Chisungu: A Girls' Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Northern Rhodesia

Chisungu: A Girls' Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Northern Rhodesia

Chisungu: A Girls' Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Northern Rhodesia

Chisungu: A Girls' Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Northern Rhodesia

Excerpt

I watched the ceremony described in this book in 1931 while I was doing a year's anthropological research among the Bemba, the dominant tribe in North-eastern Rhodesia. In 1933 I returned to the same area and continued my work until 1934; but though I collected a number of additional comments on the rites known in that country as chisungu (cisungu), I never had the good fortune to attend another ceremony of the same kind.

Nevertheless, I thought it important to publish an account of the single chisungu I was able to see because such ceremonies are rapidly dying out in Central Africa. I think it certain that the chisungu is performed much less frequently now than during my two visits; it may even be quite extinct. I have written in the present tense in this book because I have not been able to revisit Lubemba to see what changes have taken place there. When I use such phrases as 'in the old days' or 'formerly' I refer to customs which were no longer evident at the time of my visit. When I use the present tense I refer to practices current between the years 1930 and 1934 when I was still living in the country.

Heavy teaching duties and a world war have prevented me from publishing this material for over twenty years. The delay has been unfortunate except from one point of view: the book now appears shortly after one entitled African Figurines written by my friend Hans Cory, and published by the same firm. Mr. Cory's book describes the pottery figurines used in initiation ceremonies which resemble the chisungu in many parts of East, Central and South Africa. In Tanganyika, where he has worked for many years, these rites are disappearing as rapidly as they are in Northern Rhodesia. Mr. Cory has made great efforts to collect as many of the figurines as possible while they could still be acquired. His book indicates the wide distribution of these pottery symbols in Tanganyika and their use as one of the teaching methods of the initiation cere-

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