Chilanga Mulilo (Icilanga mulilo) is a local Zambian tradition that is practiced predominantly by people from the northern part of the country. It is also practiced in Eastern Zambia and termed Vipiko / Viphiko.
It is among the first public activities that are held leading to marriage. The most commonly known purpose of this function is to introduce the groom to the types of food that he will be eating once he marries into the family of the bride. There are also other meanings and purposes behind the ceremony that we will not go into in this article.
Depending on the family’s preference, this may be a low – key event with only a select few members of the bride’s family taking the food to the groom and his people or it may be a big colourful event where tens of women from the bride’s family take the food to the groom, clad in colourful chitenge wrappers and singing traditional songs. The groom invites his friends and family and they have a big celebration when the food has been delivered and bride’s family leaves.
As earlier mentioned, these functions used to be low key and hardly any décor or equipment was needed. But with time, and particularly in urban areas, they have become quite elaborate. The proud and happy groom will want to celebrate with his people and as such invites them to celebrate with him (usually about 50 people but may be less or more). These people need somewhere to sit, they need shade, and they will want to take photos to remember the big day.
A more low – key process may take place at the bride’s home after the food has been delivered to the groom. The most common occurrence is that after hours of labouring by the fire cooking the various traditional dishes and taking the food to the groom, the women go back to the bride’s home for lunch. The bride may have a fairly big celebration or may opt for something low key and it is becoming increasingly common for the bride to have a photobooth for her people to remember the day.
Here at Chilenje Event’s and Hire, one of our specialisations is providing décor for traditional Zambian ceremonies such as Chilanga Mulilo, Vipikho and Matebeto among others. Given the traditional nature of the function, it follows that the décor theme needs to resonate with that. Below is a feature Chilanga Mulilo that we recently did, hosted for a groom by his mother.
This is basically the face of the Chilanga Mulilo. It has become increasingly popular to have rustic boards decorated with various traditional items like vases, baskets, motors and pounding sticks etc. We include traditional reed chairs or peacock chairs with our décor. The photobooth may bear a message such as the above but it usually reads Chilenje’s Chilanga Mulilo or Chilenje’s Viphiko or most commons for the bride Cooked with Love etc.
We love this part of the décor. The colours for this particular event was yellow and white and as such, we alternated white and yellow table linen. On the tables were an assortment of rustic décor pieces such as stick underplates, napkins, table numbers and wooden napkin holders. Chitenge table runners and napkins completed this look.
The little details…
Chitenge napkins, drinking glasses and stick underplates give this traditional décor a very unique.
The groom’s special chair…
The groom is the king of the Chilanga Mulilo. Normally, the groom will be in the house with his people and the bride’s people will bring him the food and explain the significance of each dish. Occasionally, however, the house may not be big enough to accommodate all the people so the family may opt to hold this particular part of the event outside. In such an instant, the groom needs a special chair to sit on.
Tips for DIY
- Have fun with the photobooth. Pretty much any traditional items may be used to spruce up the photobooth. Instead of a grass carpet, you can use a reed mat (mpasa).
- Include the chitenge that the bride, groom and/or committee wear in the décor. This gives the décor a personal touch.
- Keep the message on the photobooth simple and short. Long messages make the board look busy and may not be visible when people stand in front of the photobooth. A simple Chilenje’s Chilanga Mulilo is perfect and to the point.