Balovale means the Lovale people, also spelled Luvale and also called (in Angola) the Luena or Lwena, an ethnic group in Zambia and Angola. In Zambia they are found mainly in the North-Western Province of Zambia, centred in the town of Zambezi which was previously called Balovale. Some Zambian Luvale have left their ancestral lands for economic reasons and can be found in other locations in Zambia such as Lakanga Swamp. There is also considerable Rural-Urban migration to Lusaka. In Angola they reside in eastern Moxico Province.
The Lovale people are not united under one paramount chief but are composed of a number of subgroups speaking the Lovale language or dialects of it. The Luvale language (sometimes called Lwena) is a west central Bantu language, and a tonal language. The Lovale are closely related to the Chokwe who ended the Lunda Kingdom, and Chokwe and Lunda people also live in the same area. Within Zambia the Luvale are famous for their traditional beliefs in witchcraft or voodoo which are still commonly practised, in both rural and urban areas. The Lovale people together with the Chokwe, Luchazi and Mbunda are famous for the Makishi dancers who perform a masquerade in intricate masks and costumes.
The Zambian Makishi Festival
In Zambia the Luvale people hold the 'Makishi festival' to mark the end of the 'kumukanda' (or 'initiation'). Every 5 years or so, boys from the same age group (young teenagers) are taken into the bush for 1–2 months where they undergo several rites of passage into manhood. These involve learning certain survival skills, learning about women and how to be a good husband, learning about fatherhood, and also they are circumcised. The Luvale consider uncircumcised men to be dirty or unhygienic. It is said that in some very rural areas where the kumukanda is maintained in its strictest traditional sense that if a woman is to pass by the boy's 'bushcamp' whilst they are undergoing kumukanda then she must be punished, even killed. To celebrate the boys' completion of the kumukanda the Makishi festival welcomes them back to the village as men. The night before men from the village take their masks to the graveyard and sleep there, allowing the spirits of their ancestors to enter them. The following evening they appear in the village with their masks. Although the other members of the community know roughly who is taking part, they do not know who is under which mask. The masks represent specific characters: Pwebo (a female character... 'pwebo' meaning 'woman' in Luvale) and Chizaluke amongst others.
In the Swedish 1997 murder mystery novel "Faceless Killers", Inspector Kurt Wallander investigates a murderous racist attack on a refugee center in Skane and finds it difficult to communicate with a witness who speaks only the Luvale language. The problem is resolved when a 90-year old former woman missionary is found, who speaks Luvale fluently and acts as the interpreter.
- University of Iowa: Art & Life in Africa, Luvale People website access 1 March 2007.
- Times of Zambia - Witchcraft exists, admits Chief Munyumbwe of Gwembe district accessed 1 Dec 2007.
- "The Makarishi Masquerade", UNESCO website accessed 1 March 2007.