Mbundu people

Mbundu

Mbundu / Ambundu

The Ambundu or Mbundu (distinct from the Ovimbundu) are a Bantu people living in Angola's North-West, North of the river Kwanza. The Ambundu speak Kimbundu, and mostly also the official language of the country, Portuguese. They are the second biggest ethnic group in the country and make up 25% of the total population of Angola. The Ambundu nowadays live in the region stretching to the East from Angola's capital city of Luanda (see map). They are predominant in the Bengo and Malanje provinces and in neighbouring parts of the Cuanza Norte and Cuanza Sul provinces. The head of the main Ambundu kingdom was called a Ngola, which is the origin of the name of the country Angola.

The  Mbundu also known as Northern Mbundu or Ambundu are Bantu-speaking people living in Angola's North-West, North of the river Kwanza. They are distinct from the Southern Mbundu or Ovimbundu people.  The Ambundu speak Kimbundu, and mostly also the official language of the country, Portuguese. They are the second biggest ethnic group in the country, with 2.4 million people in the latest count. The Ambundu nowadays live in the region stretching to the East from Angola's capital city of Luanda. They are predominant in the Bengo and Malanje provinces and in neighbouring parts of the Cuanza Norte and Cuanza Sul provinces. The head of the main Mbundu kingdom was called Ngola, which is the origin of the name of the country Angola.

By the late 1960s, the Mbundu living in the cities, such as Luanda and Malanje, had adopted attributes of Portuguese lifestyle . Many had intermarried with Portuguese, which led to the creation of an entirely new class of mestiços. Those who received formal education and fully adopted Portuguese customs became assimilados.

The Mbundu were the MPLA's strongest supporters when the movement first formed in 1956. The MPLA's president, Agostinho Neto, was the son of a Mbundu Methodist pastor and a graduate of a Portuguese medical school. In the 1980s, the Mbundu were predominant in Luanda, Bengo, Cuanza Norte, Malanje, and northern Cuanza Sul provinces.

 

Language

Mbundu people speak Kimbundu language which belongs to the Kimbundu Group of Bantu (Guthrie H21) and is spoken in the Angolan provinces of Luanda, Bengo, Malanje, and Cuauza-Norte. Kimbundu should not be confused with Umbundu. Kimbundu is second most spoken language in Angola.
There are ten dialects of Kimbundu, Ngola, Dembo, Jinga, Bondo, Bângala, Ibaco, Luanda, Quibala, Libolo, and Quissama. However, this classification is European, not Angolan. There is no way to accurately determine the variations in Kimbundu dialects, because most villages where the language is spoken have not been visited; and there appear to be no experts on this matter considering that Angola lacks professionals capable of providing solid information on this. Maho (2009) distinguishes two primary dialects: Kimbundu proper, or Ngola, and Mbamba, or Njinga.

During the Portuguese colonial period, a 1919 decree banned the use of local languages in schools and made Portuguese obligatory. This heavily reduced the use of Kimbundu amongst educated and urban populations in favour of Portuguese. On the other hand, Kimbundu was learned by a significant part of the Portuguese population of the region, and many Kimbundu words passed into the everyday Portuguese spoken there. In the 1960s and 1970s, even white and racially mixed musical groups used to sing songs in Kimbundu, e.g. "Monami" and "Kamba iyami".

In part of the Malanje Province culturally "assimilated" Ambundu populations produced a mix of Kimbundu and Portuguese called Ambaca, whose speakers are called Ambaquistas.

The Kimbundu script was developed by Capuchin and Jesuit missionaries. While they produced many texts and grammars, most of them demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding or oversimplification of the Kimbundu language. The unfortunate effects of this are still felt today, though, since independence, great strides to elaborate and codify the orthography and grammar of the most important languages spoken in Angola, and recognised as "national languages", have been made.

Kimbundu uses the relatively shallow orthography standardized by the ruling MPLA for use in all Angolan "national languages". Important differences from the Portuguese-based orthography used by the colonizers include the omission of the consonant "r" (since there is no [r] in Kimbundu) and the rules governing vowel orthography (diphthongs are not allowed and vowels are thus changed to "w" or "y" depending on the environment). It has 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u), the u also having the function of a semi-vowel. Certain consonants are represented by two letters, such as mb in mbambi (gazelle), or nj in njila (bird). Some Kimbundu vocabs are muthu, "person", kima, "thing"; kudya, "food"; tubya, "fire"; lumbu, "wall" kamba, "friend." Some Kimbundu words were influential to Romance languages like Portuguese, with words like banjo (supposedly from mbanza), bwe, baza, kuatu, kamba, arimo, mleke, quilombo (from kilombo), quimbanda, tanga, xinga, bunda, etc

 

History

The Mbundu are one of the Bantu peoples. They had been arriving in the Angola region from the early Middle Ages on, but the biggest part of the immigration took place between the 13th and 16th century C.E.. Kimbundu is a West-Bantu language, and it is thought that the Mbundu have arrived from the North Africa rather than from the East Africa. The Bantu peoples brought agriculture with them. They built permanent villages, and traded with the (then) indigenous Pygmies and Khoi-San populations.

The Mbundu society consisted of local communities until the 14th century. Their society has always been matrilineal. Land was inherited matrilineally, and the descent system was matrilineal as well. Boys used to go and live in the villages of their maternal uncles, so as to preserve a matrilinear core to the village. Theoretically, the lineage was projected onto status, instead of individuals, which gave the system some flexibility. This feature is not found with neighbouring peoples, like the Ovimbundu to the South, and the Bakongo to the North.

The name Mbundu was first used by the Bakongo, before it was adopted by the Mbundu themselves. The first king of Kongo occupied part of the Mbundu territories from 1370, and turned it into his province MPemba. He made MBanza Kongo his capital there. Later on the Mbundu kingdom of Matamba became Kongo's vassal. Around 1500 C.E., Kongo also had claims on NDongo and Kisama, near the Kwanza river.

Shortly after the Portuguese explorer  Cão made his initial contact with the Kongo Kingdom of northern Angola in 1483, he established links farther south with Ndongo--an African state less advanced than Kongo that was made up of Kimbundu-speaking people. Their ruler, who was tributary to the manikongo, was called the ngola a kiluanje  (1515-56) was the most prominent leader of the potentate of the Old Kingdom of Ndongo, being known as The Ngola Kiluanje Inene (Great Ngola). The Ngola Kiluanje Inene founded a dynasty that later was to come to know as the Kingdom of Angola. The term "Ngola" in turn has roots in the term "Ngolo," which in Kimbundu (language of the people Ambundo) means "strength", the same term in Kikongo (Bakongo people's language) means "rigor, strength, fortitude, or strength."

Throughout most of the sixteenth century, Portugal's relations with Ndongo were overshadowed by its dealings with Kongo. Some historians, citing the disruptions the Portuguese caused in Kongo society, believe that Ndongo benefited from the lack of Portuguese interest. It was not until after the founding of Luanda in 1576 that Portugal's exploration into the area of present-day Angola rivaled its trade and commerce in Kongo. Furthermore, it was only in the early seventeenth century that the importance of the colony Portugal established came to exceed that of Kongo.

Although officially ignored by Lisbon, the Angolan colony was the center of disputes, usually concerning the slave trade, between local Portuguese traders and the Mbundu people, who inhabited Ndongo. But by mid-century, the favorable attention the ngola received from Portuguese trade or missionary groups angered the manikongo, who in 1556 sent an army against the Ndongo Kingdom. The forces of the ngola defeated the Kongo army, encouraging him to declare his independence from Kongo and appeal to Portugal for military support. In 1560 Lisbon responded by sending an expedition to Angola, but in the interim the ngola who had requested Portuguese support had died, and his successor took captive four members of the expedition. After the hostage taking, Lisbon routinely employed military force in dealing with the Ndongo Kingdom. This resulted in a major eastward migration of Mbundu people and the subsequent establishment of other kingdoms.

Following the founding of Luanda, Paulo Dias carried out a series of bloody military campaigns that contributed to Ndongo resentment of Europeans. Dias founded several forts east of Luanda, but--indicative of Portugal's declining status as a world power--he was unable to gain firm control of the land around them. Dias died in 1579 without having conquered the Ndongo Kingdom.

Dias's successors made slow progress up the Cuanza River, meeting constant African resistance. By 1604 they reached Cambambe, where they learned that the presumed silver mines did not exist. The failure of the Portuguese to find mineral wealth changed their outlook on the Angolan colony. Slave taking, which had been incidental to the quest for the mines, then became the major economic motivation for expansion and extension of Portuguese authority. In search of slaves, the Portuguese pushed farther into Ndongo country, establishing a fort a short distance from Massangano, itself about 175 kilometers east of Angola's Atlantic coast. The consequent fighting with the Ndongo generated a stream of slaves who were shipped to the coast. Following a period of Ndongo diplomatic initiatives toward Lisbon in the 1620s, relations degenerated into a state of war.

NZinga MBandi was a deceased NDongo ngola's sister. Bypassing the reigning ngola, she negotiated a peace treaty with the Portuguese. The treaty gave substantial trade and religious advantages to Portugal, but delivered Nzinga the throne in NDongo. After five years, she had to flee from Portuguese troops to Matamba. She became queen of Matamba, a kingdom which was traditionally led by women, and turned it into the most powerful state in the region, and a big exporter of slaves. Matamba, and neighboring Kasanje, had monopolies in the slave trade, and started falling apart in the 19th century when this trade lost in importance. The rise of a new trade in ivory, rubber and wax, which avoided the old monopolies, reduced the power of central authority in the Mbundu states in this century.

The Portuguese had defeated Matamba in 1836, and had advanced to Kasanje by the middle of the century. Their actual influence, however, was quite limited due to the lack of people, money, and an efficient military. The Mbundu had opportunities to revolt or negotiate liberties. This changed at the end of the 19th century. European countries forced, out of economic, strategic, and nationalistic considerations, a tighter control over African territories. To protect their interests, the Portuguese sent a number of military expeditions into the areas, which they considered to be their colonies, and brought them under actual control. The last Mbundu tribe to be defeated were the NDembo. It took the Portuguese three years to subdue a NDembo revolt in 1910. In 1917 all of their territory was occupied, and became part of the Portuguese colony of Angola.

 

Economy

Mbundu economy was greatly changed and damaged during Portuguese occupation in Angola. Many Mbundu farmers lost their land and were forced into farm labor. others were forced to produce cash crop. Only areas that produced export crops received colonial attention. As a result of these new uses for land, subsistence farming declined.

Today,however, the system of traditional Mbundu farming continues to focus with the family as workers. they have combined new crops with traditional ones, thereby increasing their food supply.

Main carbohydrate staple(s): “The staple foods include cassava (a plant with an edible root), corn, millet (a small-seeded grain), sorghum (a grassy plant that yields a grain used alone or to make syrup), beans, sweet potatoes, rice, wheat, and bananas.”

Main protein-lipid sources: fish, chicken, or meat. “Mbundu make use of their abundant fresh and saltwater fish. One dish, calulu, combines fresh and dried fish. A favorite dish is cabidela, chicken's blood eaten with rice and cassava dough.”

Urban dwelling Mbundu are dependent on wage earning jobs. Unemployment is high. Those who have jobs work in the modern sector of the economy, such as factories and service industries. Some are civil servants for government.

 Sexual division of production: Women are especially important in selling food and firewood, and men predominate in trade in arms, diamonds, and spare parts. Most of the people who work in the transport and building sectors are men.

 

Land tenure

 “Access to land is difficult. There is not a land shortage, but not all arable land is under cultivation. This problem is caused by the fact that war prevents farmers from going to their fields and often forces people to flee before the harvest. In times of relative calm, land mines render traveling to and working on the land dangerous. Both the MPLA and UNITA have restricted the freedom of movement of the population and imposed rules to curb mobility in specific areas or during certain parts of the day.“

 

Ceramics

“The traditional arts have played an important part in cultural rituals marking such passages as birth or death, childhood to adulthood, and the harvest and hunting seasons. In producing masks and other items from bronze, ivory, wood, malachite, or ceramics, each ethnolinguistic group has distinct styles. For example, the ritual masks created by the Lunda-Chokwe represent such figures from their mythology as Princess Lweji and Prince Tschibinda-Ilunga.”

 

Social structure

Among the Mbundu, the matrilineage survived centuries of change in other institutions. Membership in and loyalty to it was of great importance. The lineage supported the individual in material and nonmaterial ways because most land was lineage domain, access to it required lineage membership, and communication between the living and their ancestors, crucial to traditional religion, was mediated through the lineage.

The Mbundu lineage differed from Bakongo and Ovimbundu groups in its underlying theory; it consisted not of individuals but of statuses or titles filled by living persons. In this system, a Mbundu could move from one status to another, thus acquiring a different set of relationships. How, in fact, this theoretical system affected interpersonal relationships between biological kin has not been described, however.

The Mbundu matrilineage was in some respects a dispersed unit, but a core group maintained a lineage village to which its members returned, either at a particular stage in their lives or for brief visits. Women went to the villages of their husbands, and their children were raised there. The girls, as their mothers had done, then joined their own husbands. The young men, however, went to the lineage village to join their mothers' brothers. The mothers' brothers and their sisters' sons formed the more or less permanent core of the lineage community, visited from time to time by the women of the lineage who, as they grew old, might come to live the rest of their lives there. After a time, when the senior mother's brother who headed the matrilineage died, some of the younger men would go off to found their own villages. A man then became the senior male in a new lineage, the members of which would be his sisters and his sisters' sons. One of these younger men might, however, remain in the old village and succeed the senior mother's brother in the latter's status and take on his role completely, thus perpetuating the older lineage. According to one account, the functioning lineage probably has a genealogical depth of three to four generations: a man, his sister's adult sons, and the latter's younger but married sister's sons. How this unit encompasses the range of statuses characteristic of the matrilineage in Mbundu theory is not altogether clear.

 

Socio-Political organization and interaction

Mean local residential (village) group size: “The Mbundu (village) may be composed of five to five hundred households. On flat sites the villages tend to be circular and palisaded whereas in broken terrain the villages are irregular in outline and plan. Most villages are divided into several compounds, each containing one to three households. In large villages the compounds are grouped inwards.”

Political system: (chiefs, clans etc, wealth or status classes): “According to one account, the functioning lineage probably has a genealogical depth of three to four generations: a man, his sister's adult sons, and the latter's younger but married sister's sons. How this unit encompasses the range of statuses characteristic of the matrilineage in Mbundu theory is not altogether clear.”  The heads of the family in the community are the ngundas.

Village and house organization: “The Mbundu (village) may be composed of five to five hundred households. On flat sites the villages tend to be circular and palisaded whereas in broken terrain the villages are irregular in outline and plan. Most villages are .divided into several compounds, each containing one to three households. In large villages the compounds are grouped inwards”

 

Religion

Individual difficulties are attributed to witchcraft, sorcery, or the acts of ancestral or nature spirits. The determination is usually made by a diviner, a specialist whose personal power and use of material objects are held to be generally benevolent (although there are cases in which a diviner may be accused of sorcery) and whose sensitivity to patterns of stress and strain in the community help him or her arrive at a diagnosis. A diviner-- widely called a kimbanda--may also have extensive knowledge of herbal medicine, and at least part of the work of the kimbanda is devoted to the application of that knowledge.

The kimbanda is said to have inherited or acquired the ability to communicate with spirits. In many cases, the acquisition of such power follows illness and possession by a specific spirit. The proficiency and degree of specialization of diviners varies widely. Some will deal only with particular symptoms; others enjoy broad repute and may include more than one village, or even more than one province, in their rounds.

The greater the reputation of the kimbanda, the more he or she charges for services. This widespread term for diviner/healer has entered into local Portuguese, and so central is the role of the kimbanda to the complex of beliefs and practices characterizing most indigenous religions that some sources, such as the Jornal de Angola, have applied the term kimbandism to indigenous systems when cataloging Angolan religions.

In general, the belief in spirits (ancestral or natural), witches, and sorcerers is associated with a worldview that leaves no room for the accidental. Whether events are favorable or adverse, responsibility for them can in principle be attributed to a causal agent. If things go well, the correct ritual has been performed to placate the spirits or invoke their help. If things go badly, the correct ritual has not been performed, or a spirit has been otherwise provoked, or malevolent individuals have succeeded in breaching whatever protective (magical) measures have been taken against them. This outlook often persisted in Angola among individuals who had been influenced by Christianity or secular education. With some changes in particulars, it seemed to pervade urban areas, where a kimbanda rarely lacked clients.

Missionary effect: “The majority of the Kimbundu have had some exposure to Catholicism, but few have had the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel in a language and manner they can understand. Catholicism coming from the Portuguese colonists is by far the strongest Christian influence they have received, with its primary influences being felt in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

 

Passage rituals (birth, death, puberty, seasonal)

The mukanda ceremony and process is held during the dry season (May-October) and lasts anywhere from three to five months. It is a rite of passage into manhood. There is also an onset for female initiation once puberty is reached. Both rituals are public and the whole village participates.

 

Cultural material (art, music, games)

 “Percussion, wind, and string instruments are found throughout Angola. Maracas (saxi) are made by drilling a few small holes in dried gourds and placing dried seeds or glass beads inside. The box lute (chilhumba) is played during long journeys.”

 

Adornment (beads, feathers, lip plates, etc.)

In the towns and cities, Western-style clothing is common, though some people still wear traditional clothing. The villages remain more traditional, where women wear panos, African wraparound batik garments. Dressing up for parties and special occasions in the cities almost certainly means wearing Western-style outfits. Youth prefer casual jeans and Tshirts, except for special occasions.

 

Death and afterlife beliefs

 “Traditional Angolan religions believe in a close connection with the spirit of dead ancestors. They believe that ancestors play a part in the lives of the living. Therefore, the spirits of dead ancestors remain prominent members of the community. Ancestral worship is a common thread through many indigenous religions. It is considered that not revering the dead can jeopardize the living. It is thought that people must appease the ancestors so that they do not harm the living. It is believed that ancestors can bring famine, plague, disease, personal loss, and other catastrophes”

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