Mukuni Village, originally called Gundu, is a Royal village which was founded by the Leya tribe around the 13th Century.
The chief has invited visitors into his village to get a glimpse of how his people have lived for generations and to learn a little about their traditional customs and beliefs. The Chief’s guides and the people of the village are more than happy to show visitors their huts and take you inside, explain how they are built and decorated, introduce you to various craftsmen and women at work and ask you to taste some traditional foods and beer. This is a rual working village, not a purpose built tourist attraction, and it is a privilege to be welcomed into their lifestyle.
Just seven kilometers from the Victoria Falls lies Mukuni Village in the Kazungula District of Southern Province. It was renamed in the seventeenth century to Mukuni Village in honour of Mukokalya Mukuni N’gombe and is home to about 7,000 Leya people.
Life here goes on pretty much as usual, even with a few tourists around; though, curios are for sale. Mukuni Village is situated on a dry, sandy knoll. The soil is relatively infertile and they cannot rely on agriculture. Therefore they have turned to tourism introducing insight into the Leya people’s cultural inheritance with a wonderful developing curios market, selling intricate wood carvings, stoneware, jewellery and baskets. In September you can experience the Luwindi, a unique and impressive ancient Mukuni village ceremony.
There are over 100 villages in the Mukuni Chiefdom, with twelve schools and four rural health centres at Mukuni, N’Songwe, Katapazi and Mahalulu.
Please do not bring handouts for the children, however donations to the local school are always welcome. If you are lucky, meetings with Chief Mukuni can sometimes be arranged. Remember to dress modestly in any rural setting (especially woman) and ask before taking photos.
■ David Livingstone visited this village on more than one occasion, sitting under a giant mango tree in the middle of the square, to meet with the current chief . As the Chief viewed David Livingstone as an unbeliever, he was not allowed into the chief’s compound. It was also two men from this village, long time retainers of David Livingstone, who carried his body all the way to the coast after he died near Lake Bangweulu. The descendants of these men still live in the village.
■ When Dr David Livingstone or Munali as he was known to Africans, met with Munokalya Mukuni (Royal of Royals), neither of them realised they shared one thing in common – the name “Livingstone”. One of the rituals during coronation transforms the Mukuni title holder into the “Living Stone”. And when he dies his death is officially announced as the “Living Stone is Shattered”.
■Chief Mukuni jointly rules the Victoria Falls region with a queen known as Be Dyango.
■ Thus the Mukuni monarch practices a dual kinship system between male and female lineages. Because of this dual rule arrangement which is present even at village level, gender imbalance is on a comparatively small scale in this culture.
■ It is found in family management level but is well balanced in rural power sharing. In this culture, it is the women who decide and manage the cultural issues including land allocation whereas men carry management of the day to day running of the village
■ The current Chief Mukuni is a modern and enterprising man who is promoting tourism in his area while trying to minimise the adverse impact it might have on his people’s way of life.