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Bulozi (Lozi) (Barotseland)

Lozi Kingdom was an african kingdom located in the Zambezi floodplain, in present day western Zambia. The kingdom was originally known as Luyana. Barotse is the name given to a country and a people in South-Central Africa. The name is sometimes spelt Barutse, and is said to be derived from a corruption of Bahurutse, the name of a Bechuana tribe. The word is also given with a different plural prefix as Marotse. It will probably survive for general use.

Barotseland lies along both banks of the upper Zambezi, from the junction of the Kabompo and the Liambai to the junction of the Kwando and the main Zambezi at Kasungula. Barotseland proper was exceedingly unhealthy, and quite unfitted for European occupation. Politically, it may be also held to include the adjoining countries inhabited by the Batoka and the Bashukulumbwe — in short, the basins of the upper Zambezi and of the Kafue rivers. On the north it was bounded by Portuguese West Africa and the Congo Free State, on the east by British Central Africa (of which it was sometimes considered to form a geographical part), on the south by Rhodesia, and on the west by the German and Portuguese possessions.

Barotseland proper is the very marshy and unhealthy country along the banks of the upper Zambezi, which at certain seasons of the year spreads its floods far and wide. The extreme north of Barotseland is densely forested; elsewhere trees are few and far between. The Batoka and the Bashukulumbwe countries chiefly consist of plateaux with an average elevation of about 2500 feet, here and there rising into hills and mountain ranges of no great altitude. The river Kafue, which is also known as the Kafukwe and the Luenge, is the second most important river of Barotseland, and is by some geographers considered to have been the original head-waters of the Zambezi, in the days before the upper Zambezi by means of the crack known as the Victoria Falls was deflected towards the Indian Ocean.

The Luyana organized themselves under a kingship system around the 1600s. They were ruled by the litunga or king, assisted by a Lozi aristocracy. It is not certain whether the kingship system originated from the Lunda system or sacred shrines of the kalabo at the Luanginga tributaries.

The Lozi are a cluster of interrelated Bantu-speaking ethnic groups located along the Zambezi River in Barotse Floodplain Province of western Zambia. The Barotse Floodplain in western Zambia is home to some 250,000 people calling themselves the ‘Balozi’. These plains, also known as the Zambezi floodplains cover some 5,500 square kilometers and each year is subjected to a flood which virtually doubles this area for a few months of the year. The term Lozi refers both to the Lozi proper and to those groups that have become subject to and assimilated by the Lozi. These groups include the Kwanda, Makoma (Bamakoma), Mbowe (Mamboe), Mishulundu, Muenyi (Mwenyi), Mwanga, Ndundulu, Nygengo, Shanjo, and Simaa.

The country was invaded in the early part of the 19th century by ravagers from Bechuanaland across the Zambezi, a people who generally went by the name of Mokololo, but who eventually adopted the term Barotse. During the mid 1800s, the Lozi Kingdom was invaded by the Kololo, a Sotho speaking people, fleeing the turmoil of southern Africa, the dificane. Under the leadership of Sebetwane, the Kololo were able to bring the southern Lozi Kingdom under their control, with the Lozi leadership fleeing north. Under his succesor Sekeletu, the Lozi was treated as a farming slave class, serving the needs and wants of the Kololo. They were taxed excessively and sometimes sold to Ovimbundu slavers. In 1864, the Lozi aristocracy in the north was able to overthrow the Kololo and regain power.

The society consisted of slaves and commoners. It is estimated that 1/3 of Lozi society in the latter part of the 1800s were slaves. Lozi society was never stationary, due to flooding of the Zambezi. In the winter time, the populace moved to the drier uplands and journeyed back to the fertile flood plains. All was organized by the litunga. This movement took on a royal function lead by the litunga, in his large royal barge.

Cattle herding was a major activity. Cattle raiding was also undertaken by the army. Cattle raids of the Ila of the Kafue Valley was periodically undertaken. The army would also engaged in elephant hunts, for the ivory trade. Ivory was sold to Africans and Europeans for guns. Lozi society in the latter 1800s prospered. A mark of the aristocracy was to grow their fingernails, to indicate they did not do manual labor. The Shona language was introduced to the society after the Kololo conquest. Lozi society became more militaristic, after the conquest.

These Bechuana conquered Barotseland, and ruled it for about forty years, when an uprising among the indigenous Baloi drove them from power and replaced them by a native dynasty. Nevertheless, Bechuana influence in the country is very marked, and for some time the Bechuana language was the Court tongue. The present king of Barotseland is named Lewanika, and his capital city on the upper Zambezi is Lialui. Lewanika is a very enlightened monarch as African princes go, and rules his country with wisdom, and much under the advice of a Resident of the British South Africa Company and of French Protestant missionaries, who have long been settled in the country.

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Page last modified: 06-12-2016 14:29:23 ZULU