The Makishi ( the singular is Likishi) are masked characters , each with its own distinctive dancing styles ,from the graceful to the funny and acrobatic . Most characters are from Luvale mythology but some are based on modern day situations .
Examples include Munguli the hyena , Ngaji , an elephant dancer who , with his beautifully woven costume , is considered to be the most beautifull of all the Makishi . There is also Likishi Lya Mwana-Pwebo , a crowd puller and perhaps the best known Likishi . Dressed like a girl , he dances on a string tied between two poles.
It is believed that as he is dancing on the string the spirit of his wife is with him . That is why a dancers wife will never look up at her husband performing the dance . Only once he is safely back on the ground will she go to meet her husband ,at which point her spirit is thought to return to her.
All makishi are dressed in flamboyant masks and costumes , which show off the unique luvale skill and traditional of intricate mask-making . Women and children are told by their menfolk that the makishi are in fact from the world of the dead.
Praise singers reciting the history of the tribe and the luvale royalty offer the luvale a chance to reaffirm social ties and their loyalty to the tribe’s paramount chief.
The people get a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of their chief , who is elaborately clad in colorful robes , wearing his muchama crown and carrying a fly whisk . The luvales are one of the peoples who migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Traditionally , they were fishermen and hunters but also , they became one of the first Zambian people to establish trade links with non-Africans . By the eighteenth century , they were trading with Portuguese and Brazilian traders to West Angola.