Lenje people (also known as Bene Mukuni, Balenje, Balenge, Benimukuni, Ciina mukuna, Lenge, Lengi ) is an ethnic group in Zambia.
They are loosely bound with its spatial and cultural boundaries shifting, depending on whom you talk to. They live mainly in the Central province but also in Lusaka and Copperbelt province. It is not clear when they arrived to the area where they live today but they are believed to be among the first people to come to Zambia from the Cameroon region. It has been claimed that they have been in the area at least since the 17th century. The Lenje chiefdom comprises one senior chief and seven subordinate chiefs and chiefdoms. They are about 240000 - 310 000 and are considered to be part of the Bantu, Central-South people cluster within the Sub-Saharan African affinity bloc. They are related to the neighboring Tonga people band have also been said to be related to the Twa (or Batwa, Awatwa) of the Lukanga Swamps.
The Lenjes of central province of Zambia at times called Bene Mukuni, and they praise themselves as ba Lenje bantanshi or bene chishi, are the indigenous of the Southern part of the Central province as the northern part is occupied by the Lala speaking people.
It is believed that the Lenjes were among the first people to come to the present day Zambia from the Cameroon. At one time Lenjes and Solis lived together for a long time, both are related to their neighboring Tonga speaking people.
Travellers who visited Lenje in the beginning of the 20th century writes that they were mainly farmers but hunting and fishing was also important. Present day Lenje are generally subsistence farmers growing maize during the rainy season and vegetables during the dry season, They burn charcoal as well as keep a few cattle, goats, chickens etc. Some, especially those closer to the edge of the Lukanga swamp, fish or are involved in fish trade.
Lenjes are proud of their cattle keeping and their main crops are millet and maize, Lenjes believe in ancestral powers, though a lot more now have become Christians. They believe in treating other people fairly well, fearing that if you mistreat another person then you can be punished by the powers of the ancestral sprit. They believe in unity and love for mankind in general.
Kulamba ku Bwalo is the traditional ceremony of the Lenje speaking people of the Central province of Zambia, which is held in October every year, at a place called Likonde Lya Ba Nkanga shrine. This is the burial place of the mother for the five Lenje chiefs, Chipepo, Mukubwe, Liteta, Chitanda and Mungule.
The ceremony is held to give homage to Senior Chief Mukuni Ng’ombe and other Lenje Chiefs for their good leadership. It is also a time of thanks giving to God for the good harvest and to help the Chiefs to evaluate the food security in the Lenjeland.
The Lenje food is displayed at this ceremony following the singing and dancing, and this is done both day and night. Among the outstanding dance is the Mooba dance which is associated with Spiritism. In general the Kulamba ceremony is the unifying moment among the Lenje speaking people of Central province of Zambia.
During the ceremony the cultural village has 8 huts built to accommodate the Lenje chiefs, for Mukuni Ng’ombe or Chipepo, for Chief Liteta, for Chief Chamuka, for Chief Chitanda, for Chief Mungule, for Chief Mukubwe and for Chief Ngabwe. The last hut is built for Senior Chief Mukuni of the Toka-leya of Kazungula District in Southern province; he is part of the Bene Mukuni.