According to Clement M. Doke, the Lamba kingdom' (chiefdom) is estimated to have been established in the 16th century, between 1585 – 1889. The founder of the tribe is believed to have been a female known as Chembo Kasako Chimbala. She was the youngest wife of the Great King Mwati Yamvwa of the Luba-Lunda kingdom; she did not accept being part of a polygamous marriage, so she fled with her son Chembo and settled in what is today known as: Lambaland (Ilamba) on the Copperbelt at Nkashiba Kabena Mofya (Lake of the Mofya clan), commonly known as St Anthony because the Catholics built a church there. The Kingdom grew and spread into the Southern part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the Katanga Province, a province equally rich in copper. Therefore, whether you are in Zambia or in DRC, the Copperbelt of both countries is squarely Lambaland (Ilamba).
Lamba is ‘the act of humbling oneself’. The Lambas are generally very humble people in nature. ‘The people are divided into a number of exogamous clans and the clan descent is matrilineal. The Lambas may be described as hunting agriculturists. Physically, they are of medium built and remarkably robust and strong. Linguistically the Lambas belong to the Central Bantu Group of which ubulamba is a typical example. Their language is remarkably rich in folk- and proverb-lore and they take great delight in talking. Practically every Lamba is a born orator, unafraid to voice his views, no matter what size the assembly may be’ (Doke 1931: 28-29).
There is one main ruling clan namely: Abena Mishishi (hair clan) The following are Abena Mishishi chiefs of Ilamba (Lambaland):
- Chief Mushili (Zambia) – Designated Senior Chief officially by the Colonial government by mistake and the mistake was adopted by the Zambian government, but to the Lambas at all levels of discussion, Senior Chief Mushili is their Paramount chief and is accorded respect by all the Lamba people and chiefs accordingly.
- Chief Lesa (Zambia)
- Chief Selenje (Zambia)
- Chief Kalilele (Zambia)
- Chief Mkambo (Zambia)
- Chief Mukutuma (Zambia)
- Chief Shibuchinga (Zambia)
- Chief Nkana (Zambia)
- Chief Shimukunami (Zambia)
- Chief Chiwala (Zambia)
- Chief Saili (DRC) (Lumbembe village)
- Chief Katala (DRC) (Mokambo village)
- Chief Mfundamina (DRC) (Mfundamina and Nshinshimuka villages)
- Chief Kombo (DRC) (between Mokambo and Lubumbashi rural areas)
- Chief Katanga (DRC) (Katanga Province is named after the Lamba Chief) (Lubumbashi rural areas).
- Chief Nsakanya (DRC) (Sakania rural area)
Abena kashishi (rope clan)
- Chief Kaponda (DRC) (Kipushi and Kolwezi rural areas)
- Chief Nshindaika (DRC) (Likasi rural area)
Abena Nyendwa (Leg Clan)
- Chief Ndubeni (Zambia)
- Chief Lumpuma (Zambia)
- Chief Malembeka (Zambia)
- Chief Kalunkumya (Zambia)
- Chief Fungulwe (Zambia)
Abena Nsoka (Serpent clan)
- Chief Machiya (Zambia)
Abena Bwali (Nshima clan)
- Chief Chilukusha (Zambia)
In total there are 25 Lamba chiefs: 4 female chiefs and 13 male chiefs in Zambia and 8 chiefs in the DRC. In the past, the chief had the power of life and death and in certain circumstances he/she would order someone to be jailed, executed or be sold into slavery and that was without doubt. That authority was inherited and overtime that has been enshrined in all of the people that have grown up in that culture. Despite many years of urbanization, the Lambas still maintain their culture and traditions. However to understand their practices; one must analyze them through the lenses of the Lambas themselves.
As early as 1931, Doke had the following confession to make about the Lambas:
- …understand better the people and their point of view…this is a record of the thoughts and lives of the people as far I can observe them, unaffected by Christianizing and the influence of Western civilization….I can only say that I wish I had more knowledge of the significance of the native customs when I first went to work among the Lambas. I should have been saved from many grievous mistakes and many misjudgments. The ability to see through the Bantu eyes will give the missionary and the officials’ better understanding and more sympathy with the people, and a greater ability to gain their confidence (Doke 1931: 9).