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. 

The diviner will place blame on certain family factions.  At worst, if someone is repeatedly accused of sorcery, the elders with support of maternal uncles might force the accused to undergo a poison oracle.  If the poison is vomited, this is a sign of innocence; if not, death will quickly follow, confirming guilt.  Banishment from the community currently replaces the poison ordeal that was outlawed early in the twentieth century, but the earlier procedure is keenly remembered and alive in popular imagination.