula spirits.
Maintaining the sacred shrine. Keeping it clean, swept and in order. Repairing the structure when needed.
Acquiring a sufficient amount of impemba to last a year.
Partaking in any required ceremony including the Mutomboko.
Perform the ritual of smearing impemba on the Mwata, the 1st of each month in the early morning before Mwata speaks. Except in the month of August as it was done twice in July. Also when the Mwata leaves for a trip or enters Kazembe.
To teach an apprentice who will eventually take your place.
One of the symbols that the Nakabutula uses during ritual times is mpemba. This is basically a naturally occurring mineral that resembles white clay (kaolin or china clay). this is found on the banks of certain rivers in the area. It was found previously at the ngona river but has all but finished. So more was discovered at a place called Kafitisha. About 30 kilometers (20 miles) North.
Local natives gather this clay in powder form called "mpemba" and roll it in small balls called "ulupemba" and sell it in the village markets. Pregnant women buy these clay balls to help supplement their diet with different minerals present in the clay. It is also used to nullify poisons.
The Nakabutula once a year prepares himself through a certain ritual before going to the market to buy the clay. Once the ritual is performed he goes to the market and buys about 10 balls or 1 kilo. The clay is then taken to the hut/shrine and says some ritual words to the spirits and place it in his designated bowl.
The Chief also has a bowl in the shrine that he places his clay and is responsible for refilling. He represents all the Mwata ancestors.
one of the duties of the Nakabutula is to go to the palace on the 1st of every month as early as 6am to anoint the chief with this clay by smearing it across his forehead and on his arms. This has to be done before the chief speaks a word.
During the month of July, it is performed twice, once on the 1st and the other on the last Saturday of the month, which means no clay is needed in August.
In times past this monthly ritual was performed during the new moon. But with the introduction of our current calendar, this lunar ritual was changed about 60 years ago to follow the 1st of each month.
Smearing of the clay is also done before he leaves the village and on returning.
mpemba (white clay) represents blessings and brightness. The white attire represents the same.
Where: Inside of the Palace
When: 10:30am to 10:00am
Why: This is a short ritual that gives reverence to the spirit of the land "Nakabutula".
This ritual can be seen on the day of the Mutomboko. That means the last Saturday of July approx. 10am.
The whole observance takes about 15 min. and is the only time during the Ceremony where photos and videos cannot be used.
At 10 am you are allowed through the Palace gates where you may wait on the grounds for the Mwata to come out of his dwelling.
This waiting can stretch out over an hour. It will become crowded in time, so find a good place to stand.
His appearance is signaled by an old musket being fired which causes the crowd to ulate and rejoice.
He comes out dressed in white attire with colorful beads around his neck accompanied by an assistant. He has a flywhisk in one hand and a handkerchief in the other.
Then as he waves his flywhisk back and forth as he and his assistant walks to the south side of the palace where the shrine is located. There, only he is allowed to enter thru the stick barrier to sit on a white sheet where a pair of elephant tusk are protruding under a white sheet. Under the sheet is a bowel where the white beads are placed with some sacred stones that embody the Nakabutula spirit. This purpose of this ritual is to evoke the birth of the Lunda-Kazembe and to hear the council from the spirits for the new year.
Once the Mwata listens to the council of the spirits thru the custodian, and applies the impemba to his arms and forehead, he is then released to leave the shrine and to exit the palace grounds
This is the only known photo of the papyrus shrine of Nakabutula. Inside are the sacred stones, which possess the spirit of the land.
It is interesting to note that in the past the Mwata would invite his subjects to stand around the shrine to throw white beads into the enclosure. A ritual that is no longer practiced.
The Shrine keeper
mwata kazembe munona chinyanta xviii with The shrine keeper Mr.Boma 1981
Each shrine keeper comes from the relatives of the Mwatas passed on.
Mr. Boma (Peter Mpundu) 19.. -- 1984
Simon Shindiliya 1984 -- 2008
Mr. Musonda 2008 -- Present
mwata kazembe paul kanyembo xix with The shrine keeper Shindiliya 2007
a kaolin mine north of kazembe
kaolin (white clay) rolled into small balls to be sold in the local markets.
example of bored stones
Since the founding of Mwansabombwe in 1899, the Nakabutula stones have been kept in a papyrus mat house within the palace enclosure, protected by a stick fence barrier with a small entrance way some fifty meters west from the main house.
one story that is told around, is that Bored stones found by the villagers have been objects of wonder and mystical symbolism. Some are kept in a special hut among Kazembe's Lunda to recieve offerings in times of need.
In times of trouble, especially with matters of spiritual customs, the Mwata has to consult the bored stones. If they have disappeared, then somebody had disobeyed the spirits. The keeper of Nakabutula is then dismissed and the person who found the Nakabutula stones floating in the Ng’ona River becomes the keeper of the shrine.
because the stones are so sacred and revered, no photo exsist.
The aristocrats, keeper and royal family differ on their description of Nakabutula; some say it is an umupashi (Ancestral Spirit), others ingulu, (Spirit of Nature) and others neither – it simply is intambi (Spirit) itself, or a form of ubwanga (magic) . The keeper of the shrine described Nakabutula as an ingulu that belonged to Mwata Kazembe.
No one person of the Lunda tribe can effectively and truthfully explain when did they start to revere the Nakabatula or even where did the stones come from. Some say the ritual was already in the Luapula area before the Lundas conquered the area and adopted the ritual, it is possible that it was practiced by the previous inhabitants of the land "The Shila". Therefore the Lundas continued the act, to memorialize their conquest and victory, others say it was in some way related to a person called Nakabutula and it started as a story or remembrance then through the years turned into a ancestral ritual that continues on to this day without knowing the true origins. The truth has been long since forgotten.