Before the colonial period, the region now known as Zambia was the home of a number of free states. Each having comprehensive economic links with each other and the outside world along trade routes to the east and west coast of Africa. The main exports were copper, ivory and slaves in exchange for textiles, jewellery, salt and hardware.
During the colonial period, the process of industrialisation and urbanisation saw ethnically different people brought together by economic interests. This, as well as the very definite influence of western standards, generated a new culture without conscious effort of politically determined guidelines.
Many of the rural inhabitants however, have retained their indigenous and traditional customs and values. After Independence in 1964, the government recognised the role culture was to play in the overall development of a new nation and began to explore the question of a National identity.
Institutions to protect and promote Zambia’s culture were created, including the National Heritage Conservation Commission. Private museums were also founded and cultural villages were established to promote the expression of artistic talents.