Ngendelengo people


Ngendelengo / Cuendelengo / Kwendelengo / N'Guendelengo / Olungendelengo / Ovangendelengo

The Ngendelengo are a minority ethnic group that inhabits the forested mountains of Serrada Chela (Angola). They are herdsmen, hunters and semi-nomadic subsistence farmers. Their ecosystem has lately allowed them to create a small business based on the sale of coal, which they distribute in spots near the road. Machetes are an essential part of their attire, which is complemented by large crests as a hairstyle for unmarried boys and múltiple topknots for women. The rest of their traditional culture includes two-storey barns and bull worship rituals.

Ngendelengo people

Population and Ecosystem

3.000 Ngendelengo live in the forested mountains of Serra da Chela (Angola).


Economy and Social Organization

Ngendelengo people are semi-nomadic pastoralists, hunters, gatherers and subsistence agriculturalists. Uving in a forested environment has allowed them to develop a rudimentary charcoal business. They produce ¡important quantities of vegetable charcoal that they sell beside the roads that cross their territory. Ngendelengo people live under a clan-based tribal structure led by the eldest male.


Art and Architecture

The Ngendelengo are good wood craftsmen. Men make ritual dolls out of logs and women decorate them with fur, leather ribbons, and colored beads. Small ceremonial wooden totems are a characteristic element of Ngendelengo art as well as clay pipes. The art of woodworking has its greatest example in architecture.

Ngendelengo dwellings resemble the construction type of some islands in Indonesia. These are houses on tree trunks embed into the ground with a room at the bottom for older generations and pregnant women, and a chamber-warehouse at the top for the younger ones. The second floor is accessed by a carved staircase. The roof ¡s covered with straw, which is renewed every three years.


Aesthetics and Belief System

Ngendelengo people typically wear little clothing, and carry machetes or spears. Women wear a string around their breast like their Cubal neighbors, which is used as a bra. They smoke tobacco in wooden pipes.

What is unique about Ngendelengo culture is the way women decorate their hairs with "geisha-style" buns. This practice is most common in younger women with small children. The Ngendelengo bun hairstyle made with twigs and leather strings to shape it, and decorated with imported metal pieces. This style changed from 1975 when the Portuguese left and they stopped supplying some materials in the local markets.

The Ngendelengo live in isolated mountain areas and have been little affected by Portuguese colonization and missionary activity, that's why they still practice their African religion related to bull worshiping.


The Ngendelengo are one of the most isolated tribes in Angola. They have little interest in the outside world and live protected by the dense forests of the Serra de Chela. Deforestation due to the charcoal business could represent a long-term problem for this ethnic group the depends on the forest and its resources to survive. Another challenge is the arrival of farmers from other impoverished regions to their lands, in search of a better future, which could trigged conflicts. Besides, the incursion of missionaries in the mountains and the arrival of alcohol in the heart of the Ngendelengo territory are serious threats, which are beginning to emerge. In addition. being a minority there is a risk of inbreeding in the area.