Handa people


Handa / Muhanda / Quipungo / Vahanada

Population & Ecosystem

30.000 Handa live in the fertile plains of Huila Plateau, between Kamuviu and Hoque market towns (Angola)

Economy & Society

Handa people mainly practice subsistence agriculture but also grow vegetables (cabbage and onions) to sell in big markets like in Hoque. Hand farmers also keep cattle, goats and fowl. Handa blacksmiths, once very active, are nowadays in regression but some still work to furnish Handa women with jewellery and hoes for the farm work. Potters are also in decay but some Handa women still fabricate clay pots to sell in markets.

Handa women continue to build and use baskets which involve many interesting geometry concepts. We refer, for example, to the notion of volume, conic (truncated) and cylindrical forms, spirals, proportions, geometric figures, patterns, plane transformations and friezes. The remarkable mathematical practices in the baskets are characterized by much unknown ethnomathematical knowledge that constitutes a challenge for future studies.

Handa have a tribal chief who serves as the head of the tribe followed by a headman. Serving under the headman are the elders. Conflicts are resolved by the elders and the headman. A diviner is also often called upon.

Culture & Religion

Handa speak Nyaneka language.

Most Handa have converted to Christianity and only the elder generations worship the African Gods and wear the traditional attires. Nowadays it is hard to see women younger the forty years old wearing the white (sometimes green) characteristic necklaces and complex hairdos. Body scarification used to be popular among Handa women but now has almost disappeared. Body marks can only be seen in women over fifty years old.