Bemba (M42) (iciBemba) is the most widely spoken Bantu language in Zambia. Some 50 per cent of the population use it as either a first or second language. It is used in local courts, churches and as a medium of instruction in the first four grades of primary school in regions where it is the official regional language. The language is also used in both the official and private media, and because of the huge number of speakers, it is the most popular language in the entertainment industry. Native speakers of this language played a pivotal role in the independence struggle from British colonial rule. In post-independent Zambia, three of the six presidents who have ruled Zambia have come from the Bemba language group.


Bemba Dialects History Education Media Politics Codification Literature 


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Bibliography of Some Works in Bemba

    Folk Tales and Fables

    1. Mushindo, P. M. B. (1957). Imilumbe ne Nshimi ‘Fables and tales’. Lusaka: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
    2. Mushindo, P. (1958). Amapinda mu lyashi ‘Proverbs in conversations’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
    3. Sefuke, E. (1953/2009). Kalulu na Sunkuutu wa Milimo ‘Kalulu and Sunkutu, the worker’. Lusaka: Zambia Educational Publishing House.Google Scholar
    4. Sefuke, E. (1955/1967). Umukwa pa Mukonso ‘A bark cloth on the leg.’ Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar

    General Works

    1. Chibesakunda, K. (1971). Umulabasa ‘Broadcasting.’ Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar
    2. Chilamo, S. L. (1972). Imisango isuma ku Babemba ‘Good behaviour among the Bemba.’ Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar
    3. Kapwepwe, S. (1962). Utumyonga ndimi ‘Tongue twisters’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
    4. Kapwepwe, S. (1994). Icuupo no Buyantanshi ‘Marriage and development.’ Lusaka: Zambia Educational Publishing House (About marriage, morality and development).Google Scholar
    5. Kashoki, M. E. (2009). Icibemba Ifyo Cifwile Ukulemba ‘How Bemba should be written.’ Lusaka: University of Zambia Press.Google Scholar
    6. Kasonde, E. (1953/2003). Imilimo ya Bena-Kale ‘Old crafts’. Lusaka: Zambia Educational Publishing House.Google Scholar
    7. Kazembe, M. (1978). Ifikolwe Fyandi Na Bantu bandi ‘My ancestors and my people.’ Lusaka: Neczam (A history of the Luunda Kingdom of Kazembe).Google Scholar
    8. Lumbwe, C. M. (2011). Ukuli Nsoke Takufwa Muntu ‘Where there is a warning, nobody dies.’ Lusaka: Maiden Publishers (A book about the prevention and treatment of diseases especially where there is no doctor).Google Scholar
    9. Makanga, M. (1999). Ubupalu bwe Sabi ‘Catching fish.’ Ndola: Mission Press.Google Scholar
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    11. Mpashi, S. (1952). Ukupoke Cinsenda ku nkoko ‘To extract a worm from a chicken (one has to be gentle)’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka/Neczam.Google Scholar
    12. Mpashi, S. (1955/1976). Icibemba na mano ya ciko ‘Bemba wisdom’. Lusaka: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
    13. Mpashi, S. (1956/1968). Abapatili bafika ku Lubemba ‘The arrival of Catholic Priests in Bemba land.’ Lusaka. NECZAM (Zambia Publishing House).Google Scholar
    14. Mpashi, S. (1958). Bakutemwe’ ‘Make yourself lovable’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
    15. Mpashi, S. (1962). Ifyo balemba amabuku ‘How books are written’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
    16. Mpashi, S. (1973). Tumone Icibemba ‘Let’s study Bemba’. Lusaka: Longmans.Google Scholar
    17. Mukonge, L. C. (1973). Imfwa Shonse ‘All types of deaths.’ Lusaka: Neczam (The interpretations of different types of deaths in Bemba culture written by a Medical doctor).Google Scholar
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    21. Ng’andu, K. (1993). Ulubafu Lwandi ‘My limb’. Ndola: Mission Press.Google Scholar
    22. Ngulube S. J. (1957). Nga capusa Mpunga. ‘Perhaps or possibly (about the origin of the expression)’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
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Prose Fiction (Novels, Novellas, Short Stories)

  1. Bwalya, J. M. (1971). Umupushi na Bambi. ‘The beggar and others’. Lusaka: NECZAM.Google Scholar
  2. Bwalya, E. (2002). Ilyashi lya Mutatakuya ilyakwa Kaleya Mateyo ‘An endless story of Kaleya Mateyo (or An episodic tale of Kaleya Mateyo).’ Lusaka: Grand Designs.Google Scholar
  3. Chibamba, A. R. (1962). Uwakalema Takaleka. ‘Bad habits die hard’. Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar
  4. Chibesakunda, L. (1970). Teshamo ‘It’s not ill luck’. Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar
  5. Chifwaila, M. K. (1960). Ululumbi lwamulanda kukakaata ‘The fame of a poor person depends on being stubborn’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
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  7. Chilangwa, W. B. (1991). Sheli wa Cibili ‘Sheli part two’. Lusaka: KKF.Google Scholar
  8. Chilundo, M. C. (1989a). Imbila ya Bulanda. ‘Sad news’. Lusaka: Kenneth Kaunda Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Chilundo, M. C. (1989b). Ubukwebo bwa Nkaki ‘Shady business’. Lusaka: Kenneth Kaunda Foundation.Google Scholar
  10. Chipungu, I. H. (1956). Uluse lwaliile Nkwale ‘Mercy killed a francolin or mercy brought misfortune’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  11. Chishimba, U. C. (1963). Bamusha Ulweko ‘To leave one salivating’. Lusaka: Publication Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
  12. Chota, C. L. (1968). Umutemwikwa ‘Beloved’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
  13. Kabonga, E. M. (1964). Ako usuulile ‘What you despise’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
  14. Kambole, R. M. (1974). Nkobekela, te cuupo ‘Betrothal is not marriage’. Lusaka: NECZAM.Google Scholar
  15. Kapindula R. M. (1974). Noko nkalola, nkaya nalyo ‘Ill-luck will follow me’. Lusaka: NECZAM.Google Scholar
  16. Kapwepwe, S. M. (1967). Shalapo, Canicandala ‘Remain well, Canicandala’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  17. Kasonkomona, C. (1983). Ubuseko Mubulanda ‘Joy in sadness’. Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar
  18. Kombe, J. (2014). Noushalimo Akabamo ‘All will be involved’. Lusaka: Zambia Educational Publishing House.Google Scholar
  19. Mpashi, S. (1955a). Uwakwesha Bushiku ‘He/she who leads you in the night (you praise him/her when it dawns’. Lusaka: Northern Rhodesia Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  20. Mpashi, S. (1955b). Uwauma nafyala ‘He who beats his mother- in-law’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  21. Mpashi, S. (1956). Pano calo ‘Here on Earth’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  22. Mpashi, S. (1968). Pio na Vera ‘Pio and Vera’. Lusaka: Oxford University Press (This seems to be a revised version of Uwakwensha ubushiku).Google Scholar
  23. Mpashi, S. (2008). Cekesoni aingila Ubusoja ‘Jackson joins the army’. Lusaka: Zambia Educational Publishing House.Google Scholar
  24. Mubanga, P. M. (1975). Musalu walipesamba ‘The relish that was at the bottom (gets to the top) or from rags to riches’. Lusaka: NECZAM.Google Scholar
  25. Mulalambuka, J. (1958). Shamitombo. Lusaka: Longman.Google Scholar
  26. Mulenga, G. J. (1971). Mulenga ne misango yakwe ‘Mulenga and his manners’. Lusaka: NECZAM.Google Scholar
  27. Musonda, M. (1957). Shilungafye atandala mu Congo ‘Shilungafye visits the Congo’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  28. Musonda, A. F. C. (2000). Imamba taifyala Mamba Mbiye ‘A Black Mamba does not beget another Black Mamba.’ Lusaka: Grand Designs.Google Scholar
  29. Musonda, A. F. C. (2002). Imisango ya kwa Shimaini ‘The behaviour of a miner’. Lusaka: Grand designs.Google Scholar
  30. Mutale, J. (1958). Uwaingile mu mushitu ‘He/she who enters a forest’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
  31. Mwitwa, J. K. (1990). Ubukota Bufuma na Kunuma. Lusaka: Kenneth Kaunda Foundation (Zambia Educational Publishing House).Google Scholar
  32. Nkonde, I. B. (1966). Supuni Aleta imisoka ‘Supuni brings trouble’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
  33. Temba, D. (1957). Umupashi wa mwaice ‘The spirit of a child’. Lusaka. Publication Bureau.Google Scholar


  1. Chitula, M. (1989). Amalumbo ne Mishikakulo. ‘Praise poetry’. Lusaka. KKF.Google Scholar
  2. Kambole, R. M. (1980). Ukufunda Umwana kufikapo ‘Teaching a child requires thoroughness’. Lusaka: Zambia Educational Publishing House.Google Scholar
  3. Kambole, R. M. (1989). Amasuku yakutoolelwa Maapompo ‘Masuku fruits that are picked for one are (usually) unripe’. Lusaka: Kenneth Kaunda Foundation.Google Scholar
  4. Kapwepwe, S. M. (1970). Africa kuti twabelela uluse, tekuti tulabe ‘Africa we can forgive but not forget’. Lusaka: NECZAM (poetic history of slavery).Google Scholar
  5. Kapwepwe, S. M. (1991). Africa Twasebana ‘Africa we are disgraced’. Lusaka: KKF.Google Scholar
  6. Musapu, J., & Mpashi, S. (1962). Amalango ‘Poems’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau Lusaka.Google Scholar
  7. Plays

    1. The only published. full-length play in Bemba is an adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel below:Google Scholar
    2. Chishimba, M. (1977). Kancule na Lona ‘Kanchule and Lona’. Lusaka: Neczam.Google Scholar

    Some Works in Translation

    1. Culwick, A. T. (1948/1973). Hanahela. Lusaka: Neczam (originally published by United Society for Christian Lutherworth Press. Translated into Bemba by Tanguy, F.)Google Scholar
    2. Dugarde, L. P. (1964). Florence Nightingale, uwatampile ubuleshi mu fipatala. In Florence Nightingale who started nursing in hospitals. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar
    3. Kesta, M. (1964). Ukwibe cabu, ifya kwa Robin Hood ‘Stealing the ford, Robin Hood’. Lusaka: Publications Bureau.Google Scholar

    Internet Resources

    1. Vidali, D. S., & Kashoki, M. E. (2014). Bemba, a linguistic profile. Bemba Online Project. Published June 30, 2014.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph M. Mwansa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Language and Social Sciences EducationUniversity of ZambiaLusakaZambia

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