Bemba Lesson 25: Describing Places and Space

Adverbs of Place and Space

Space and places are described using different adverbs. In some cases, more than one word is available. Where this is the case, the words are here separated by a coma.

Examples show how the words can be used.

In front, forward, before = Kuntanshi, Pantanshi

She is standing in front of the car

Eminine kuntanshi ya motoka

Behind = Munuma, Kunuma

You have fallen behind

Mwashala kunuma

Below, On the ground = Panshi, Mwisamba

Put it on the ground

Bikeni panshi

Above = Pamulu, Mumulu

Lift it above

Imyeni mumulu

Inside = Mukati, Pakati

Put it inside

Bikeni mukati

In the middle = Pakati, Mukati

In the middle of all this

Pakati ka ifi fyonse

Outside = Kunse, Panse

Take it outside

Twaleni panse

Beside = Lubali

Stand beside the tree

Iminineni kulubali lwa cimuti

This side = Kuno lubali

Come this side

Iseni kuno lubali

That side = Kulya lubali

Take it that side

Twaleni kulya lubali

Near = Pepi, Mupepi

He is near

Ali mupepi

Around = Mumbali, Kumbali

Go around the house

Piteni mumbali ya ng’anda

With, Together = Pamo

Are you together?

Bushe muli pamo?

Far = Patali, Kutali

He went far away

Bele apatali

Everywhere = Konse, Monse, Ponse

The joy is everywhere

Insansa shili konse

Elsewhere = Kumbi, Pambi, Mumbi

You can go elsewhere

Kuti mwaya kumbi

Here = Kuno, Pano, Muno

Come here

Iseni kuno

There = Kulya, Palya

I want to go there

Ndefwaya ukuya kulya (Ndefwayo kuya kulya)


Bemba Lesson 24 – Nouns and Adjectives

In this short video lesson, we will look at the way adjectives are used in Bemba, as compared to English.


A noun is a part of a sentence that names a person, place, thing, idea, action or quality. Examples:

Itaba = cob of maize

Umuntu = person

Kapenta = a type of small fish

Amenshi = water

An adjective is added to a noun to give more information about it, e.g. size, colour or number.

In Bemba, adjectives usually follow the noun, eg.

Umusebo ukalamba = a big road
Itaba ilyabola = a rotten cob of maize
Umuntu umutali = a tall person
Kapenta uwalula = bitter Kapenta fish
Amenshi ayatalala = cold water

In this short lesson, we saw that there is a difference between English and Bemba in the way adjectives and nouns are used: In Bemba, the adjective usually follows the noun.



Mutondo House, Then and Now

What is Mutondo house now?

Just in between the Kitwe Civic centre and ZIBSIP College, is a two-storey building laced with copper rails around its entrance. If you go further inside you would notice that all door handles are made of pure copper.
Mutondo house was the name of this massive former ZCCM (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines) office complex before privatisation of the mines. It was the of the ZCCM Internal Audit department up to around 1994 when the Government fully privatised the Zambian mining giant.
To many, Mutondo House is synonymous with one football club known as Mutondo Stars. Mutondo Stars was once a Zambian super league football club which caused major upsets by performing some remarkable giant killing acts in the Zambian Super League between 1997 and 1999.
Mutondo Stars were an Elite club in Kitwe, which was primarily for the white-collar personnel of ZCCM. The club was disbanded around the time ZCCM was being un-bundled for privatisation.
The fame of this elite football club gave Mutondo House some noticeable prominence in Kitwe.
The complex has been renamed David Mwila House. The current owners and managers of this property are MUZ (Miners Union of Zambia). MUZ is one of the oldest if not the oldest labour movement in Zambia.
Some construction works have commenced at an area overlooking the Kitwe Civic centre access road.

A massive concrete slab is being erected to replace the lawn. These seem to be an expansion of office space. They have closed the main entrance’s car park to pave way for resurfacing.
Motorist working or visiting David Mwila house are facing challenges in finding parking space. They are parking their cars along the walk path that is along the fencing of David Mwila house and ZIBSIP on Presidents Avenue.
The massive infrastructural developments going on within the central busines area of Kitwe is helping to change the face of Kitwe for the better. Kitwe is beginning to look like a City.
It is good to see that indeed, Kitwe Changes overtime.

Mutondo House_David Mwila House_2

Mutondo House_David Mwila House_2

Mutondo House_David Mwila House_1

What is a PONG?

You probably don’t know what a PONG is because I just made the word up to describe an enhanced way of sharing our experiences using technology. This emerging phenomenon was not possible ten years ago.

A PONG is a poem, song or story that consists of input from its writer, his collaborators AND each listener or reader who chooses to add and share their reactions. It is a shared response layered on the original.

Think of a music video to which every viewer contributes so that the next viewer sees the original and all the added on bits. What would that be like? Set your imagination free.

Ping, pong.

In the past, performers have been able to do tributes to songs they like and to sample songs that inspire them to compose their own music. What has not been easy is for listeners to express and share their experience with the artist and with other consumers. Each screaming fan at a performance is trying to talk to the singer.  These days, the artist can tune into each voice on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media in the form of comments and even videos. This is one way things are changing.

A song writer is inspired by his own experiences and thoughts and constrained by his skills. His composition is then layered on by the experiences and performance skills of his collaborators. This rich tapestry is what is then presented to the listener.

As the song bubbles through the consciousness of the listener, it is coloured by the listener’s mood, experiences and thoughts. It thus becomes an even richer experience.

This richer experience is not limited to music. It applies to poetry, stories and other art forms. Technology is making it easier for the listener to pass on the enriched experience.

We are glimpsing new ways of collaboration between human beings and new heights in the pleasures derived from works of art.

Here is an example of how a song sung in a language I did not understand inspired thoughts and emotions that I share with you.

My very first PONG – a love poem, FIRST KISS:




(A Love Poem inspired by the song, “Bendita tu Luz” by MANA)

We spent the warm summer evening in front of the TV

I sat in front of the TV
She sat in another chair to my right

I spent the evening watching her:
Smooth skin, dark hair,
Every breath, every smile…

The evening flew by.

“Goodnight,” she said.
She stood up and started walking out of the room.
“Goodnight,” I said, holding out my hand for a handshake.
I did not get up.

She came up behind my chair and took my hand.
Her hand soft and warm like an embrace.
Her sweet perfume sailed on my breath deep into my soul.
My heart slammed against my lungs, taking my breath away.

I gently guided her round my chair.
She floated through the air and fluttered into my lap –
Her eyes closed, her lips half-open.

I put my arm around her shoulders.
She wrapped her arms around my neck.

Our lips met.

A bolt of sheer ecstasy surged through me from head to toe.

Through a hundred life-times I sought this one moment in time.
An oasis of bliss.
A moment that lasts for ever …

She stirred in my arms and sat up in my lap.
I opened my eyes.
We gazed into each other’s eyes.

There were no words.

Some people go through life without finding their Moment.
Here I was, holding mine in my arms.

Worth a thousand lifetimes.
I am grateful for love so deep.

To have and to keep,
One Kiss.


 I have, since then, looked up the artist, the lyrics and what they mean. Mana is a Mexican group that sing Bendita tu Luz in Spanish.

Here is the song in Spanish and an English translation of the lyrics.

Bendito el lugar, y el motivo de estar ahí, 
Bendita la coincidencia, 
Bendito el reloj que nos puso puntual ahí, 
Bendita sea tu presencia. 

Blessed location, and the motive for being there, 
Blessed the coincidence, 
And blessed clock that set us there punctually, 
Blessed be your presence. 

Bendito Dios por encontrarnos en el camino, 
Y de quitarme esta soledad de mi destino. 
Bendita la luz, bendita la luz de tu mirada (x2) 
Desde el alma. 

Blessed God for meeting us on the road, 
And for taking away this solitude from my destiny. 
Blessed be the light, blessed be the light of your gaze (x2) 
Coming from the soul. 

Benditos ojos que me esquivaban, 
Simulaban desde que me ignoraban, 
Y de repente, sostienes la mirada. 

Blessed eyes that shyly avoided me, 
Pretending all along that they ignored me, 
And suddenly, you sustain(ed) your gaze. 

Bendita Dios por encontrarnos en el camino, 
Y de quitarme esta soledad de mi destino. 
Bendita la luz, bendita la luz de tu mirada (x2). 

Blessed God for meeting us on the road, 
And for taking away this solitude from my destiny. 
Blessed be the light, blessed be the light of your gaze (x2). 

Gloria divina, diste suerte de buen tino, 
Y de encontrarte justo ahí, en medio del camino, 
Gloria al cielo de encontrarte ahora, 
Llevarte mi soledad, y coincidir en mi destino, 
En el mismo destino. 

Glory divine, you gave luck with good aim, 
And for finding you just there, in the middle of the road, 
Glory to heaven for finding you now, 
Taking my solitude to you, and coinciding in my destiny, 
In the same destiny. 

Bendita la luz, bendita la luz de tu mirada (x2) 
Bendita mirada, bendita mirada desde el alma, tu mirada, 
Bendita, bendita, bendita mirada, 
Bendita tu alma y bendita tu luz. 

Blessed be the light, blessed be the light of your gaze (x2) 
Blessed gaze, blessed gaze coming from the soul, your gaze, 
Blessed, blessed, blessed gaze, 
Blessed be your soul and blessed be your light. 

Tu mirada, oh, oh, oh, 
Digo es tan bendita tu luz, amor, amor, 
Bendito el reloj y bendito el lugar, 
Benditos tus besos cerquita del mar, 
Y tu mirada, amor, amor, 
Que bendita tú mirada, tu mirada, amor. 

Your gaze, oh, oh, oh, 
I say you gaze is so blessed, my love, my love, 
Blessed clock and blessed location, 
Blessed are your kisses near the sea, 
And your gaze, my love, my love, 
How blessed your gaze, your gaze, my love. 

Translation by William


The First Time I Saw a Dead Body

Letters From a Retired Miner – 12

I want to talk about what happened one day when I went to visit my son in Kitwe. My son Bwembya has given me a granddaughter. Her name is Maria Fostina Bwembya. I am very proud of her. I was looking forward to seeing her with her brother and her parents.

Our bus had a puncture 10 kilometres from the Chembe Ferry on the Luapula River. The bus had no spare tyre. The conductor took the punctured tyre to the nearest village. He took four hours, so we arrived in Kitwe in the evening. I found my son and his family eating their supper in front of the television. Fostina and  Bwembya junior were lying on the floor with their plates in front of them. Their parents were sitting in the big chair.

What was shocking to me is what they were watching. They were watching the news where they showed pictures of people who died in a war lying on the road. Can you imagine that? People are eating and watching dead people?

South African daisy -Osteospermum_ecklonis

South African daisy -Osteospermum_ecklonis

In our Bemba tradition, children are not allowed to look at dead bodies just like that. It is a heavy thing for children to look at some things. Children are not encouraged to look at a dead person and they are not allowed to look at an adult who is naked (When I was a child, we were told that if you look at a naked man or woman, you will go blind!).

I remember the day I saw a dead person for the first time. I was 10 years old. It was a Tuesday and I was walking to school with my friends from my village. Those days we walked a long way to get to school. The road was not tarred. Each time a truck passed, we ran off the road and stood in the grass. We covered our nose with our hand because of the dust.

Chilufya was a boy from a village near my village. He was walking with his friends when a truck came along the road at high speed. There was a ditch on the side of the road where he was walking. He decided to run to the other side of the road before the truck got there. Sadly, he was too slow. The truck struck him down.

When we came around the corner, we saw a lot of people on the road. Children were crying and women were wailing. I pushed through the people to see who was on the floor. That is when I saw Chilufya lying there.

His books were scattered around him. His leg was very bent and his face was covered in dust and blood. He was not breathing. It looked like a bad dream. Everything seemed to go very quiet in my head. My body felt strange as if I was somewhere else. It was as if my skin was walking on my back. I have never seen anything so bad.

I started crying. I did not even go to school. I was not able to eat food for three days. My mother was telling me to eat, my father asked her to even get me my favourite food, fried eggs, but I found it very difficult to eat.

In the night, I woke up crying like a baby.

That was a long time ago and I have seen many dead people after that but I will never forget that day when I first saw a dead body.

When I saw my granddaughter watching dead people and eating her supper, I remembered that first time I saw a dead body. My question to you is this? Will this make people to have the same respect for human life or not? I don’t think so.

I talked to my son about showing dead people on TV. He said he understands. After that day, he checks what kind of film is showing at the time of eating so that he will keep his daughter from seeing such pictures so many times that it will not make her sick.

My friends, if you have a child, are you helping him or her to grow up with a human heart or are you training him to be like a soldier who can kill with one hand and eat with the other hand? Is that the kind of child you want to carry your family name or to be your neighbour?

I don’t think you will go blind if you look at a naked adult, but those stories helped us to grow up with good manners. You can tell your child different stories but inside your heart you must pray that your child will grow up with the heart of a kind person.

I want my granddaughter to be deeply touched by the death of another human being when she sees her first dead body. It is a heavy thing. That is how it must be. It is what makes us care about our next door neighbour.

The day your daughter is able to eat while looking at a dead body is a day when you must weep about her future. Such a daughter will not care if she finds someone starving on the street or if someone is crying because he has no home.

She will just carry on eating.

Have you ever seen a dead body?

What did you do?