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Litungu or Bwali (Mbunda Female Initiation)

Female initiation occurs at the onset of puberty for females. This does not involve female circumcision. Rather, it is a rite of passage for young girls where they are taught traditional roles and expectations of women in their culture. During this initiation (called Litungu) the young girl or “mwali” is separated from the village, often living in a small grass structure in the bush, sometimes with other girls like herself who are undergoing the initiation rites. At night she is sometimes allowed to come and sleep in the village for safety but must return to the bush before others wake the next morning. This continues for about a month, during which time she is not allowed to bathe. An elder woman (chilombola), usually from another village, comes to “train” the mwali. During the girl’s training, family members will buy clothes, beads, and blankets. They will also make several barrels of beer. When the chilombola decides the mwali is ready, then a celebration is planned.

At this time, the mwali is bathed and dressed in a new chitengi cloth, leaving her topless. Oil is applied all over her body and her hair. The night before she comes out, the community starts celebrating with music, dancing, and beer. The next day, the girl is brought out covered by a blanket and sits on a grass mat. The people of the village gather around. The father takes a small ax and the mother takes a small hoe. The father puts money on the blanket, on top of the girls head, then he puts the ax under one side of the blanket. The mother does the same with the hoe. Together they lift the blanket, revealing the young woman. She stands and the drums begin to beat.

The girl dances publicly (a special dance taught to her by the chilombola) for 15-20 minutes. If she dances well, people will give her money (which is collected by the chilombola). Then she is taken to an open place and seated on a mat where people may continue to give her money. Later she can socialize with people and the community will continue celebrating. This celebration can last for several days. After “Litungu”, the young woman may now be given her own field. She may also have her own “choto (cooking fire). She is now considered a true woman and is available for marriage. Details, Read More…


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His Majesty King Mbandu IV,
Joăo Pedro Mussole
of The Mbunda People
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