Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


Peoples of the Savanna: Lunda Region

Most of the inhabitants of western Shaba between the Lubilash and Kasai rivers and extending east to the town of Kolwezi are speakers of Lunda or closely related languages. Their distribution extends beyond this area to Angola, Zambia, southwestern KasaiOccidental , and southeastern Bandundu. The vast scale of their distribution is the legacy of the Lunda Empire (see fig. 2; fig. 3).

Vansina has distinguished the northern Lunda from the southern Lunda and related peoples, in part on linguistic grounds, in part on the basis of differences in modes of inheritance and descentgroup formation. The southern Lunda proper, the Chokwe (also seen as Cokwe), the Ndembu, and others are matrilineal; the northern Lunda (also called the Ruund) are marked by bilateral descent. Some contemporary conflicts between these groups, notably between Lunda and Chokwe, have their roots in the period of the breakup of the Lunda Empire in the late nineteenth century. Chokwe raiders from the periphery of the empire grew powerful enough to intervene in Lunda kingship succession disputes and briefly to seize the Lunda capital. Although the Chokwe were eventually ousted and their expansion halted, they succeeded in establishing themselves as competitors to Lunda power. The contemporary echoes of that competition have expressed themselves in the reluctance of Chokwe to support Lunda-led political action.

Data as of December 1993