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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

New Americans

Immigrants from other areas of the world

The Congolese people

Cultural Profile of their country- Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ethnic Groups

The Democratic Republic of Congo is extremely diverse, and more than 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named, all from four major ethnic groups: the Bantu, the Nilotic, the Sudanese and the Pygmy.

The majority of the population are Bantu. The four largest groups - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande collectively make up about 45% of the population. 5,000 people from Belgium and 5,000 people from Greece currently live in DR Congo as well.

The Bantu people

The Bantu people are an ethnolinguistic grouping of approximately 400 distinct ethnic groups who speak Bantu languages. They are native to 24 countries spread over a vast area from Central Africa to Southeast Africa and into Southern Africa. About 60 million of them, divided into some 200 ethnic or tribal groups, are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They make around 80% of their population. The Bantus are the largest ethnic group in the African continent. They were estimated to number around 350 million by the midpoint of the 2010s, constituting roughly 30% of Africa's overall population.

They are estimated to have settled in the DRC area between the 10th and the 14th centuries, from the west and north. They established kingdoms that were still very successful at the time of European penetration after the 16th century. The major kingdoms were the Kongo, Teke (Bateke), Luba, Pende, Yaka, Lunda, Songe, Tetela, and Kuba.

Major cultural clusters today include the Mongo (in the center of the country), the Kongo (west), the Luba (south-central), the Lunda (south), the Bemba (southeast), and the Kasai (southwest). Bantu peoples in the north and northeast include the Ngala, the Buja, the Bira, the Kuumu, and the Lega (Rega).

The three with the biggest populations are Luba (18%), Mongo (17%), and Kongo (12%)

Others worth mentioning are: Ambala, Ambuun, Angba, Babindi, Baboma, Baholo, Bangala, Bango, Bapindi, Batsamba, Bazombe, Bemba, Bembe, Bira, Bowa, Dikidiki, Dzing, Fuliru, Havu, Hema, Hima, Hunde, Iboko, Kanioka, Kaonde, Kuba, Kumu, Kwango, Lengola, Lokele,Lunda, Lupu, Lwalwa, Mbala, Mbole, Mbuza (Budja), Nande, Ngoli, Bangoli, Ngombe, Nkumu, Nyanga, Pende, Popoi, Poto, Sango, Shi, Songo, Sukus, Tabwa, Chokwe, Téké, Tembo, Tetela, Topoke, Ungana, Vira, Wakuti, Yaka, Yakoma, Yanzi, Yéké, and Yela.

There are about 3000 Bantu languages, the bulk of which are mutually intelligible to varied degrees. The majority are agglutinative, blending number, tense, case, gender, and aspect into single words. Bantu languages are very melodic and simple to comprehend. Swahili is the most commonly spoken language in Africa, a Bantu tongue. It is estimated that there are between 100 and 150 million speakers. It originated around 500 years ago on the Kenyan coast as a result of interactions between various Bantu tribes and Arab traders.

the Bantu have distinguished themselves as great in agriculture, owing to their location in high altitude areas of Africa with excellent climates. Their lands are fertile and well-watered. They inhabit the slopes of Africa's tallest mountains, including Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Mount Meru.

The Nilotic people

The Nilotic people are indigenous to the Nile Valley and speak Nilotic languages. They inhabit South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we can find the Alur, Kakwa, Bari, and Logo tribes. Nilotic peoples live in the northeast.

The Pygmy people

More than 600,000 pygmies (around 1% of the total population) are believed to live in DR Congo, mainly in forests, where they survive by hunting wild animals and gathering fruits. African Pygmies live in several ethnic groups in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo (ROC), Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, and Zambia.

There are at least a dozen pygmy groups, sometimes unrelated to each other. The best known are the Mbenga (Aka and Baka) of the western Congo basin, who speak Bantu and Ubangian languages; the Mbuti (Efe etc.) of the Ituri Rainforest, who speak Bantu and Central Sudanic languages, and the Twa of the African Great Lakes, who speak Bantu Rundi and Kiga.

Most pygmy communities are partially hunter-gatherers, living partially but not exclusively on the wild products of their environment. They trade with neighboring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other material items; no group lives deep in the forest without access to agricultural products.

Although Pygmies are thought of as forest people, the groups called Twa sometimes live in open swamp or desert.

The concept of Indigenous Pygmy people is accepted and approved by the government of DRC and civil society organizations, but it wasn't always like that. The term refers to the Mbuti, Baka and Batwa peoples. Indigenous Pygmy people in the DRC are widely acknowledged as the first inhabitants of their national rainforests.

The Mangbetu-Azande

Of the four large ethnic groups within the Democratic Republic of Congo, only one is not Bantu. The Mangbetu-Azande people are mostly found in the northern part of the DRC and belong to the Hamitic ethno-linguistic family, which is related to languages of northern Africa. The Mangbetu-Azande people today are largely farmers, relying on cash crops like coffee, peanuts, and bananas.

They occupy a special place in the nation due to some very distinctive traditions that have come to represent the nation's heritage. The most unique of these traditions is a practice of head binding. Young children's heads will be wrapped in tight layers of chords, which reshapes the child's skull to make it longer. The belief is that this increases the brain cavity and, therefore, the child's intelligence. Mangbetu-Azande hairstyles, composed of layers of braids, accentuate this elongated shape of the head and have become internationally recognized.

To see media associated with the ethnic groups that inhabit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, click here. For demographic information, click here. For a list of ethnic groups, click here.

Stay tuned for more information on the Congolese people and their culture, and more places and their people in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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