Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

Mahunda Malaku with her divination drum, Yaka peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois. 

Yaka diviner with slitdrum, Mahunda Malaku sounds her nkooku slitdrum with its sculptured handle and wears a neck pendant containing charm ingredients related to two traditions within ngoombu weefwa divination.  The system known as ngoombu weefwa is used to determine the origin of all calamities and illness among the Yaka and their neighbors and relate them to a particular curse responsible for the affliction.  Without any assistance from the client or those attending, the diviner must demonstrate clairvoyant powers by revealing the problem, places where events occurred, and names of and relationships between the individuals concerned.