The Culture and History of Zimbabwe: Tonga Tribe - Hideaways

The Culture and History of Zimbabwe: Tonga Tribe

Masumu River Lodge, Binga boasts spectacular views over Lake Kariba, is the gateway to Binga town and Tongan culture as well as offers an exploration of the characteristic islands in the area. Built into the slope of a hill in the Binga province of Zimbabwe, the lodge offers stunning panoramic vistas from various levels. Nine en suite lodges as well as two family lodges all welcome daydreaming from private verandahs and balconies. 

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The lodge and its surroundings are an invitation for exploration – of the landscape, waterways, islands, Tonga villages and museums. Your experience of Zimbabwe with Masumu is a multi-faceted adventure – fringed in the comfort of the lodge with air conditioning and private views of the lake for moments of reprieve. 

Masumu, Binga

A stay at Masumu River Lodge will not only fulfill your appetite for an African adventure, but satiate your cultural curiosity as well. Binga is an area rich in Tongan culture, and we encourage guests to immerse in and learn about both the past and present ways of the local people.

With a significantly sordid past of displacement due to the construction of the Kariba Dam, the tribe has vehemently held onto its culture and rituals, having not been able to hold on to their area of origin. Keeping their traditions in their hearts, they remain true to their ways, determined to maintain their rich and diverse heritage. 

They have created new shrines and dedicated new mountains in their surroundings to perform ceremonies, an important part of their cultural expression. Drumming, singing and dancing are key components to their festivals, bold and colourful – a reflection of the people. Singing is an integral part of the Tongan culture. Kuyabilia music is sung by one person accompanied by a drum or a rattle, with encouragement from others during the song, calling out to the singer. It is in these songs their stories are told, whether it be praise to cattle, a request for rain or the tale of a difficult journey. Each person listens and respects their tribe members in the melody, aiding the song to rise to the skies and beyond.

One of the more well known festivals, shared between the Tonga tribes of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is the Kuomboka ceremony. Each year in March after the rains when the upper Zambezi floods the Barotse Flood Plains, the people throw a celebration. This is in honour of the Litunga, the king’s journey from floodplain to higher ground. Kuomboka means “to get out of water”. The procession takes place on a large wooden boat adorned with a giant model elephant called the Nalikwanda, moving the king to dry land as summer gives way to winter. 

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Africa Travel Mag

In October, during the peak of the dry season, the Tonga then perform a rain-making ceremonyMaanzi Lwiindi. Dedicating the month to rain asking, and only once the rains fall do farmers start preparing for the next season of crops. Legend has it that in 1995, during a desperate drought in Zimbabwe, the Tonga people performed a rain making ceremony on the shores of Lake Kariba. Song, dancing, meetings and sacrificial slaughters were made in appeal for the dry spell to end. The ancestors seemed to respond positively, with dark cloud building in the distance, signs of rain blessing the horizon. Cattle were directed to kraals, people took cover, and the rain came down, beating into the thirsty earth. A good rainy season followed, the people forever grateful.

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While staying at Masumu River Lodge, you have the opportunity to visit the Tonga museum, promoting and empowering the ancient culture. It showcases the beliefs, traditions, farming techniques and resilience of this rich and fascinating people, living authentic to their ways in the north west of Zimbabwe.

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