Ila people


Ila / Illa / Babila / Baila / Sukulumbwe / Shukulumbwe

Ila, also called Baila, Sukulumbwe, or Shukulumbwe, a Bantu-speaking people inhabiting an area west of Lusaka, the national capital of Zambia. The Ila-Tonga cluster consists of about 12 dialect groups, including the Lozi, Koba, Lenje, Tonga, Totela, Ila, and others.

The Ila people make up 0.8 percent of the total population.

Ila people

Illa People  also known as Babila People can be found in Zambia , they are related to others part of the Bantu speaking people and their language including their culture some are related to the Tonga and they mainly live in Namwala district , which is the principal towns such as Illa , Itezi – Tehzi and Mumbwa districts spread across the 17 Chiefdoms of Illa .  It is said they live in the east – central Zambia along the bend of Kafue river



The Ila combine agriculture with animal husbandry. Men hunt, fish, and clear land, while women gather foods from the countryside and are responsible for most of the cultivation. Early in the 20th century, crops such as corn (maize), sorghum, millet, beans, peanuts (groundnuts), and yams were cultivated by hoe techniques and shifting land use. Since that time the Ila have overcome an aversion to forcing cattle into harnesses, and animal-drawn plowing has supplanted the hoe culture. They possess large numbers of cattle and consume a considerable amount of milk.

They grow crops such as coconut , cassava , mushrooms , rice , onions , tomatoes , oranges and other crops , they also raised or keep animals such as chickens , goats , pigs on a small scale , and occasionally cows , though that is usually for tradition and prestige .


Culture and traditions

They believed that cows are a sign of wealth and value undergirds  in their tradition  festivals ceremony lasts several days, on the 7th day after the burial, cows are slaughtered also It is believed that more that are killed, the greater value  the death of the person  in the eyes of the community afterward, everyone goes home with enough meat to compensate  for time spent at funerals. The Shimunenga cattle drive of Illa people, Shimunenga cattle drive is practiced by Ila people of Zambia in Namwala Southern province, this tradition is practiced in the memory of a warrior.

The Ila People are well known for celebrating the Shimunenga traditional ceremony in Maala, Namwala district.

The funeral ceremony lasts several days. On the day after burial, cows are slaughtered. It is believed that the more that are killed, the greater the value of the dead person in the eyes of the community. Afterward, everyone goes home with enough meat to compensate for the time spent at the funeral.

In their Culture during the month of October they celebrate harvest festival and Shimunenga celebrated in September , Shimunenga  is held to show respect to their ancestors by thanking them for abundant of food and providing them good health through the year , It takes place once a year and the beginning of the next year , It is held in Maala on the kafue flats three days .  In their Culture they perform dances such as Lao’laxa Ameklu , Inkazo , Mpango , Shikampa , Katazula and other types of traditional  dances.



Political system

The Ila did not operate within a centralized political system; an autonomous mwami (chief) presided over each of a number of independent shishi (territories). Their villages were governed by headmen and councils of elders.

The Ila appear to recognize kinship by both male and female links, depending upon circumstances and purposes. Marriage expenses or bride price in cattle, blankets, shells, and hoes were provided primarily by the husband’s matrilineal relations, but assistance was also given by patrilineal relations; after marriage the extended-family compound of the husband’s father was the usual residence. The Ila traditionally worship Leza (the supreme being) and the spirits of family ancestors, but missionaries opened schools in the 1920s, and many of the Ila are now Christian.



The Ila are closely related in language and culture to their more numerous Tonga neighbours in Southern Province. The Ila people mainly reside in Namwala District, which is the principal town for the Ila, Itezhi-Tezhi and Mumbwa districts spread across seventeen chiefdoms.



The Ila-speaking peoples and their neighbours on all sides belong to the Bantu subdivision of the Africans, and their ancestors in remote times must have come down from the southern Sudan. It may be judged from linguistic evidence, to separate lines of immigration. The Ba-ila in the main belong to the Eastern Bantu, and came into their present domain on the crest of a wave of emigration from the north-east, from the country around the southern end of Lake Tanganyika, where the Bantu found a new motherland, a second focus and radius of development. But they have were evidently influenced by, and to some extent intermixed with, peoples of another section, which, after passing from the north-east through the Congo territory towards the west coast, curled* back again towards the centre of the continent in a south-easterly direction. These statements are made on linguistic grounds. The closest affinities to Ila are found in a line of dialects stretching from the Subia on the Zambezi to the Bemba on Lake Tanganyika, and including midway the Tonga, Lenje, Bisa, and others. Many cult words, such as Leza (" the Supreme Being"), chisungu ("the pubertyrites"),are common to these dialects and are not known in the west ; while in Ila we have such words as tonda (" taboo"), evidently brought from the west (cf. the Kele word orunda), and ifuka (" nine "), the root of which (buka) is found only among the West African Bantu. The Ba-ila. According to themselves, the pucka Ba-ila their region, called Bwila, as defined by themselves and as delineated on the map, is a small one. Like most African tribal names, it is difficult to determine its meaning.The word Ila, standing alone, may mean several things : it is a verb, " to go to " or " go for," and Ba-ila might mean " the people going off." Ila also means " a distended intestine," also " a grain of corn." But none of these is satisfactory. Ila is also one form of the verb zhila, " be taboo, set apart," corresponding to sacer, hagios,haram. It is an old Bantu root : Suto, ila ; Zulu, zila ; Ronga, yila ; Herero, zera ; Nyanja, yera ; Upper Congo, kila cf.Ganda, omuzira, a totem. It occurs also in some tribal names, e.g. Bashilange. " they who taboo the leopard." This is, we think, the derivation of the name Ba-ila : " The people who are taboo, set apart " ; they are the Hagioi ; in short, the people. This certainly answers very well to the intelligent spirit of the people.

Ila people