Bembe

Types of Art

The Bembe carve numerous kinds of wooden figures that represent various spirits. They also carve several different kinds of masks, the most notable being elande (antelope horn masks). Knives, staffs, fly whisks, and divination gourds are also often decorated.

History

The Bembe originate from the northwest forests of Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are representative of numerous ethnic traditions including Lega, pre-Lega, Boyo-Kunda, and Bemba. They are a tough and proud people who absorbed other populations and their systems of thought in the process of carving out their current homeland in a time of widespread conflict and under economic pressure from European invaders and slave traders during the 19th century. Their desire for more land continues to result in conflict in the area today.

Economy

The Bembe rely heavily on farming, which is done mostly by women. Rice, maize, groundnuts, beans, and bananas are the staple crops. Goats, sheep, pigs, and chicken are raised for meat. The men are responsible for supplementing this diet through hunting, to which they attach great ritual importance. Occasionally, the Bembe lease out some of their land to neighbors for grazing, and recently they have begun to prospect for alluvial gold and tin, which they can sell.

Political Systems

Although there is no centralized local authority in Bembeland, government is run quite effectively through a large number of patrilineal clans. The Bwami society, which is made up of the influential men in the community, is responsible for making the political, economic, and judicial decisions which affect the community.

Religion

Religion is based on individual and lineage ancestor cults. The Bembe have also absorbed many of the religious ideas of their neighbors. They honor bahomba (nature spirits), m'ma (the earth spirit), and the spirit of Lake Tanganyika, Mkangualukulu, among others.

Facts about Bembe

Location

Explore a map of Bembe peoples and their neighbors in southern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Countries

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Languages

Ebembe or Kibembe (Bantu)

Population

70,000

Neighboring Peoples

Boyo, Lega