Azande girl from Democratic Republic of Congo
The Azande constituted a large Kingdom living peacefully as warriors in these three African countries without borders until their Kingdom was destroyed by the Belgian, French, Mahdist and finally the British in the context of the European scramble for Africa.
Azande Sudan Cultural Dance Group
This people prefer to call themselves Azande but outsiders call them Zande. In the past (19th and early 20th century), foreigners frequently used the name Niam-Niam (or Nyam-Nyam) to refer to Azande people. The name Niam-Niam is probably of Dinka origin, and it means "great eaters" in that language (as well as being an onomatopoeia). However, Western anthropologists believe that the name Niam-Niam was giving to Azande people because of their supposedly cannibalistic propensities. From ancient African mythological accounts another tribe called the Niam-Niams were a tribe said to have short tails. Today the name Niam-Niam is considered pejorative.
The contemporary Azande people are fine craftsmen in iron, clay, and wood, and their population is over 4 million people.
Azande girl carrying her baby sister
Azande people speak Azande or Pazande, which is a language of the Adamawa-Ubangi branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Zande" is used also more widely of a set of closely related Ubangian languages, besides Zade proper including Barambu, Pambia, Geme, Kpatili and Nzakara.
aboro – people, ami – they (applying to animals). ani, a – we, areme – today. ari – high, ba – father. bagunda – heart. bambu – house. bangiri pia – east. bangirise – eye. báwe – ten. be – arm, hand. bi – see. biama – four. biata – three. -bira – to be black. bire, bere – forest. bisua bati biata, muambi – eight,
bisua bati ue, saba – seven. bisua bati biama, ribua – nine. bisue bati sa, sita – six. boro – person, man, de – woman. di – valley, dia, da – wife. dioyo – west, diwi – moon, month, ga Mbori bambu – church, gangara – hill, garã – year, dry season, gbanga – horn, gbuku – forest, gbundu – forest, gunde – fear,
i, yo – they (persons), ida – believe, ime – water, kama – a hundred, keda – send, kerekuru – star, kibire – forest, kisanga – island, ko – he, kparabe – hand, kpendue – foot,kperekese – everyone, kpetebe – hand, kure – blood, mbia – mountain, rocky hill, Mbori – God, mi – I, me, mo – you, singular, na, a, ki – and, ndue – foot, ngba – mouth, ngbarago – joy, ngbongbo – valley, ngera – see,
ngua – tree, niumbaha - rare/unusual, -ni – he, she (indefinite), ome – air, oni – you, plural, paga – bridge, pai – word, rago, ra'o, rame – day, ri – head; she, rimo – name, sa – one, sende – earth, si – they, neuter, si, ti – it (subject), tue – ear, -u – he, she (in reported speech), u – it (animal subject), ue – two, uroyo – east, uru – sun, day, -vura – to be white, we – fire, wiri – son, zamba – red, zande – person, man
Azande people in DR Congo
Azande are people of mixed origins. In the 18th century a people calling themselves Ambomu and living on the Mbomu River began, under the leadership of their ruling Avongara clan, to conquer vast stretches of territory to the south and east, overpowering many peoples, some of whom have preserved their own languages while others have been completely assimilated. This amalgam constitutes the modern Zande people. During their conquests, scions of the royal clan carved out kingdoms for themselves, and wars between these various kingdoms were frequent. Read below an article by E E Evans-Pritchard on porigin and tribal composition of Azande people.
Azande warriors with their shield and spear
Traditionally, the individual homestead of each couple and their children is the focus of the economic system. The construction and maintenance of homes are constant occupations, especially owing to the toll taken on them by weather, insects, animals, and fast-growing vegetation.
Homes are built of mud and grass framed on wooden poles and thatched with grass. (One addition to traditional Zande homes is the European introduction of doors fitted with hinges and locks.) In addition to this living space, each household unit has a granary for storing millet. Houses are built around courtyards, which provide ideal places for gathering and conversation. These enclosed courtyards are seen as a window into the household life. Their upkeep is critical since they are seen as evidence of the responsibility or industriousness of their owners. Reining (1966:69) reports that his Zande informants would comment on the state of disrepair of their neighbor’s homestead, and “analyzed courtyards
as reflections of the inhabitants.” They did not exempt themselves from such scrutiny; he continues: “I received a number of apologies from the heads of households about the state of their courtyards, with full explanations for the deficiencies of which they were ashamed” (Reining 1966:69).
The traditional courtyard arrangement appeared to have changed very little with European contact (Reining 1966), with the arrangement of each courtyard reflecting the composition of the household to which it is attached. Because each woman must have her own house and granary, a polygynous household will have numerous homes and granaries around its courtyard. In a monogamous household, the average courtyard space is about 65 feet in its largest dimension.
Azande tribe girl from Democratic republic of Congo carrying her baby sister on her back.
Households with more adult women may have yards that are 100 feet square. Courtyards belonging to the households of chiefs are double this size. “Kitchen gardens” are planted adjacent to the courtyards. These are used for plants that don’t require large-scale harvesting or great attention. Pineapple, mango, papaya, and miscellaneous perennial plants used for meals immediately upon picking are found in these plots.
Azande woman in Australia dancing in her traditional outfit
The Azande practice shifting cultivation (that is, no crop rotation, and incorporating a fallowing period), relying mostly on maize and millet, gourds and pumpkins, manioc and bananas, groundnuts, and beans. The tsetsefly, problematic o animals as well as humans, makes cattle herding impossible. Whatever meat is consumed is secured through hunting. There is also a tradition of using forested areas to gather plants they do not cultivate. Dogs and chickens are the only domesticated animals.
The region has ample rainfall and many springs. These were a focus of Zande life, because they provided usable water nearly year-round. Water for daily use was carried from stream to homestead and the washing, among other activities, was done at the riverbanks. In fact, the stream was central to Zande life in conceptual as well as practical terms. For example, distance is expressed by the number of streams between the points in question; the length of a journey is the number of streams crossed during travel. When asked about an exact location (such as an individual’s birthplace) the answer will be the stream nearest that location. Given the centrality of the stream to the Azande, their relocation
by the European administration caused major disruption in their cultural beliefs and practices.
The year consists of two seasons, one rainy and one dry. During the rainy summer, Azande cultivate their land. Although they have a long growing season and no frosts, the soil is not rich and insects are troublesome. As the hot, dry weather begins, crops mature and are harvested.
Hunting was most feasible in the dry season, when tall grasses had died or were burned and when the harvest was over. During the rains, vegetation was too dense to allow necessary visibility. Because rivers were low during this dry season, fish were more accessible. Men employed basket traps, which they set in the rapids of rivers; women dammed the streams into small shallow pools, drained them by bailing, and collected the fish, snakes, and crustaceans that remained. Termites were a favorite food, and their high fat and protein content made them a nutritious part of the diet.
In pre-European days, each family was an independent unit of production. Iron tools and spears were used as bridewealth items, but in general there was no tradition of exchange between households, which consisted of a wife or wives, husband, their children, and other dependents (such as widowed elderly). There was a sexual division of labor, and both women’s and men’s work were necessary to maintain an efficiently functioning household. Construction and repair of the house and granary were the responsibility of men. The arduous task of maintaining the courtyard and its gardens fell solely to women. Wealth, possessed mainly by chiefs, was primarily in the form of foodstuffs; the tradition of destroying a person’s worldly goods upon death left little chance of inheritance of property.
Azande have no tradition of occupational specialization. All manufacturing and craftswork were considered largely avocations, done by most. Woodworking and pottery, making nets and baskets, and crafting clothing out of bark were the most important of these skills.
Azande terracota work. The Azande were prolific potters for centuries before the arrival of Europeans
Social and Political Organization
Among the Azande, clan affiliation was not stressed at the local level. E. E. Evans- Pritchard (1971), the ethnographer most responsible for knowledge about the Azande, found, as he endeavored to gather genealogies, that “except in the royal clan, genealogical relationships between clansmen were very seldom known and usually quite untraceable” (p. 14). Local groups, according to Evans-Pritchard,
are, in essence, political units. He reports that his discovering members of the same clan living near one another is due as much to chance as anything else.
In pre-European times, the Azande were organized into a number of chiefdoms (sometimes called kingdoms), each of which was independent from the others. The Avongara were nobility; in the days of Zande chiefdoms, it was to Avongara lineages that chiefs belonged. Despite the fact that chiefs of differing groups all belonged to the same clan, there was ongoing hostility and warfare between them.
Chiefs ruled their lands and peoples by appointing emissaries (usually sons, but always Avongara) who were sent out to manage various sections of their territories. Within these communities, commoners were deputized to aid in administration.
Chiefs functioned as military leaders, economic leaders, and political leaders. Unmarried men were recruited into groups that functioned both as warriors and laborers on the king’s lands. The governors of the territories had gardens which were also worked by these troops. Both governors and chiefs collected food from the peoples in their domain (provincial governors sending to the chief a portion of their tribute as well) to be redistributed. In addition to food, spears and other items (often payment for fines or bridewealth) were redistributed by the chiefs.
Azande children, CAR.
Several miles of unsettled forest and bush were maintained between chiefdoms. Watch was kept on these borders by trusted sentinels who were designated to build their houses along these boundaries. During the rainy season when grass grew tall and provided good cover, surprise attacks were made on these border sentries, usually ordered by the provincial leader. He undertook this action on his own, without permission granted from the chief. Counsel, however, was sought from a poison oracle, a process wherein poison is administered to an animal while questions are posed to the inhabiting spirit. The poisoned animal’s behavior, as well as the point at which it succumbed to the poison, were interpreted by those with such skills. Information was obtained concerning the most propitious days and place for the raid, the expected level of casualties, and which companies of warriors should be entrusted with the most dangerous duties. If the oracle indicated that the time was not right for victory, the plans were abandoned.
The oracle also designated a suitable time and place for the attack, and the proper individual to act as a spy. This individual was sent to report on as many aspects of the homestead to be raided as he could determine. Often the spy went under the pretense of visiting a relative or wishing to trade. The best time for a raid was on a feast day when men would be involved in the festivities, not likely to be armed, and quite likely to be drunk. To determine the exact day of the feast, the spy would plan his visit during the preparations for the festivities. Because beer was always brewed for the celebration, the spy could determine the feast day based on the stage of the brewing process.
A successful raid yielded tools, arms, food, and chickens, some of which were sent to the chief for redistribution. Whatever could not be carried off was destroyed. Huts and granaries were burned.
In addition to raids, there were larger mobilizations of war campaigns on a grand scale. These were ordered by the chief, after having consulted his own poison oracle, and might continue over a period of weeks. While knives and spears were used exclusively in raids, the introduction of rifl es into these larger confrontations resulted in a shift from hand-to-hand combat to shots being fi red from a distance. Only when ammunition was exhausted would those warriors wielding spears converge on the enemy.
The traditional Zande system of marriage was greatly disrupted by European involvement. Administrators legislated broad changes, especially regarding bride payment, divorce, and age at marriage. Although many of these were ostensibly designed to improve the status of women, ethnographer Reining (1966:61–62) regards them rather as “an experiment in altering some aspects of a culture without providing for changes in values. . . . [illustrating] the unpredictability of arbitrary
cultural changes.” Azande did not share the European view that marriage was especially disadvantageous to women, whom they never regarded as servile, despite administrative interpretation of their customs.
Zande woman from Central African Republic
Traditionally, the instigation for marriage among the Azande came from the potential groom. When a man wanted to marry a woman, he asked an intermediary to approach her father with his offer. Unless the suitor was deemed undesirable immediately, her father would discuss the matter first with his brothers and sisters, and next with the woman in question. If she was agreeable, the money sent with the intermediary was accepted.
Several days later, the suitor would visit his promised bride’s parents, bringing gifts and demonstrating his respect. In turn, their daughter visited her suitor’s home for a “trial period” of several weeks, after which she returned to her parents’ home to make her final decision regarding the marriage.
During the time spent in reflection by the woman, the groom-to-be consulted oracles to determine whether the marriage, should it occur, would be a happy one. If both oracle and woman regarded the match favorably, the bride’s family traveled to the home of the groom, where the ceremony took place. The marriage was sealed with the installation of the new bride’s own cooking hearth. Reining (1966) describes traditional Zande marriage as a process that continues indefinitely over time, with a protracted payment of bride-price. A small part of the price was paid at the time of the marriage ceremony, but in reality a husband was always indebted to his wife’s family. It was always his responsibility to help in his in-laws’ fields, and he had mortuary obligations in the event of a death in his wife’s family.
The material payment of the agreed-upon bride-price was not, in fact, as important as the attitude and behavior of a husband to his wife and her parents (Reining 1966). If he was a gentle, loving husband and labored adequately for her parents, remuneration could be forestalled for years. This was often, in
reality, the situation preferred by in-laws: it afforded them considerable influence over their daughter’s husband. If the husband was not performing his duties adequately, the wife’s parents might insist that their daughter move back to their home, forcing the husband to negotiate with her parents for her return. Thus, the relationship of primary emphasis in marriage was that of a son-in-law and his wife’s parents. In polygynous situations, a man who had a good relationship with his in-laws often expressed the desire to marry his wife’s sister because of the advantages of a good relationship with in-laws.
The topic of homosexuality in Azande culture has been regularly addressed, especially in the context of the unmarried warriors, who, during the several years spent living apart from women, had homosexual relations with the boys who were apprentice warriors. These practices, however, were not necessarily maintained as a lifelong pattern of sexual orientation. Generally, after their experiences with so-called “boy-wives,” the warriors entered into heterosexual marriages.
Less attention has been paid to Azande lesbianism, relationships that were often formed between co-wives. Although there is not a wealth of information concerning these practices, according to Evans-Pritchard (1970:1429), “All Azande I have known well enough to discuss this matter have asserted . . . that female (Evans-Pritchard 1970). In addition to assuring both the emotional and economic support of the partner, it has been suggested that this formalization (a ritual akin to Zande “blood brotherhood”) may have both widened a woman’s trade network and enhanced her position in the community. Blackwood (in Suggs and Miracle 1993) interprets these relationships as indicating that Azande men’s control over women did not extend into the realm of activities between women. homosexuality . . . was practiced in polygamous homes.” Zande husbands felt threatened by such activities, yet could not stop them; thus, women usually kept the sexual nature of their friendships secret (Blackwood in Suggs and Miracle 1993). Two Zande women who wished to formalize their relationship could do so in a ritual that created a permanent bond.
Azande tradition prevents a pregnant woman from eating certain foods e.g. meat of waterbuck or a kind of sweet potato called mene, because it is believed to cause a miscarriage. There is no special ceremony at the birth of a child.
Stock Photo - Sudan, People, Rituals, Azande Tribe Birth Ritual Where New Baby Is Passed Through Medicinal Smoke. Credit: Eye Ubiquitous / SuperStock
However, four days after the infant’s cord has been cut a fire of green leaves is made at the threshold of the house. The mother with the child in her arms sits in the smoke for about half an hour. This is said to make the child strong. The remains of the fire are not thrown away but carefully placed on one of the paths leading to the village to prevent child’s ill health.
Sudan, People, Azande Women And Child During Ritual Purification Of New Born Baby In Smoke.
The Azande circumcise their boys as a tradition. This is performed when the boy has reached the age of nineteen. There is no special occasion. The Azande however don’t circumcise their girls. This circumcision of the boys has no relation with Islam.
Happy Azande kids
Azande believe in an all powerful supreme Being, Mbori. Mbori is defi ned by Evans-Pritchard (1937:11) as “a ghostly being to whom the creation of the world is attributed.” Missionaries and government officials writing about the Azande attempted to create out of Mbori a deity that would fi t
their own tradition. Evans-Pritchard, however, warns against looking for religion, as organized elsewhere, in Azande culture. Mbori is not convincingly portrayed by the Azande as a god analogous to the supreme being as found elsewhere. They have no shrines to Mbori and no materials used in worship. There is only one ceremony in which his name is invoked, and that is performed infrequently at best. When he attempted to pursue the topic of theology, and Mbori in particular, Evans-Pritchard found the Azande “bored by the subject . . . and unable to express more than the vaguest ideas about him.”
Apart from belief in Mbori, many also holds parallel belief system, including reverence for the ancestors.
The traditional cult of domestic ancestor shrines required no specialized priesthood. Matters of witchcraft and magic have always been determined by part-time specialists/practitioners. Witch doctors, who were trained in the use of magical medicines, operated at public séances; Nagidi are believed to derive their power directly from God and are, for day-to-day purposes, consulted in private.
Dancers from Budi County in Eastern Equatoria State perform during the opening, November 22
The most important ceremonies were formerly witch doctors' séances. One or more witch doctors, in colorful ceremonial dress, would dance and sing to musical accompaniment before commencing their divination. The circumcision of pubescent boys also forms part of an elaborate series of ceremonies; others were associated with initiation into the (now defunct) magical-medicine associations.
Music, both instrumental and vocal, is very important in Zande culture; traditional instruments—wooden gongs, skin drums, whistles, xylophones, and large bow harps—also accompany singing and dancing. Harps are occasionally decorated with carved human heads; otherwise, nonutilitarian carving is poorly developed.
Zande apply generally known common-sense cures to minor ailments. All serious diseases are attributed to witchcraft and are accordingly combated by magical medicine. The general term ngua, which originally meant simply “plant” or “tree,” once covered both good and bad “medicines” of every sort. Nowadays Zande distinguish between protective or curative “medicine,” which is increasingly becoming known by the Arabic term dawa, and ngua used as vengeance “medicine.” Magical “medicines” are used, not only to ward off (or avenge) misfortune, but to obtain successful harvests, human fertility, good hunting, and other benefits, including job promotions and success in examinations. Such “medicines” are bought from people believed to have the requisite knowledge; payment is held indispensable if they are to be efficacious.
Death and Afterlife
All deaths, except those of very small children, are attributed to witchcraft or magic and call for magical vengeance. Upon death, the soul (mbisimo) becomes a ghost, which in some sense may be present in the homestead ghost shrine, but also dwells with other ghosts and with the Supreme Being, Mbori, in earth caves in the forest.
There are no outward signs of mourning except for widows. At the moment of a husband’s death a women tears off their clothes and ornaments and remain so until his burial. They cut and keep their hair short for about a year during which time she is not allowed to eat certain food. The death of a man may cause desertion of his village and none of his wives may enter it.
All his personal domestic articles are broken up. In the old days people were buried in a sitting position with their chins on their knees. Immediately over the body a roof of wood and grass was placed and the grave then filled in, a pile of stones being placed on the top.
The men are buried facing east and women facing west. The explanation for this is that a man, when he gets up in the morning, always looks first to the east to see if dawn is near, and a woman, when the sun is about to set, goes to fetch wood and water to prepare the evening meal.
The Chief and elders of the Zande village of Dakwa perform local rituals to exorcise the spirits from former child soldiers. Image by Marcus Bleasdale. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2010.
The Azande are perhaps better known for their pervasive belief in witchcraft than for any other aspect of their culture. However, in his classic description of witchcraft among the Azande, Evans-Pritchard asks the reader to be aware “that the Zande cannot analyze his doctrines as I have done for him. . . . It is no use saying to a Zande ‘Now tell me what you Azande think about witchcraft’ because the subject
is too general and indeterminate . . . to be described concisely. But it is possible to extract the principles of their thought from dozens of situations in which witchcraft is called upon to explain happenings. . . . Their philosophy is explicit, but it is not formally stated as a doctrine” (1937:70). (In such situations, an anthropologist endeavors to construct such a “doctrine” through fieldwork. The resulting product
may look quite dissimilar from the indigenous view [Barrett 1991].)
Witchcraft is thought to be an actual physical property residing inside some individuals, who may themselves be unaware of their power. It is inherited, passed from father to son and mother to daughter. Azande believe that if the soul of the father is more powerful, the child conceived will be a boy; if the mother’s soul substance is greater, their child will be a girl. Thus, although every child is a
product of both parents, each also has more of one particular parent’s soul. And if that parent is a witch, inheriting this inherent power to do harm is inevitable.
Because this property is organic, it grows as a person grows. Therefore an older witch is a more dangerous witch. Children, whose witchcraft substance is small, are never accused of major acts of harm (such as murder). They can, however, cause minor misfortunes for other children.
Unlike sorcery, which employs charms and spells, witchcraft is deployed by sheer willpower. Witches send the spirit of their own witchcraft entity to eat the flesh and organs of their intended victims. Thus, a witch may be at home asleep at the time illness or injury occurs. It is the “soul of the witchcraft” that travels through the night. This substance cannot travel great distances, however, and it is for this reason that the Azande feel more secure if they are able to live at a distance from their neighbors. The “short-range” nature of witchcraft allows the perpetrator to be more accurately identified; all those beyond the limits of a witch’s capabilities, even with evil intent, may be eliminated. If a person is taken
ill while traveling, it is that location where illness struck in which the witch must be found.
The Azande believe that witchcraft is at the base of all misfortune, great or small. If a potter opens his kiln only to discover his pottery cracked, he intimates witchcraft; if a child stubs her toe at play, she suspects witchcraft; if a hunter is gored by an elephant, he lays blame for the injury squarely on a witch. Azande entertain no concept of “accidental” death. People die only as victims of murder, whether committed by witches or by the magic of revenge reserved for retaliation against suspected witches.
Despite these convictions, the Azande do not live in constant terror of witches (Nanda 1991). In fact, Douglas (1980) reminds us that Evans-Pritchard’s assessment of the Azande was that they were the happiest and most carefree peoples of the Sudan. “The feelings of an Azande man, on finding that he has been bewitched, are not terror, but hearty indignation as one of us might feel on finding himself the victim of embezzlement” (Douglas 1980:1).
Since a witch’s motivation is not random, but rather envy or hatred directed at a specific person, a victim searches for a suspect among those with whom he has argued, or in a person who may have cause to be jealous of him. How then can he identify his aggressor? For this, and other purposes, the Azande consult a variety of oracles.
The Azande consult oracles regarding a wide range of things about which they need information. They ask for guidance in planning a marriage, taking a journey, building a house, organizing a raid. In addition to whatever their current misfortune may be, they inquire about whether their health will be endangered in the future.
Consulting Azande iwa Oracle
In pre-European times, Zande chiefs consulted oracles to confirm their military decisions, but chiefs were also charged with judicial duties. Every accusation was brought before the chief to adjudicate. To this end, he employed several people whose responsibility it was to assist in the consultation of oracles. It has been said that the Azande belief in witchcraft is the supporting framework of their entire judicial system (Mair 1974:221).
An oracle is a device for revelation. Among the Azande there are many from which to choose, with varying reputations for reliability. By far the most powerful is benge, the poison oracle, used by men alone. Its decisions are relied upon without question, and no undertaking of great import is attempted without its authorization. In attempting to convey its centrality, a Zande informant of Evans-Pritchard drew the analogy between the books of Europeans and the poison oracle of his own people. All the knowledge, guidance, memory, and truth that are derived from trusted Western writings reside for the Azande within the poison oracle. Evans-Pritchard came to view it as less a ritual than a necessity:
For how can a Zande do without his poison oracle? His life would be of little worth. Witches would make his wife and children sick and would destroy his crops and render his hunting useless. Every endeavour would be frustrated, every labour and pain would be to no purpose. At any moment a witch might kill him and he could do nothing to protect himself and his family. Men would violate his wife and steal his goods, and how would he be able to identify and avenge himself on adulterer and thief? Without the aid of his poison oracle he knows that he is helpless and at the mercy of every evil person. It is his guide and counsellor (1937:262–263).
Despite this seeming indispensability, later ethnographers have pointed out that benge poison, expensive and difficult to obtain, was most likely an oracle available regularly only to men of wealth. This limitation may have acted both to engender social obligations and to grant power and prestige. A man who cannot afford the costly poison, or who does not possess the proper chicken to which the poison must be administered, asks a wealthier kinsman, or deputy of the chief, to consult the oracle on his behalf. It is his duty to oblige. It is older men who are likely to have the means to seek counsel from the oracle: this access to information gives them power over younger men. They not only can ask the
oracles about the intentions and behaviors of their juniors, but also are always supported in their decisions by the considerable weight of oracular authority, to which younger or poorer men have no direct access, and so cannot challenge (Evans-Pritchard 1937).
The benge poison ordeal is an elaborate procedure, requiring great skill and finesse in both the administration of the poison and the posing of the questions. Poison is administered, by an expert in the task, to a small chicken. The expert must know how much poison is necessary, how much time should elapse between doses, whether it should be shaken to distribute the poison, how long and firmly the chicken should be held, and in what position. Each barely perceptible movement made by the bird is significant to the trained eye.
Once the poison has been administered, the order in which questions are asked, whether they are phrased in a positive or negative frame, must all be determined by the questioner. The oracle is addressed as if it were a person. Every detail of the situation in question is explained, and each individual question may be embedded in fi ve or ten minutes of speech. The benge poison shows its answer by responding through the chicken to the directive, “If this is true, benge kill the fowl” or “If this is not the truth, benge spare the fowl.” Each answer is then tested by repeating the interpretation of its reply, prefaced with the question, “Did the oracle speak the truth in saying. . .” (Mair 1974).
An oracle more readily available to all is the termite oracle. This is used as often by women as men, and even children may participate. Two branches are cut, each from a different tree. They are inserted together into a termite mound and left overnight. The answer is indicated by which branch has been eaten. Though certainly less elaborate and costly than the benge oracle, consulting termites is a time-consuming affair, since only one question may be posed at a time and one must wait all night long for the answer.
Least reliable but most convenient is the rubbing-board oracle, a device resembling a Ouija board, made of two small pieces of wood, easily carried to be consulted anywhere, at any time. One small piece of wood is carved with a handle and is rubbed across the top of a second piece, fashioned with legs to
stand on. Questions are asked as the wood is moved; as it sticks or catches, so the answer is revealed.
A group of boy circumcision initiates (agangasi) wearing grass fibre skirts, in a line performing a circumcision dance (gbere agangasi) with their sponsor (identifed as Yakobo) standing beside them holding a spray of plant leaves. A wooden dance gong (gugu) can just be seen behind them. circa 1927. [Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria Yambio.
Accusing a Witch
There are two distinct sorts of accusations of witchcraft: one in which illness or misfortune has occurred, the other after someone has died. These differ in both the function of accusing an individual and the ramifications of being found guilty.
The aim of accusing a person of witchcraft in the former situation is to bring about some resolution to the conflict that induced the attack and to return the relationship to equilibrium. Speaking ill of a person, or even wishing someone injury, is ineffectual without a social tie: the curse of a stranger cannot do harm.
Thus, a relationship with the accused is a prerequisite for bewitchment. (An individual must be suspected, or else his or her name could not have been presented to the oracle for confirmation or denial of guilt.)
When the chicken dies during the benge poison ordeal, a wing is cut off, placed on a stick, and brought to the local deputy of the chief, telling him the name of the individual confirmed by the benge. A messenger, sent with the wing to the alleged witch, places it on the ground, and announces that benge has been consulted regarding the illness of the accuser. Usually this charge is met with denial of any ill intent. At the very least the accused pleads ignorance of harm derived from his or her own mangu, or witchcraft substance. As a demonstration of good faith, the alleged witch takes a mouthful of water, and sprays it over the wing. So doing, she or he beseeches the mangu to become inactive, allowing the victim to recover. The messenger reports these events to the chief’s deputy.
In the event of a “murder,” the aim is not pacification but revenge. Restoring amicable relations is clearly not possible; a postmortem accusation is an indictment leading to heavy compensation, sometimes paid with the witch’s own life. Exacting such a toll permanently alters the relationship between the kin group of the victim and that of the accused (McLeod 1972).
Zande abinza (witch-doctor)
Witchcraft in Its Social Setting
The Azande chiefdom is formally structured in a clear-cut hierarchy, from the chiefs at the top through their deputies, armies, local governors, and ending with individual householders. Built into this structure is the elimination of most opportunities for unequal competition: that is, chiefly lineages did not compete with those lesser, nor did the rich with the poor, or parents with their children.
As Douglas (1980) has observed, accusations of witchcraft arise only in those social situations that fall outside of the political structure. Thus, co-wives might accuse each other, as might rivals in other arenas. Because witches could be unintentionally dangerous, their mangu could be set into motion by understandable resentments and jealousies. The accusation and eventual demonstration of remorse will
set these ill feelings to rights. Events that can be explained by an individual’s lack of technical skill (such as the shoddy work of an inexperienced carpenter) or by personally motivated actions are not likely to be involved in the realm of witchcraft.
As Parsons (1969:195) observes, one can imagine many motivations for people to claim that witchcraft was at the root of their adultery, but this would result in ridicule, “because everybody knows witches don’t do that.”
Witchcraft beliefs can function effectively as a way of managing the anxiety resulting from random misfortune. This is evidenced by the prominence given to illness and death as occasions for witchcraft accusations.
Witchcraft as Social Control and Leveling Mechanism
Witchcraft may serve as an effective agent of social control. The lengthy process involved in making an accusation acts to forestall hasty and emotional confrontations. Charges must have group support behind them and are not leveled carelessly.
An individual’s behavior can be guided by the knowledge that wrongdoing might likely result in retaliatory witchcraft. Additionally, cognizance that jealous or hostile behavior might place one in a position of being suspect should misfortune occur might lead one to be quite circumspect. Wishing to be neither suspect nor victim, the Azande possess, in witchcraft, both an effective sanction against
socially disruptive behavior and a vehicle for handling hostility.
Because an individual with great wealth is likely to engender the jealousy of others and the attendant bewitchment, Azande are not likely to attempt to outproduce one another. It is in this way that witchcraft acts as a leveling mechanism, indirectly keeping wealth balanced.
The “Logic” of Azande Witchcraft
The attribution of the cause of all misfortune to witchcraft may seem extreme. In fact, Evans-Pritchard himself engaged in lively debate with informants who described as witchcraft events that seemed to him the result of entirely “natural” phenomena. He eventually recognized that they did, in fact, have a very clear understanding about the contribution of the natural world to their misfortune.
When Evans-Pritchard suggested to a boy, whose foot had been injured when he tripped over a tree stump, that a witch could not possibly have placed the tree stump in his way, the boy agreed. He recognized that nature had contributed the tree stump and, further, that the tree stump had cut his foot. His evidence of witchcraft was simply that despite his vigilance in watching out for tree stumps, as well as his safe passage on that same path hundreds of other times, this time he had been injured. This time, there was witchcraft.
Along these same lines, when a granary collapsed, injuring several people who had been sitting in its shade, Azande saw no contradiction in their dual assertions that termites had eaten at the legs of the building, resulting in its collapse, and that witchcraft was responsible. They further admitted that no witch had “sent” the people underneath the granary in order to trap them: it was afternoon, and they were merely seeking shade. While we would call this series of events coincidence, or perhaps “being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Azande are able to form an explanatory link between these events. That link is During his stay in the Sudan, Evans-Pritchard witnessed the suicide of a man who was angry with his brothers. Although his despair over his confl ict was well known, and when his body was found hanging from a tree, all readily acknowledged that he had, in fact, hanged himself, the cause of death was considered witchcraft. At Evans-Pritchard’s behest, a Zande friend explained:
. . . only crazy people commit suicide; if everyone who was angry with his
brothers committed suicide there would soon be no people left in the world;
if this man had not been bewitched he would not have done what he did do"
Once the supernatural premise that people have witchcraft substance in them and can harm others with it is granted, the Zande argument becomes logical.
These beliefs concerning witchcraft endure today, with some modifi cations. Resettlement has forced them to accept living in closer quarters, depending upon screens to keep them out of their neighbors’ view, if not their reach. When asked about fears concerning the proximity of witches, the Azande report that they feel able to relocate should misfortune occur. This would remove them from any nearby threat.
AZANDE TODAY: RESETTLED, UNSETTLED
The “Zande Scheme”
The decision by colonial authorities in the 1920s to move Azande out of the valleys to control sleeping sickness was only the fi rst in a series of resettlement and development plans. Before midcentury, the Azande were subsistence cultivators.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the British introduced the so-called “Zande scheme,” a program of cash cropping (chiefl y of cotton) and industry (producing cotton cloth). Planners believed they could improve the lot of the Azande, who, it was thought, would be grateful for the introduction of more “modern” comforts and luxuries. The introduction of money and wage labor acted to weaken kinship
ties by obviating the need for kin to work together outside the household.
Young men and women could more easily leave their parents’ homes and set up their own households with income from wages paid by Europeans. As part of the scheme, the Azande were once again resettled—more than 60,000 families by 1950—away from the roads, into farmland. The most detrimental feature of the resettlement plan was the arbitrary assignment of individuals to plots of
land. This action was fl awed in several ways: it disregarded family groupings, failed to take into account the Azande’s desire for mobility and fl exible living arrangements, and resulted in some farmers receiving land with good soil and others receiving land of poor quality. Tensions were engendered among resettled people that were counterproductive to the developers’ wishes to create, through resettlement, a stable workforce. Anthropologist Conrad Reining (1966), in a study of the Zande scheme, concluded that while the project demonstrated the feasibility of establishing an industrial center among the Azande (provided cost was no object), and of convincing the Azande to produce copious amounts of cotton, it more convincingly showed how much could not be accomplished. Its primary weaknesses were in the realms of ecology, social organization, and communication, failures it shared with other such attempts. By the mid-1950s, cotton production slowed to a near halt. There was a move to restart the program in the 1970s, but civil war in Sudan, which would continue throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, cut short the attempted revival.
THE ETHNIC COMPOSITION OF THE AZANDE OF CENTRAL AFRICA
E. E. EVANS-PRITCHARD
University of Oxford
The Zande language predominates from 23' to 30' Long. E. and from 3' to 6' Lat. N. and in some places extends beyond these limits (Van den Plas, p. 9) .' As Professor Tucker notes (1940, p. 17),*it is remarkable, considering the area covered by it and the number of peoples belonging to different language groups-Sudanic, Bantu, Nilotic, and Nilo-Hamitic-who today speak it, that it has developed only five, and not very divergent, dialects. It is also remarkable that, without any technological superiority, those who built this empire were able to conquer such vast territories and to weld their inhabitants into a nation.
That they succeeded was certainly due in the main to their greatly superior political organization. It was only when they came up against peoples, the Abandiya and the Mangbetu, who had a political organization comparable to their own that they were unable to make headway. The other peoples who tried to resist them and were defeated and displaced or subjugated were, according to all the information we possess, ill-organized politically, having nothing like the Zande statal organs. On the contrary, living in small communities at variance with each other and lacking common direction, they sooner or later fell a prey to the invader and became politically, and to an increasing extent culturally, part of the great complex we know as the Azande. It is the purpose of this paper to examine this complex, so far as its ethnic composition is concerned, and to analyse its component elements.
Several of the early explorers of Zandeland remarked on the great admixture of peoples comprising the population. Junker ( 189 1, pp. 198-9) for example, describes "the motley mixture of broken tribes and scattered populations", servile peoples (Amadi, Basiri, Augu, and Maranga) with speech and habits and customs different from those of the Azande, in the comparatively small territory of Palembata (in the neighbourhood of 4' N. and 27' E.). He refers elsewhere (1891, p. 466) to Abarambo colonies among the Azande to the south of the Bomokandi and to Zande colonies among the Abarambo to the north of it, both peoples being in these areas subjects of the Zande prince Bakangai; and Casati (I, p. 198), speaking of the same prince, says that the population of his domains is composed of Azande, Abarambo, and Mabisanga.
Azande people. Circa 1888. Tagged 'Horrible Feast of the Cannibals' from Stanley's Travels in Africa
Junker again (1892, p. 148) says of the areas ruled by Zemio and his brother Miando in the valley of the Mbomu that the ruling Azande class was greatly inferior in numbers to the other inhabitants (Akare,
Basiri, Abarambo, and-whoever the following peoples may be, for Junker did not venture to determine their affinities-Shinvas, Ababullos, Embiddimas, and Apakelle). Then, once again ( 1892, p. 307) : ' "As in many other northern lands, Linda's territory (about 5' 20" N. and 26' 20" E.) was occupied, besides
the dominant Zandehs, by Bashirs, A-Barmbos, A-Bin, A-Pambia, and other subject tribes."
It is not surprising that those who came after these explorers and could make their observations in easier circumstances have frequently remarked on the same phenomenon. The Polish ethnographer Czekanowski, for example, gave special attention (pp. 21-6) to the ethnic constitution of the Zande kingdoms. noting that the Zande conquerors are a sparse ruling class in vast areas, in many of which the greater part of the population are foreign peoples who have retained their distinctive character
(Abarambo, Akare, Apambia, Basiri, hlakere, Ilundu, Momvu, etc.). In the more thickly populated south, with which Czekanowski was personally acquainted, the serf population includes peoples of many alien stocks who have been conquered but not yet assimilated: south of the Bomokandi scarcely a quarter of the population belong either racially or culturally to the politically dominant Zande element, for the Makere, the greater part of the population, have kept their identity intact. In Bavungara's
province, near Vankerckhovenville, the ratio is only about 80 Azande men to hundreds of Momvu, and in the neighbouring territory ruled by Bokoyo the situation is similar. He concludes (p. 43) that the Zande clans stem mainly from these foreign stocks and that it has been the power of the Avongara ruling house that has integrated all these heterogeneous elements into the present Azande people.
Czekanowski is one of my authorities for this paper, but I have chiefly relied on Van den Plas, and after him on Junker, de Calonne-Beaufaict, Hutereau, Larken, Maes and Boone, and Baxter and Butt. Their writings and those of other authorities are cited in the bibliography at the end of this article. When I
have made statements without citing authority for them it must be understood that on those points our main sources are in agreement, the statements being a summary of the different records and confirmed in the areas known to me personally by my own experience. If I do not add much that is original to
what others have said I can at least, in a condensed form, once more draw attention to the great ethnic complexity of Zande society. The historical processes involved in, and the social consequences resulting from, ethnic amalgamations of this kind and on this scale, for they are found in many other African states, have not, I think, been sufficiently appreciated. The cultural effects have also been important, but they must await later and separate treatment. Here little more is attempted than a brief
review of the ethnic elements which constitute the present-day -Azande.
The Avonqara are the ruling aristocracy in by far the greater part of Zandelnnd. The Ambomu are their original subjects, and it is their language that the Azande speak. When one speaks of Azande one speaks of all those who use Zande as their mother tongue. Nevertheless we have sometimes to distinguish in the area ruled by the Avongara between Azande of Ambomu descent ( Azande ni Ambomu) and Azande of assimilated stocks (Azande ni Auro )who have been completely, or almost completely, assimilated culturally to the Avongara-Ambomu. A like distinction is doubtless made in Zande territories where the Avongara are not the rulers, but where they once were. We may speak of those peoples who still speak their own languages but are, within Zande territory or on its confines, politically under Zande domination as subject peoples. They are, in varying degrees, in the process of becoming Azande. Some of these subject peoples are elsewhere independent. Some foreign peoples, although never subjugated by the Azande, were raided by them or came under their influence and have thereby contributed in a lesser degree to the formation of the ethnic conglomeration of the Azande people.
The term "Niamniam", a foreign, perhaps Dinka, designation, is best avoided as it has been used by Arabs and Europeans without much discrimination to refer not only to both Azande and their
subject-peoples but also to almost any people in the area under consideration. It was for some of them a very confused representation-cannibals, men with tails. etc.
Portrait of Azande girl
The Avongara or Akolongbo, as they also call themselves, are today in speech and habits, if we except aristocratic modes of behaviour and mannerisms peculiar to their class, indistinguishable from their followers, and we have no evidence that they have ever been otherwise, though they themselves would not admit to being of Ambomu stock, saying that they are Akolongbo or Avongara of Agbia, noble, stock. In the first half of the 18th century-there seems to be little doubt about the broad outline of the facts-the Ambomu people, who at that time lived in the valleys of the Mbomu (hence their name) and the Shinko rivers, began to move, under Avongara leadership, first to the south-east and thence north, east, and south. These migrations, the causes of which we do not know, continued till checked by Arab and European opposition in the second half of the last century and in the first decade of the present century, and in the course of them the Zande nation was formed. The Ambomu clans are consequently found in most, probably all, parts of Zandeland; but they are mostly, we have reason to believe, to be found in the territories ruled by the descendants of King Yakpati, on both sides of the Nile-Congo divide roughly between Long. 27' 30" and 29' 30'1.9c
There they have a slightly enhanced social position in virtue of their descent from their conquering
forbears, but it must be said that Azande do not attach great importance to whether a man is of Ambomu stock or not; there has been too much intermarriage for this to count much. What can be said is rather that the Ambomu have a long tradition of attachment to their Avongara rulers and of familiarity with the polished life of courts, so that the standards of etiquette and manners obtaining at court are considered to be those of the Ambomu, and ignorance or contravention of them to be the behaviour of Auro, foreigners.
Major Larken with Zande woman and girl. Circa 1927
Some peoples have entirely lost their cultural identity in the Zande amalgam but, through many vicissitudes, their ethnic distinctiveness and political independence have survived. This is the case with the Sudanic Abandiya, who live in the most western part of Zandeland, to west of the 26" Long. E. Junker (1892, pp. 241-2) lo says that they moved into this area from the Mbomu-Makua confluence when the Avongara-Ambomu left it to migrate to the south and east and that by his time they had already become vassals of the Arabo-Nubians. De Calonne (p. 83) says that of their own accord they adopted not only the Zande language but also their political institutions, but I find it difficult to believe that they would have done this so completely if they had not been at some period subject to the
Avongara, and I find it easier therefore to accept Van den Plas' statement (p. 14) that they are an ethnically mixed people ruled by the Abaza (whose language a few old people still speak) who, after prolonged combats, were finally subjugated by the Avongara, though, as was their policy in dealing with subjugated peoples, the Avongara left them their own Abaza rulers, with whom they made alliances. The Nzakara also only speak Zande today, having lost their original Banda dialect. They appear to be entirely under the dominion of the Abandiya, on the limits of whose territory they live in two separated stretches of country towards the extreme western limits of Zandeland.
There are a great many of the Adio people in the Zande population and they are found in all parts of Zandeland. aSome people give Adio as their clan name. Other clans of the Adio are the Akowe, Abananga, Andebili, Abangbai, and Apise. There may be others (Akudere, Ambari, Agbutu).
Some of them form a politically independent group, though culturally in all important respects like other Azande and speaking only Zande, known as hlakaraka or Azande-Bamboy, in the valley of the Tore, tributary of the Yei. They are thus the most easterly section (Long. 30" 30" E.) of the Azande and,
being isolated from the rest, have much mixed with neighbouring peoples. They are part of the Abile migration, as one of the Zande migrations came to be designated, and, I was told, adopted
Zande speech and customs during the time they were conquered and ruled by the brothers and sons of Renzi, son of Yakpati, one of whom, Muduba, carried them with him in his migration to the east. When, at Muduba's death, his men, faced with starvation, returned westwards they left the Adio behind them where we now find them independent of Avongara rule. They would probably have been brought under it by Mange son of Gbudwe had not the Egyptian Government established military posts in the area.
of 3' Lat. N. and 26' Long. E. The same author mentions other peoples who accompanied the Adio and Abwameli in their original migration. Whoever these people may have been, today they exist no more as distinct ethnic groups, with the possible exception of the Angada, who, though no longer a cohesive
group, appear to be to some extent localized, though mixed with Avongara-Ambomu and speaking only Zande, in a pocket in Abandiya country on the Mbili, north of Lat. 4' N. and between 25' and 26' Long. E. Elsewhere they have been scattered and absorbed by Azande and Abandiya.
Other peoples, or sections of them, have totally, or almost totally, lost both political and cultural identity and are entirely, or almost entirely, merged in the Zande amalgam, where they can be distinguished from the Arnbomu only by their clan names and, so the Ambomu say, their boorish habits when they have not learnt to abandon them by contact with the polite society of courts. One of these is the Sudanic Abangbinda, a once numerous people. After conquest by Yakpati and his descendants, their
final resistance being broken by Gbudwe, they were almost completely absorbed by the Azande, though here and there in small groups their language is not entirely forgotten. I was able to take down vocabularies from some of the older people. They are one of the biggest elements of foreign origin in the Sudan to the east of the Lingasi. The following clans claim to be of Abangbinda origin: Abiama, Abakpara, Abani, Abadigo, Amabenge, Abambiti, Abaanya, Abagbuto, Abaningo, Abagbo, Abangbaya, Abamunga, Abagua, Avuduma, and possibly also the Abangbara. Another completely assimilated people, according to Van den Plas (pp. 21-2), are the Mabisanga, a section of the Medje who were at one time subjects of the Mangbetu. When the Mangbetu king Munza's kingdom was dismembered by the Egyptians they were subjugated by Ngula-Mange son of Kipa. Emin (p. 204), de Calonne (p. 130),
and Czekanowski (pp. 176-7) , say that the Egyptian Government appointed Mbitimo son of Wando to rule them.
A large proportion of the Abararnbo, or Arniangba, and of the Amadi peoples have also been almost totally absorbed by the Azande. These once great peoples were dispersed and fractionized by bitterly fought wars with the Azande ruled by the House of Yakpati. However, some Abarambo to the south of
the Uele still speak their own language and are commanded by their own notables, though under Avongara suzerainty, in Junker's time in the person of Bakengai ( 189 1, p. 335) ; and they are an independent people between that river and the Bomokandi, for although Bakengai's father Kipa had ruled them on both banks of the Bomokandi, those to the north had by Junker's time reasserted their independence. Some of their more important clans, in the Sudan mostly found in the old kingdom of Gbudwe, are: Aubali, Abawoli, Abazaa, Avumaka, Avonama, Avundukura, Abakpuro, Amuzungu, Agbunduku, Abandogo, Abalingi, Avunduo, Abakaya, Amigbara, Abagbate, Agberenya, Akpurandi, Abapia, Akpura, Amiandi, Abangombi, Akenge, Abaale, Abaiwo, Abangburu, Amiteli, Abandiko,
Angali, Angbuki, Ambare, Abangboto, Abisiaka, Abangere, Abanganyl, Abakpoto, They are probably the largest single foreign element in the constitution of the Azande of the Sudan, where one can still find persons who remember their original tongue, though it is no longer spoken.
Czekanowski (p. 210) l9 thinks that they are the largest foreign element among the Azande as a whole. The greater part of the Amadi people, whose ancient name, de Calonne says (p.120)20 was Amago (Amego) or Aogo (Augu), settled, after wars and migrations, around the chain of hills on 27' Long. E.,
where Junker ( 1891, pp. 31 7-8) found them and where they are still independent today, though all speak Zande as well as their own Sudanic tongue. The rest of this at one time considerable people were dispersed by Yakpati and his sons and were finally absorbed into the Zande complex, their descendants
being found today widely distributed in all the central and eastern regions of Zandeland. In view of the fact that the principal battleground between the Amadi, with their Abarambo allies, and the Azande was in the valley of the Sueh it is surprising that so few men claim Amadi descent there today. One reason for this appears to be that after the severe hammering they received from the Azande in the north the main body turned towards the south. Also, those who were left behind seem to have become to a large extent confounded with the Abarambo, so some of the clans often said to belong to the Amiangba (Abarambo) may be Amadi in origin.
These two instruments formed the basis of most Zande feast dances (gbere buda) as well as the seances of abinza (witchdoctors).
Another people who must, I think, have been partly assimilated are the Sudanic Bangba, who today mostly live to the south of the Uele-Kibali on Long. 28" E., where they sought refuge after a bloody defeat at the hands of Ukwe son of Wando. I believe that some of this people must have contributed to the Zande population because Van den Plas says (p. 23) that besides their own language and Mangbetu some speak Zande, which is gaining ground, and, although the same writer says that none of this group of Bangba are subjects of Avongara, when they lived further to the north, Schweinfurth (I, p. 522),23
who met them there in 1870, tells us that they, or at any rate a powerful section of them, were subjects of Wando son of Bazingbi, most of them speaking Zande. It is highly probable, therefore, that they have contributed to the population of his old kingdom.
In addition to the peoples already mentioned, Van den Plas mentions (pp. 16-22) 24 others as being of foreign origin but now completely, or almost completely, submerged; Abubage (some dozens of individuals still stammer out their ancient language in the valley of the Gurba); Amuvumba (five or six families at most, who live in the valley of the Sekunde, tributary of the Gurba) ;Ngbwaya, Ngobwu, and Tokpwo (infinitely small groups about which information is now unobtainable) ; Abotupwe (met
with in the valley of the Poko, tributary of the Bomokandi); Asibali (met mainly among the Apsmbia and the Abuguru); and Abangombi, Angombe, and Aholi (all completely absorbed).
Of these, the Ngobwu are probably the Gobu or Gabu, still found among the Abandiya (Capenny, p. 31 3; Tucker, 1940, p. 17) and figured on Junker's map as "Ngobbu" between Long. 24' and 25' and just south of Go Lat. N. The others are probably all clans of peoples listed already or later, and not
distinct ethnic groups: the Abubage, an Amadi clan; the Abotupwe (Abatukpo) , an Abarambo clan; the Asibali (Asigbali) , probably a Basiri clan; the Abangombi, an Abarambo clan; the Angombe (Angumbe), an Ambomu clan; and so forth. Hutereau (pp. 317-8) mentions a Ngara people, now absorbed by
the Abandiya, and shows them on his map to the south of the Mbomu between Long. 25' and 26' E. Junker ( 1890, p. 480) and Emin (pp. 375-6) mention an Apagumba people who migrated to the east with the Adio but who had, even in their day, almost completely disappeared in the Adio (Makaraka)
amalgam. I believe this to be an old name for the Avotombo clan of the Ambomu. Junker has on his map "Mambelli, a Zande tribe", in Ngangi's old kingdom (between 28' and 29' Long. E. and 5' and 6' Lat. N.) Czekanowski also shows them, in the same position, in his ethnographic map and expresses the opinion (p. 23) that they are of the same stock as the Ambili, who are mentioned later. If this people was once a distinct ethnic group, it has disappeared today. The same must be said of various other groups mentioned by Junker-Marango, Amasilli, Shirwas, Ababullos, etc.-some of which may figure in this account under other names, while others seem to have disappeared.
Zande women and children in homestead.
When we speak of subject peoples it must be understood that while there certainly was some discrimination and some what Major Larken, in speaking (p. 238) of the treatment meted out to the Apambia by the Azande, calls bullying, to say that these peoples were in a servile position would, at any rate usually, be an exaggeration. It is true that the Akare and Basiri have been called slaves and serfs, e.g. by Schweinfurth (11, pp. 395-6) " and Chaltin (Lotar, pp. 250-1 ), and it is possible that this
was indeeed the case in the west where under Arab influence trading in slaves seems to have been practiced by some of the Avongara rulers (Schweinfurth, 11, pp. 417-8 and 430), but it was the traditional Zande policy to encourage submitted peoples to accept Avongara rule voluntarily, to stay in their homes, and to become Azande; and one of the main principles in that policy was indirect rule. We are told time and again by our authorities that once a people submitted they were left with their own
chiefs. I have already cited Van den Plas to this effect in the case of the Abandiya and the Abararnbo (p. 2 1), and the same author speaks in the same manner of the Ahangbinda and the Basiri (pp. 16-17) .35 Professor Tucker ( 1931, p. 54) asserts the same of the Mbegumba and the Mberidi, and other authors could be quoted in support of the contention, which is very much my own opinion from what I observed among the Bongo, Baka, Abuguru, and other peoples. All that was asked of the subject peoples was recognition of Avongara suzerainty, that they should keep the peace, and a payment of tribute in labour and in kind to their rulers which was no more than Azande commoners contributed towards the upkeep of the courts. Bit by bit Azande infiltrated among them and married with them.
Commoners of standing settled among them and encouraged them to adopt Zande habits and to speak the Zande tongue by offering them hospitality-it is through bakinde, porridge, Azande say, that men are subjugated ( z o g a ) , and by justice. They say "Azande nu ra fu agbia mbiko gngama ae", "Azande
subject themselves to the princes on account of the gifts they receive from them." Finally some princeling was sent by his father to rule them or did so on his own initiative, and through his court the people became more familiar with Zande institutions.
That such peoples as have retained their own languages and to some extent their traditional way of life have been able to do so is doubtless in part due to the imposition of European rule but it is also in part due to the fact that Azande treated, what they considered, in their sophisticated way, to be barbaric
foreign usages with good-humored tolerance, and also in part to the further fact that often, like so many small peoples in other parts of the world. these conies dwelt among the rocks: even the names of some of them indicate this, e.g. Apambia and Belanda both mean hill-men.
The three principal subject peoples in the north, all speaking their own languaqes as well as Zande, the first two Sudanic tongues and the third a Bantu tongue, but entirely under Zande domination, are the Apambia, the Basiri (Sere), and the Akare. Only the main areas of their occupation are mentioned. There are pockets of them elsewhere, and very many of them have been absorbed by the Azande. The Apambia live among the granitic hills forming the crest of the Nile-Congo divide to the north of Lat. 5" N. Tembura son of Liwa established his rule over them; and they form today a large element in the ethnic composition of the area ruled by his son Renzi and in the old kingdom of Ezo. Some of their clans in these regions are. Abadugu, Avuzukpo, Abakpa, Avonamangi, Abakumo, Avugioro, Ambaragba, Abamerenge, Andugu, and Abakowe. The two largest groups of Basiri are between the
Boku and the Kere and to the north and south of the Mbomu between Long. 26' and 27' E. There are also pockets of them in the Sudan. Van den Plas remarks (p. 16) that of all the peoples submitted to the Azande, they and the Momvu have been the most refractory to the culture of the conqueror; and de Calonne notes (p. 14) that Zandeization is more advanced among such Bantu peoples as the Abangbinda and the Abuguru than among peoples culturally nearer to the Azande, such as the Basiri. However, Schweinfurth (11, pp. 395-6) says that many of them had been assimilated to the Azande by 187 1 . The Akare form a compact group on both banks of the Mbomu between 25' and 27' Long. E. In the French Congo they are, says Van den Plas (p. 15);' mixed with Banda, Gobo, and Nza k a r a. In the same region there is a small people called Biri, apparently still speaking their ancient Sudanic tongue to
the east of the Mbomu-Shinko confluence (Baxter and Butt, p. 33) on the authority of Von Weise and Kaiser-Walden; they are also mcntioncd by Capenny (p. 313) as dwelling on the middle course of the Warra. Some of their clans found among the Azande, almost exclusively on or to the east of the Sueh, are: Ababaimo, Abakaya, Abagende, Ababanduo, Abaali, Abakpanda, Abakango, Ababali, Abamage, Abandagburu, Abangbandili, Abagiali, Abaruouro, Abadugumu, Ababamuru, Abadangasa, and
Abangbapere. To the east of the Sueh they are, on my calculations, over a quarter of the Zande population.
An Azande playing a harp. Photographed by Herbert Lang in Bafuka's village, March 1913. (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History
Another people now conlpletely under Zande domination are the Bantu Abuguru (Babukur), though they still speak Liguru as well as Zande. One section of them occupies the crest of the Nile-Congo divide between the eastern sources of the Sueh and the sources of the hferidi and another occupies a stretch of country in the valley of the Sueh to the north of Yambio, the Azande having driven a wedge between the two sections. Smaller groups are found elsewhere. They were first subjugated by Renzi and Bazingbi, sons of Yakpati. The Huma, who speak a language almost identical with Liguru, mostly live in the hills on the Sueh-Iba watershed, miles to the N.E. of Tembura.
They were brought into subjection by Tembura. A number of other peoples are in part ruled by the Avongara. Those in the south are members of the Mangbetu cluster. When the Azande began to push southwards from the Uele they met with strong resistance from the Sudanic Mangbetu, who at that
time had a highly developed political organization embracing a number of peoples, Medje, Makere, Momvu, Mangbele, and others, ruled, like the Azande by the Avongara, by the Mangbetu aristocracy, which has given its name to the whole complex of peoples. Nevertheless, they made some advance and they took over further territories when, after 1870, Egyptian forces had broken the power of the Mangbetu kings. As recorded earlier, some of the Medje (the Mabisanga) have now become Azande,
and it seems that others in the north are ruled by Avongara (Baxter and Butt, p. 48). They were subjugated by the Zande king Kipa and placed by him under the rule of his son Bakangai.
They are said to be, though much mixed with Azande, a compact group speaking their own tongue and Zande only when it is required of them. In about 1885 Ukwe son of Wando in a campaign against the Momvu pursued them as far south as the Bomokandi and subjugated them between that river and the Kibali.
1892 Wood Engraving Azande Warriors Dog Nyam-Nyam Hut Dwelling Congo Africa Slom
They have, however, kept their own language and manners and customs, speaking Zande only when necessary. Their resistance to Zande influence may be due in part to the arrival of the Belgians shortly after Ukwe's campaign. Other sections of the Momvu are subjects of the Mangbetu and yet others have retained their independence. A group of the Mangbele on the left bank of the Uele, from the lower Gada to the Mapuse rapids, were defeated by Kipa but later came again under Mangbetu rule. Some of the Mangbele are independent and others are ruled by Avongara and Mangbetu. Originally a Bantu people,
they now speak a Sudanic language. Van den Plas speaks (pp. 18-19) of the Ambili people, Bantu who have to a large extent become completely Zandeised.
Those who live compactly in the region of Bondo (just west of 24OE. and just south of 4ON.) have kept their old language, though, having been subject to the Avongara for several generations, they also speak Zande. They seem to be part of the particular Zande complex known as the Azande-Abile. A number of peoples living on the northern confines of Zandeland are, or were, wholely or in part, under Avongara dominion.
Two of these peoples have long been grouped together in literature as the Belanda, a Bongo term, and are referred to by the Azande as Abari. Though much intermingled, they are culturally quite distinct, the one, the Mberidi (Bor), being a Nilotic people related to the Luo, and the other, the Mbegumba (Bviri), a Sudanic people speaking a dialect of the language of the Basiri. One section of these peoples today live between the Sueh and Iba rivers and Lat. 5' and 6ON. and other groups between the Sueh and the Wau. Faced with Arab persecution from the north they chose to submit to the Avongara. Both peoples have preserved their languages and customs, though each speaks the language of the other as well as their own, and both speak also Zande and have been much influenced culturally by the Azande in other ways. Some of the Belanda settled permanently in Zande country, where they have been absorbed.
The Bongo, a Sudanic people whom Schweinfurth (I, pp. 257- 60) reckoned in 1870 to number some 100,000, scattered over an area of nearly 9,000 sq. miles between Lat. 6' and 8'N., were unable to resist enslavement by the Arabs, and some communities fled to the south to seek refuge with the Avongara rulers Tembura, Gbudwe, and Mange. Others sought, by moving to the south, to escape the Arabs and also to preserve their independence but were attacked by these Avongara and forced to accept their overlordship. Such Bongo speak Zande as well as their own language.
In Schweinfurth's day ( 1870-187 1 ) Azande were spread to the north roughly as far as Lat. 6' 30" and they were in occupation of most of the same territory when Junker was in Zandeland ten years later, but the most northern areas, ruled in Schweinfurth's day by Mofio and Solongo, as he calls them, had been lost to the Avongara by about 1874 (Capenny, p. 310), so that such Azande as were there, known, Junker says ( 1891, p. 11 2) , as Diggas, no longer had a position of dominance but lived in common dependence on the Egyptian Government with peoples who had once been their vassals and with whom they were by this time very mixed. These were, in addition to groups of peoples already mentioned-Basiri, Bongo, and Pambia-the Golo and some of the Kreish (Gbaya); and to these peoples mentioned by Junker we must add the most easternly section of the Banda nation and some very small peoples- Ndogo, Bai and Togbu. All these peoples speak their own Sudanic languages but they also speak Zande with varying proficiency.
Portrait of a Zande (Makaraka) warrior
Junker tells us that some sections of some of these northern peoples had already by his time migrated
to the south to seek protection in the powerful Avongara kingdoms from the Arabo-Nubians. If the Zande expansion to the north on the whole met with weak resistance till countered by the Arab intrusion so that we can, with some latitude, it is true, list the peoples of that region under the heading of subject peoples, in the east and northeast resistance by some small peoples was not sufficiently or on a large enough scale overcome before the Egyptian Government established military posts in the area for us to describe them as subject peoples, except perhaps in the case of the Baka. De Calonne says that the Baka on the Aka and Garamba were subjugated by Wando, and even those who are independent of Avongara rule in the Sudan have been much influenced by Azande, whose tongue is widely known among them. Had it not been for Arab intervention they and the other peoples of the area would have inevitably been brought into complete subjection, for they were unorganized and disunited. As it was, they were raided and displaced by both the Avongara and the Adio, who took captives whose descendants are found among the Azande today. There must also have been some degree of
social contact between them and the Azande, for it is seldom that one fails to find among them individuals who understand Zande.
The peoples raided and sometimes displaced by the Azande in this area but cannot be said to have been subjugated by them to any extent, or even at all, are the Sudanic Mundu, Avukaya and so-called Jur peoples (Beli, Sofi, etc.), the Moro peoples (Moro Kodo, Moro Meza, etc.), and the Logo; and the
Nilo-Hamitic Fajelu and Kakwa. It would seem that individuals, and perhaps sometimes small groups, of all these peoples have contributed to the ethnic composition of the Azande.
Some southern peoples who seem to have contributed, though in small numbers, to the formation of the Azande nation are briefly mentioned. De Calonne says (pp. 73-4)49 that the Mabudu, a Bantu people living today to the south of the Mangbetu cluster, were defeated by Kipa's sons who, however, later withdrew northwards. The Ababua stoutly resisted the Azande, but the lack of unity among the communities of this Bantu people told against them and they had already had to yield to the Avongara a stretch of their country to the north when the Belgian occupation stopped further encroachments. The Mayogo, of the Mangbetu cluster, appear to have had very limited contacts with the Azande. The Mobenge (Benge) form the most northern part of the Bantu Mobati, living just south of the Uele between Long. 23' and 24' E. Burrows (p. 19) says that they are dominated by the Azande, to whom they pay tribute. Capenny asserts (p. 312)51 that they were subjugated by Jabbir, "a son of a Zande prince" (p. 85). Van Bulck and Hackett (p. 79)53 say that they have been largely overrun by Abandiya and Azande. Zande domination by this people is not mentioned by our other sources. The Bakango are the riverains of the Uele between Bambili and Bondo. They do not, however, appear to be a distinct ethnic group, but sections of Azande, Ababua, and other peoples. Pygmies are sometimes met in the
most southernly extensions of Zandeland, e.g. in the valley of the Poko, tributary of the Bomokandi (Czekanowski, p. 25).
For convenience I table the peoples who have in one way or another and in varying degrees contributed to the Zande complex, the table serving the further purpose of key to the sketch-map. Forty different peoples are listed. Some peoples who might well have been entered separately appear under a single title, the "Jur" and "Moro" peoples for example, or the "Medje" (the Mabisanga section are probably Bantu in origin). Had they been given separate entries and had some doubtful cases (mentioned by Junker, Van den Plas, and others) been included, e.g. Apagumba, Mambelli, etc., we could assert that,
together with the Ambomu, at least 50 different peoples have contributed to this vast ethnic amalgam; and it may even be, for we seldom have sufficient information to decide, that some of these peoples, as would appear to be the case with the Abandiya, were themselves composed of heterogeneous stocks.