Flirting with Power? Nakafwaya, the Greatest Mwadi (Queen) to Re-Invert the Kingdom of Mwata Kazembe

  • Meldad L. Chama Kwame Nkrumah University - Zambia
  • Terry Kanyembo Muwang'uni Secondary School, Mansa- Zambia
Keywords: : Power brokering; Panegyric; Royal Praises; Polyandry, Mwadi


Lunda history is not short of reference to women. The marriage between a Lunda queen (Ruweji) and a Luba prince (Cibinda Ilunga) revolutionised precolonial central Africa by merging two dominant political and cultural systems in Central Africa. Arguably, this revolution which led to the first de facto Lunda expansion was caused by a woman, Ruweji. The power of women in Lunda historiography is evident in the making, expansion and sometimes undoing of the Eastern Lunda kingdom of Mwata Kazembe. Kafuti or Nakafwaya is the most respected Lunda queen whose reign coincided with the most tumultuous period in the history of Mwata Kazembe. Marrying five brothers (four being successive Mwata Kazembes-Lunda Kings) was not a simple feat. Notorious, beautiful, sexy and flirtatious, and a master political and military strategist, Nakafwaya’s role in reinverting the Lunda Kingdom of Mwata Kazembe between 1850 and 1900 needs reassessing. The role of women in power brokering and consolidation, and the woman’s ‘flirting’ with power in traditional Lunda society is the main theme in this paper. The article demonstrates that Nakafwaya’s ascension to the Lunda throne gave her real power because the Lunda power structures allowed women to exercise both symbolic and real power. Other positions of power for women in Lunda society will also be discussed. The article reconstructed the status of women in traditional Lunda society by using oral information and the genetic method. That is, by understanding the Mwadiship (Queenship), from its origins to the times of Kafuti, we will illuminate on ‘women and power’ in pre-colonial eastern Lunda society. Thus, the evolution of the Mwadiship will also be understood by placing it within the times or realities and actions of Nakafwaya.