How to Name Your Compound: place names in Zambia

Thanks to a friend of mine, I have become a regular at the huge second hand clothes market. The taxi driver I always use is not only reasonable but is something of a mine for information on the history of Lusaka. When driving me to the market recently he mentioned that it is on a large compound called ‘mandevu.’ Now I know ‘mandevu’ means beard in the local language Nyanja, so I of course asked why the compound was called, well, ‘beard’. He explained that mostly Zimbabweans had settled there years ago and they had the habit of shaving their heads but leaving their beards to grow. Zambians would refer to Zimbabweans as ‘the ones with beards’ and as a result the compound where they lived adopted the name ‘beard’.


July 13, 2010 8 comments

The Chitenge – A Zambian fashion essential

When I lived in the more rural area of Eastern Province in Zambia there was a nearby hospital that regularly had volunteers from abroad. We would often see them walking down the road, enjoying the sunshine in their shorts or mini-skirts.

One day a Zambian colleague came and asked why so many white women he saw would cover the top parts of their body but would show their legs and thighs in short skirts. This was not an unreasonable query for someone who comes from a culture where breastfeeding openly is not an issue but where if you are female you must keep everything covered from your midriff down to below your thighs. In Zambia this area of the body is seen as the erotic area and shouldn’t be shown, not even in trousers.

Zambian ladies sporting their chitenges
Ladies of the village sporting their chitenges


May 19, 2010 12 comments

Nshima and Zambia's food culture

As I walked past the ever-expanding Manda Hill shopping centre one lunch-time, I caught the smell of wood smoke and food.

Surprised, I looked around to find the source. In the corner of the construction site were a group of builders in blue uniforms involved in the important business of cooking nshima.

Unlike pretty much anywhere else I have lived, in Zambia, if you know how to build a fire you can find a little space, by the side of the road or on a patch of wasteland, to cook nshima. Everyday, our very own caretakers stoke up their fire and soon the pungent perfume of kapenta – the small dry fish they usually eat – wafts onto my patio. Their fire is a simple affair: a couple of bricks topped by a small iron grill, with a few dry sticks underneath as the fire itself.


April 21, 2010 10 comments

The Rains Continue in Zambia

In all the years we lived in Zambia we have never seen rains like this season has brought. Our lawn has become waterlogged and is actually growing algae, the old abandoned pool on our compound has become a dark green lagoon. Water is gushing through drains and across roads.


It’s interesting how weather can change one’s perception of a landscape. I am a Brit and therefore used to rain and murky weather. (more…)

March 22, 2010 7 comments

Zambian dried fish

This photo of dried fish in Zambia was contributed by Liz Watkin. Thanks for sharing, Liz!

dried local fish, Zambia

Does anyone know what kind of fish it is?

If you liked this, check out our Food of the World photo group on Flickr to see more photos posted by PocketCultures readers around the world. We’d love to see yours too! Just join the group and add your photos.

Read more:
Lake Titicaca trout, from Bolivia
Cooking chapati in Nairobi, Kenya
Japanese breakfast: dried fish here, too

March 12, 2010 1 comment