IndexAfricaZambia → Nkoya


Featured: Kaonde, Nkoya, Tonga, Ila, Bemba, Ndembu, Mambwe / Amambwe, Luvale, Lozi



Van Binsbergen ([1987])[1] related that Nkoya girl’s initiation rite “[…] is the celebration through which she shall finally become a woman, after months of seclusion in which the only manner she could set a step out of doors was in a stooping position and covered by a blanket; after months of rough sexual and social teachings from the part of her mentrix and other elderly women in the evenings”.


“Great emphasis lies on the acquisition of an adult female sexual role. The girl is taught to enlarge her vagina till three fingers can go in; she is taught to wiggle and incline her pelvis during the coitus; and acquires knowledge about secret herbs that (unfortunately at the cost of damage to her fertility) prevent vaginal secretion — to serve the Nkoya male ideal: penetration in a bone-dry vagina. She has already been setting herself to make her labia larger than nature provides: starting in her ninth or tenth year up until her coming-out ceremony, the girl spends hundreds of hours, by herself or in company of girl-friends, indoors or somewhere in an open spot in the woods, stretching these parts of her body until they have reached an extra length of some centimetres [note: Could not this custom, which in Bantu-speaking Africa seems by no means unique to the Nkoya, again be interpreted as an attempt to imitate another physical feature of the pre-Bantu Khoisan inhabitants: their enlarged labia? Cf. van Binsbergen, in press]”.



The circumcision rite is called Mukanda[2]. “However, absence of male puberty rites put the men at both an ideological and an organizational disadvantage, as against the rich development of Nkoya female puberty ceremonies”.







Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Van Binsbergen, W. M. J. (1987) De schaduw waar je niet overheen mag stappen: Een westers onderzoeker op het Nkoja meisjesfeest, in Van Binsbergen, W. M. J. & Doornbos, M. (Eds) Afrika in Spiegelbeeld. Haarlem [Holland]: In de Knipscheer, p139-82 [Dutch]. Translated as “The shadown you shall not step upon: A Western researcher at the girl's coming-out ceremony of the Nkoya” at http://www.shikanda.net/african_religion/girls.htm. Also as chapter in Van Binsbergen, W. M. J. (2003) Intercultural encounters: African and anthropological lessons towards a philosophy of interculturality. Berlin/Muenster: LIT, p93-124

[2]Van Binsbergen, W. M. J. (1993) Mukanda: Towards a history of circumcision rites in western Zambia, 18th-20th century, in: J.-P. Chretien, avec collaboration de C.-H.Perrot, G. Prunier & D. Raison-Jourde (Eds.) L’invention religieuse en Afrique: Histoire et religion en Afrique noire. Paris: Agence de Culture et de Cooperation Technique/Karthala, p49-103