Lusaka National Museum's Witchcraft Exhibit – Lusaka, Zambia - Atlas Obscura

Lusaka National Museum's Witchcraft Exhibit

Artifacts showcasing the witchy history of Zambia. 


The Lusaka National Museum is an impressive building on Independence Avenue that is dedicated to telling the story of Zambia.

The museum is divided into sections: history, ethnography, art, the usual fare—but the fourth section is devoted to witchcraft. The witchcraft exhibit is a fascinating window into the traditional beliefs of Zambia, a blend of Christianity, superstition, and magic.

Among the items on display are a snakeskin belt that helped a sorcerer sleep with another man’s wife while the husband was in the same bed, a collection of dolls responsible for all sorts of curses and maledictions, and a potion that allowed the wearer to magically steal crops from a neighbor’s fields.

While many of the exhibits are relics of the past, there was a new addition to the museum in 2013 that involved a more contemporary, and cruel, form of witchcraft.  In June 2013, three brothers (Mika, Fabian, and Stephano) were killed by a coalition of the Zambian police and army.  The shootout was the culmination of a seven year search for the brothers who were responsible for murdering 12 people in cold blood. The Mailoni Brothers are well known in Southern Africa, and they have left Zambia with some disturbing, unanswered questions.  How could 3 illiterate brothers have avoided capture for seven years?  What drove them to murder?  Why were they carrying Christian iconography?  The answer, for many Zambians, is witchcraft. In July of that same year, the museum acquired the Mailoni brothers’ possessions: crude knives, spears, and a bow and arrow and added them to the witchcraft exhibit.  

 In reality, the brothers represent a fundamental question that witchcraft, as well as all religions, attempt to answer—how can one protect themselves from the evil in this world?

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