Zambian children performing their traditional drama - Traditional costumes - Photo by Lubuto Library Project

Zambian children performing their traditional drama - Traditional costumes - Photo by Lubuto Library Project


Thousands of years ago, the Khosian people started to live in the Southern African landlocked country which is today known to the world as the Republic of Zambia. In the thirteenth century, Zambia was also affected from the colonization and became a fascinating place for the European expeditors. Zambia became the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century. On 24 October 1964, Zambia got independence from the United Kingdom.

Zambian children performing their traditional drama - Traditional costumes - Photo by Lubuto Library Project
Zambian children performing their traditional drama – Traditional costumes – Photo by Lubuto Library Project

Zambia has a huge territory and it has the area about the size of France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland combined. The population is around 15 million and the country is considered as the most urban country of Africa.  The population comprises approximately 72 ethnic groups, most of which are Bantu-speaking. Expatriates, mostly British or South African, as well as some white Zambian citizens, live mainly in Lusaka and in the Copper belt in northern Zambia.

Women of rural Zambia - Image by skuarua
Women of rural Zambia – Image by skuarua

The culture of Zambia is slightly different from the other native African nations as the people of Zambia are comparatively modern and having urban living tendencies. However, the ethnic populations who mainly dwell around Lusaka and the Copper belt have still the values, norms, material and spiritual traditions inherited from their origin.

A Zambian lady in her traditional dress with her kid - Image by IICD
A Zambian lady in her traditional dress with her kid – Image by IICD

Zambians celebrate many annual traditional festivals where they exhibit their customs, social life, rituals, oral history, material and spiritual culture.

Barefoot acrobats of Zambia with traditional masks - Image  by Lubuto Library Project
Barefoot acrobats of Zambia with traditional masks – Image by Lubuto Library Project

It is hard to find the Zambians wearing their traditional costumes in their modern lifestyle. They wear western dresses in their day to day affairs. The reflection of the traditional dress of Zambia is only seen during their participation in the festive events where they celebrate rituals as their ancestors used to do centuries ago. The traditional dress of Zambia is although rare but unique in nature and is a cluster of painted masks, fiber wigs and headdresses, skirts made with fiber and animal skins and ornaments of beads and rattles. By wearing such traditional costumes, the Zambians represent the souls of their ancestors, monsters, clowns, majestic animals and spirits.

Lozi fishermen of Zambia n their traditional costumes - Image by Alexander Brugger
Lozi fishermen of Zambia n their traditional costumes – Image by Alexander Brugger

Zambians also traditionally wear “Chitenge”, which is a dress made with the African cotton and it is also worn in many other African countries. The Lozi people of Zambia have also a unique traditional dress which is actually a flared outfit (both for men and women) and known as “Musisi”. The men wear the flared skirt along with a waistcoat having the traditional African print. A red colored hat is also very common in the Lozi men which are usually made with cotton fabric.

Women of the remote Zambia - Image courtesy by virtualwayfarer
Women of the remote Zambia – Image courtesy by virtualwayfarer

The Lozi women of Zambia wear a large skirt extending from the waist in a conical shape. Whether it is Chitenge or Musisi, their dresses are usually made with colorful patterns. Sometimes, the women dresses may also be rectangular in shapes. The head scarves worn by the Zambian women are normally made with the same smaller pieces of the cloth. Modesty reflects from the traditional way of clothing of women in Zambia as they cover the private parts of their bodies, from their waist down, and even over trousers.

Zambian women dancing in their traditional costumes - Photo  by  rebecca (flickr)
Zambian women dancing in their traditional costumes – Photo by rebecca (flickr)

The traditional dress of Zambia is although rare but unique in its nature. If you walk along the streets of Lusaka and other major cities, you’ll find many vendors selling the traditional chitenges in various colors and designs. Some markets are specifically known for the selling of the typical Chitenge and Musisi dresses in Zambia.

 

 

 

 

A traditional Bemba man performng his traditional show - Photo by Lubuto Library Project
A traditional Bemba man performng his traditional show – Photo by Lubuto Library Project

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2 thoughts on “Traditional dress of Zambia: Rare but unique in nature

  1. Greetings, I’ve enjoyed your post but you need to check your population statistic! Much closer to 15 million people live here, not 1.2 million.
    Best

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