Waters rising
Issue 5 (May 2009) The Kuomboka ceremony in western Zambia is one of Africa’s most impressive cultural spectacles. It takes place every March or April, when the rising waters of the Zambezi flood the plains of Barotseland, and celebrates the movement of the Lozi people and their cattle to higher ground. The Litunga (king of the Lozi) is conveyed on a royal barge and arrives to a rapturous reception at Limulunga, his winter palace.


Photographer Thys van der Merwe is based in KwaZulu-Natal and runs photographic tours across southern Africa. His interest started during his schooldays, when he acquired a very old Yashica Mat camera from his dad, and has always centred upon nature and wildlife. “Being there at the right time and place with the right equipment takes patience and practice,” explains Thys, “not just buying the best and most expensive camera gear in town.” His work has been published in magazines and books all over the world. See more at www.vividafrica.co.za


ImageSetting out
A ceremonial elephant statue marks out the royal barge, or nalikwande, as a flotilla of smaller craft accompany its progress across the floodplain.

All together now
It takes a team of dedicated polers and sheer muscle power to convey the massive barge through the shallow waters.





ImageJoining the throng
Crowds flock to Mongu, the regional capital, as they wait for the festivities to begin.


Making a splash
All ages enjoy taking to the water – with or without a boat.







ImageThe final stretch
The nalikwande approaches the royal palace in late afternoon to the pounding of drums and cheering of spectators.


Party time
The dancing and celebrations continue into the evening.



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