Gambue people


Gambue / Mugambue / Gambo

Gambue people share many traditions with their northern neighbors: the Muila and the Handa. Like them, Gambue women wear beaded clay necklaces and shape their hair with complex forms to show their marital status. Compared to the Muila, the Gambue have smaller necklaces. Nowadays, the Gambue can only be found in remote villages and only in the older generations can traditional tribal clothing be seen, due to the influence of the heavily westernized Humbi people, their southern neighbors.

Mugambue speak Nyaneka language.


Population and Ecosystem

25.000 Mugambue live in the feet of small rocky hills of Huila Plateau and in the forested plains south of Chibia (Angola).


Economy and Social Organization

Gambue people are cattle herders and also practice subsistence agriculture. Hunting is still practiced in forested areas. Gambue blacksmiths have disappeared and now they purchase their hoes and machetes to neighboring San blacksmiths or in markets. Gambue women still build and use wicker baskets and granaries. All Gambue must pay respect to their king. The farming tribal groups of the Huila Plateau have developed a basic monarchical system to structure society. Under the monarch are the advisers, who contact the local chiefs, and the councils of elders, who control each nucleus of the Gambue population

Gambue People

Aesthetics and Belief System

For traditional Gambue women, hairstyle is very important and meaningful. Gambue women coat their hair with a mustard color paste made of a crushed yellowish stone, mixed with cow dung and herbs. Besides, they decorate their hair with beads. Gambue women, mainly those above fifty years old, also wear impressive necklaces known as ‘missanga’.

Once married, they start to wear a set of stacked up bead necklaces, called ‘vilanda’. Gambue women never take their necklaces off and they even have to sleep with them. They also use wooden headrests, some beautifully carved, to protect their hairstyles.

Nowadays, only the elder generations wear the traditional attires, with the exception of remote Gambue groups in Cunene Province where one can find younger women with the clay traditional hairdo. The Gambue combine their traditional religion, related to the bull worshiping, with Christianity, increasingly present in areas near urban centres.

Mugambue combine their traditional religion related to the bull worshiping with Christianity. Nowadays only the elder generations wear the traditional attires with the exception of remote Mugambue groups in Cunene Province where one can find younger women with the clay traditional hairdo.


Art and Architecture

This rancher and farmer society produces some of the largest barns made of plants in Africa. They are true works of rural art. Gambue women are good artisans and design beautiful basketry, both for their own consumption and for sale

Men carve short club-shaped sticks, called ‘porriños’, which are a symbol of power among herders in southern Angola. Clay pipes, metal jewelry, bead and clay necklaces, are other examples of Gambue art. At an architectural level, Gambue houses are similar to those of the Muila, but somewhat smaller, and the towns are more compact, always enclosed by a stockade of logs.



The Gambue people are the least known of the Huila Plateau. Their neighbors, the Handa, the Muila, and the Humbi attract the attention of tourism that seeks an impressive aesthetic that perhaps the Gambue do not possess. However, it is one of the Angolan tribes that has best been able to preserve its customs and has known how to adapt to the challenges of the new times.

Gambue People

Gambue People

Gambue People