Traditional Homes: Zambia

Traditional Homes Zambia - Mud Hut Mama

Last month we had the pleasure of attending the Kufukwila Traditional Ceremony at Senior Chief Mukumbi Ibaloli’s Palace in Northwestern Zambia. The ceremony was incredible to see but today I wanted to share some photos of the cultural village that this Kaonde community built to teach their younger members about their heritage. They built each of the traditional homes that the Kaonde tribe have utilized in sequencial order from the very earliest homes to homes closer to what many Kaondes live in today. As you might have guessed by the name of this blog, I find traditional building fascinating so this cultural village was a real treat for me to experience.

This first dwelling was carved out of a termite mound.

Termite Mound Dwelling - Mud Hut Mama

You can see in this next photo that support beams were used to strengthen the roof of the termite mound. You’ll notice that we are wearing hats in many of these photos. They are traditional hats made from a fiber found under the bark of the musamba tree (Brachystegia longifolia).

Termite Mound Home - Mud Hut Mama

The next house in the progression was made from freshly felled trees.

Home of Branches - Mud Hut Mama

The following house was of a similar shape but made of grass.

1st Grass Homes - Mud Hut Mama

That structure was then improved upon with an addition at the entrance way.

Improved Grass Home - Mud Hut Mama

In this house we were shown the first beds which were grass mats on the floor.

Early Bed - Mud Hut Mama

From grass dwellings, the Kaonde tribe moved on to building with soil. The original mud huts were round. The lattice work was made from sticks that were then packed with mud.

Round Mud Home - Mud Hut Mama

The last house in the progression was made in a similar style but in a rectangular shape.

Rectangular Mud Home - Mud Hut Mama

This final dwelling housed a traditional bed and from this building you can see that the next step would be the homes made of mud bricks that the majority of rural Zambians live in today. While not in a Kaonde area, you can see examples of these types of homes in my post about a rural Zambian community.

Traditional Bed - Mud Hut Mama

The cultural village also contained an early lookout built on top of a termite mound where a guard would be on watch for approaching enemies.

Traditional Lookout - Mud Hut Mama

And this temporary dwelling that was always made around a mwenge tree (Diplorhynchus condylocarpon). It was explained to us that when a girl reached puberty she would be taken into the bush to stay in a structure similar to this one and she would be visited by the older women in the community to learn about being a woman. She would then be married. Nowadays women wait until they are older to marry but traditionally they would marry at around age twelve.

Coming of Age Tradition - Mud Hut Mama

There were also some men demonstrating early metal work with bellows made out of animal hides.

Early Bellows - Mud Hut Mama

Here they are working on a special type of axe for the chief…

Traditional Metal Work - Mud Hut Mama

…using an anvil and hammer.

Anvil and Hammer - Mud Hut Mama

In all my time in Zambia, I have never seen anything like this cultural village. I was thrilled to experience it but what I liked best was that it was built by the community to teach the younger members about their own heritage. Zambia has experienced a surge of development and it is a country that is rapidly changing. Much of its history has been passed down orally from old to young and as many young people move from rural areas to towns and cities in search of opportunities there is always the possibility that some of that history will be lost. It was so nice to see what one chief is doing to make sure that Kaonde traditions are remembered.

About Jody Tilbury

11 Responses to “Traditional Homes: Zambia”

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  1. Frances says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this post of the traditional homes in Zambia! 🙂

  2. Hearher says:

    Very interesting, mud hut mama! I’m sure the kids enjoyed it too!

  3. This is so interesting! – it really is wonderful to read about a community putting together so much cultural heritage for their future generations. Thanks for sharing, and the great photographs of the traditional structures.

  4. Jillian says:

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing. For the home made from a termite mound… are the termites still around the mound or do they move to find a new home? I don’t know anything about termites so sorry if this is an ignorant question!

    • Jody Tilbury says:

      I don’t know a whole lot about termites either but I think hollowing out the mound would destroy the termite colony.

  5. The evolution of the houses is almost the same here as well. But it is still fascinating to learn! ( I think the termite mound home is fascinating!

  6. What a neat experience! Thank you for sharing these awesome pictures!

  7. I loved this post, and especially that it is created by locals working to preserve their heritage. What a gift!

  8. So interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hanelene says:

    Great pictures! My boys were fascinated, and are out in our urban backyard building a mud house for their superman figures now. Talk about clashing cultures!

  10. Tonianne says:

    I don’t know how I missed this post in June, but maybe I wasn’t meant to see it until AFTER I found that hat in my dining room! 😉 Great post – so interesting. Love and miss you guys. xoxoxo