MUFULIRA AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH LUNSONGA
Mufulira is a town located on the Copperbelt province of Zambia that is famous for many things in areas such as sport, mining, politics, tourism, history, culture and more. However in Zambia today, when someone mentions “Mufulira”, one of the first things that comes to people’s mind is “Lunsonga”. There exists a long standing connection between “Mufulira” and “Lunsonga” which has led to the popularization of the phrase “The Lunsonga Town” as a nickname for the town of Mufulira. It is very common to hear people tell jokes like “If you are travelling to Mufulira, the only way to know if you have arrived is when you see Lunsonga” or “You can’t take a photo in Mufulira without Lunsonga appearing in the background”.
Among the residents of Mufulira and those who may have grown up there, this attachment of their town to Lunsonga is now an acknowledged and appreciated part of their story of growing up in Mufulira because Lunsonga is something which they saw all around them as they grew up.
Lunsonga is the local name given to a particular plant whose English name is “Pencil cactus” and whose scientific name is “Euphorbia Tirucalli.” This plant grows in semi-arid tropical climates and can survive in very difficult conditions.
In Mufulira, Lunsonga is grown around houses and acts as a hedge fence for most houses. The reason why many people in Mufulira opted to plant Lunsonga is linked the environmental pollution that was caused by the mining activities in the town. For many years, the Sulphur Dioxide emissions (locally known as “Senta”) that came from the mines had a destructive impact on the ecology of Mufulira. Because of this pollution, many plants that people tried to plant were unable to grow. Lunsonga was one of the few plants that proved resilient enough to grow even in the polluted conditions. This resilience is the reason why the plant is found also everywhere in Mufulira, especially in the communities nearest to the mines. It is the preferred plant for making a hedge fence around the house.
Most people who grew up in Mufulira have interesting stories to tell about their experiences as children when they would spend their days playing around the hedges of Lunsonga. For example, one of the popular uses of Lunsonga was to mend bank notes by using the white fluid from Lunsonga as glue. Some children even used it to make tattoos. However, as the children played around the Lunsonga hedges, they would always be warned about how dangerous Lunsonga was if one accidentally put it in their mouth or eyes. Many people still remember the horrible experiences they had when Lunsonga accidentally entered their eyes.
All in all, it appears that Mufulira and Lunsonga will always be linked together. Some people believe that the resilience that Lunsonga has, as seen in the fact that Lunsonga can grow in difficult conditions is also a symbolic reflection of the resilience of people from Mufulira and their ability to overcome difficult situations. It is for this reason that people from Mufulira are proud to say they come from “The Lunsonga Town”.
So the next time you visit Mufulira, make sure you take a photo of yourself standing behind a hedge of Lunsonga so that you always remind yourself that if Lunsonga can survive in difficult conditions then you can also overcome any difficult situation you are facing.