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Barotseland (Zambia)

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: barotseland | litunga | lozi |
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[Barotseland flag] image by Dirk Schönberger, 7 Mar 2001 See also:

Barotseland flag

The flag of the Barotse, or Lozi, who inhabit western Zambia is described in Minahan's "Nations Without States" as being red with a broad white diagonal stripe running from upper hoist to lower fly. The line drawing shows the diagonal stripe as evenly centered, so that its mid-line intersects the corners at both ends.
Ned Smith, 17 Feb 2001

Crampton's Grote Geïllustreerde Vlaggengids, 1990, comments that the flag of the Chief of Barotseland is red with a white elephant.
Jarig Bakker, 23 Dec 2001

It is interesting to see that Barotseland has a current flag, as well as one dating back a century. I wonder if the Lotse realised that they had adopted a device closely resembling the diver's flag! In the history of Barotseland I thought I ought to correct one misspelling, and underline another point not fully brought out in your chronology. The Sotho-speaking people who conquered them were the Kololo or Bakololo ("ba-" is a plural-forming prefix). (This appears on your page as Kalolo.) They were previously known by another name, but adopted the name Kololo following a certain battle during the Difaqane (this is the South Sotho name; in isiNguni it is called the Mfecane) - this was the period of inter-tribal warfare in South Africa sparked off by the Zulu King Shaka's conquests, which devastated the areas later occupied by the Afrikaner Voortrekkers. The name Kololo appears to be the given name of a woman whose fate was closely tied to the battle in question. Following the battle, the Kololo headed north, eventually reaching the vicinity of the Victoria Falls. (The Falls were not given their present name until the arrival of the Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone. The Kololo called the Falls Mosi oa Tunya - the smoke that thunders! [The "oa" is pronounced 'wa", consistent with normal Sotho spelling]).   What is unique about the Kololo conquest is that it is the only conquest north of the present-day borders of South Africa that was carried out by a Sotho-speaking group. Other Mfecane conquests were carried out in (to give the current names of the countries) southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, central and northern Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi, but these were all the work of Nguni groupings.
Secondly, while the Lotse royal house regained control over the nation following the death of the Kololo king, one major consequence of the conquest that it could not undo was the adoption of a Sotho language (forced on them under Kololo rule). To this day the Lotse people speak a form of Sesotho. The tribal name is written in Zambia as Barotse, but the language was also recorded across the German border in Caprivi by German missionaries, resulting in the spelling Lozi. (Since this is a German spelling, the Z stands for the sound TS.). I do not know for certain why there is a distinction between the letter R in the first spelling and L in the second, but I would imagine this is one linguistic characteristic left over from the original Rotse/Lotse language. This characteristic is remarked upon by South Africans as occurring among both Zambians and Malawians: an inability to pronounce consistently the sounds R and L as used in European languages. Like the Japanese, the
Bantu-speaking peoples of these regions use these sounds in particular positions in the word, and to European ears they seem to be used inconsistently. The name Malawi (given to the country) is also found as an ethnic group's name: Maravi. Not knowing much about the sounds in Malawian languages, I can't fully explain the differences, but I can say that the W in Malawi (as pointed out on the page for that country, the W carries a circumflex accent) sounds something like a V.

Finally, the Barotse king has an admiral's uniform that is worn during an important annual ceremony. Once a year the Zambezi rises and floods the grazing lands most used by the Barotse. The people take to boats and convey their household goods to high-lying land in a ceremony over which the king presides in his naval uniform.  
Mike Oettle, 21 Dec 2001

According to\ia-zambia.html Barotseland proclaimed its independence on 27 March 2012  and is to secede from Zambia. On the page is an image of the flag of Barotseland.  More information can be found here.
Jaume Ollé, 13 April 2012

Barotseland flag (1890)


[Barotseland 1890 flag] image by Chris Kretowicz, 7 Apr 2001

The flag of Barotseland (from Minahan's book), indicated by Ned Smith above and drawin by Dirk Schönberger is most likely the flag of the contemporary Barotse Patriotic Front (BPF).  Barotseland did have a simple, yet beautiful, flag granted at the end of XIXth century. I'm sending the image of that flag.

XIX Century - Kingdom of Lozi
1838 - Conquest by Kalolo (SeSotho from present-day Lesotho)
1864 - Lozi regained their independence
1890-1900 - Lewanika, Lozi Paramount Chief, signed treaties with  British South Africa Company seeking protection.  (This flag originated at this time)
1911 -  Lozi Kingdom became officially a province of the Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia with considerable autonomy.
1960s - Paramount Chief (Likunga) - Sir Mwanamina III Lewanika negotiated accession of Barotseland to the new nation of Zambia and was assured by Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of the preservation of the Barotseland autonomy after Zambia's independence
1964 - Shortly after its birth, Zambia start reneging on the Barotse Agreement causing growing oppostion to the inclusion of Barotseland into Zambia.
1999 -  Barotse Patriotic Front leader, Imasiku Mutangelwa, openly supports rebellion of Lozi ethnic kinfolk against Namibian government in the Caprivi Strip insinuating desire to unite all Lozi (MaLozi) people in a separate state of Barotseland.
Chris Kretowicz, 7 Apr 2001

On reading this Barotse chronology, I saw a reference to the "Kalolo" being from present-day Lesotho. This is misleading, as present-day Lesotho takes its shape and settlement pattern from the so-called Basuto Wars fought with the Oranje Vrij Staat (Orange Free State). Within the present territory of Lesotho, only the left bank of the Caledon River was Sotho territory before the Difaqane. The mountainous regions of the present-day kingdom were Bushman territory, ignored by Sotho-speakers. The Sotho-speaking territory covered all but the south-western corner of what became the Orange Free State (the current Free State Province in South Africa). I believe it is still not certainly determined where the Kololo came from within that region, but it's safe to say that they came from the Free State, not Lesotho. Sotho-speaking people occupied stone-built villages in the central Free State from about AD 1000 until the time of the Difaqane, when the communities that lived in them were either massacred or forced to flee. The ruins of these villages have been uncovered in the second half of the 20th century.

There is a reference to the Kololo people as being SeSotho. This is wrong on two points:
Firstly, in Sotho orthography, the ethnic name is not given a capital letter following a prefix (in isiNguni, the ethnic name is always capped [as in KwaZulu, or amaXhosa], but the prefix often is not).
Secondly, the word Sesotho refers to language and culture, not to people. The people are called Basotho (or in Botswana and South Africa's North West Province, Batswana). An individual Sotho is called a Mosotho. Two prefixes are used to indicate a place or country: "le-" and "bo-". The first prefix is used in the name Lesotho (the kingdom). The second appears not only in Botswana, but also in Bosotho (an alternate name for Sekhukhuniland, in the North Sotho country of the former Lebowa homeland of South Africa).
Arising from this discussion on prefixes, it seems that Malozi is a misuse of a prefix, since there is probably confusion between Balotse (the people, or more than one individual) and Molotse (an individual).
Mike Oettle, 21 Dec 2001

It is worth noting that the red flag with the white diagonal stripe is the old flag of Barotseland (i.e. up to 1964).
John Duncan McKeekin, 02 Apr 2011

Lozi (?) flag


[Lozi (?) flag] scan by Jarig Bakker, 23 Dec 2001

On this webpage is a small photograph of a big canoe with a triangular flag in front.  The flag is too small to identify what is on it, but it is associated with the ceremony, named Ku-omboka, and the site has this description:
"The Ku-ombokav -
The name means "to get out of the water onto dry ground". Every year towards the end of the rainy season as the flood plain of the upper Zambezi valley rises, the Lozi people make a ceremonial move to higher ground. When the Chief decides that it's time to leave (anytime from February to May), the drums signal to all the people. They pack their belongings into canoes and the whole tribe leaves en mass. The chief in his barge with his family and a troop of traditionally dressed paddlers, in the lead. It takes about six hours to cover the distance between the dry season capital Lealui, and the wet season capital Limulunga. There
the successful move is celebrated with traditional singing and dancing. This ceremony dates back more than 300 years when the Lozi people broke away from the great Lunda Empire to come and settle in the upper regions of the Zambezi. The vast plains with abundant fish was ideal for settlement but the annual floods could not be checked, so every year they move to higher ground until the rainy season passes."

The Lozi live in what was formerly Barotseland; the Lozi claim descent from the Mwata Yamvo empire (on the watershed between present day Zambia and Congo/Zaire. The Lozi rulers claim descent from Ngoni/Nguni rulers from present day Free State province in South Africa, AKA Makololo.
Jarig Bakker, 23 Dec 2001

Lozi people are not only found in Zambia, Botswana and D.R. Congo but also in Namibia too. The Caprivian people, living in Caprivi strip of Nambia, are a Lozi speaking people.  Indeed, when in 1999 the Caprivian Liberation Army try to take over Katima Mulilo (main city of Caprivi) the Namibian authorities blamed Zambia because the Barotseland Patriotic Front, led by Imasiku Mutangelwa, was believed to support the Caprivi secessionists.
Santiago Tazon, 23 Dec 2001

Litunga flag

[Litunga flag] image sent by Heather Chalcraft, 15 Apr 2003

Herewith a picture of the flag currently used by the Litunga (the King of the Lozi people). 
Heather Chalcraft, 15 Apr 2003

The Royal Standard of H.R.H. The Litunga of Barotseland is the Elephant Flag with the narrow golden border.
John Duncan McKeekin, 02 Apr 2011