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At the Back of the Black Man's Mind, by Richard Edward Dennett, [1906], at



The Interregnum.-Maluango's Court. -Mamboma's Court. -Justice. -The Magic Mirror.-Some Fjort Sayings.-The Districts.

WE now turn to the court Of MALUANGO or the Prince of the Custom of the Leopard. Maluango, as we have seen, is the king or chief of the Bavili; the word is equivalent to Maniluango, i.e., Prince of Luango; his overlord was, of course, Kongo, the Ntawtela,[1] of the realm of Kongo. MALUANGO has seven titles, one of which, NTAWTELA, is his title after his death. Under six of these titles he presides over six sections of government, aided in each case by two assessors.

Division 1.

As Fumu (judge) he appears as the conscientious arbitrator, and in these matters he has as assessors LUEMBUNGU and MANKAKA, the chief of his army and the executioner. NGANGA MPUNZI is the priest, whose duty it is to clean and sweep up the place where the coming Maluango shall build his dwelling.

Division 2.

As NTINU (judge), he is the reasoning judge, and here he is aided by INJIBUNGU[2] and the recording messenger MAXIENJI.

In cases where no just decision can be arrived at Maluango

[1. The title is according to Bentley, applied during their lifetime to the kings of Kongo, to the subject princes of Luango and Kakongo only after their death.

2 Where no office is named, I have been unable to discover the functions performed by this officer mentioned.]

advised the parties to take the powdered bark of the NKASA tree (not the pea shrub) which was administered by the priest NGANGA NKASA. The innocent party would vomit, while the guilty one either died from the effect of the poison, or, being purged, was killed.

Division 3.

As NGANGA VUMBA (Priest of the Seasons), it was the duty of Maluango to look after the morals of his people, more especially touching adultery and murder; in this he was helped by KONGO MBUNGu and MAFUKA, his messenger. After punishment adulterers had to buy certain expensive medicines from NGANGA KUTECI to appease BUNZI.

Division 4.

As MALUANGO XIVANJI (head of the state), it was his duty to govern the country, and in these matters he was assisted by TATABUNGU and MAMBOMA. And NGANGA MBUMBA aided them with his knowledge of the secrets of life and medicines.

Division 5.

As MUENE (overlooker), Maluango was the overseer of his people; here he was assisted by MABUNDU, the representative of his fruit or offspring, and the chief of his household MASAF1. And the NGANGA BUNDU helped him in settling disputes by administering to the offenders the powdered bark of the BUNDU herb. The guilty party after taking this was unable to make water, and fell, while the innocent evacuated a few drops on a leaf placed beneath him.

Division 6.

As NKICI CI[1] as we shall note, Maluango was one of the seven powers or BAKICI BACI, and here he was aided by MAMATA and MAMBUKU, guardian of the eastern gate of his kingdom. And in this place he had the help of the NGANGA BAKICI, or the priest of the XIBILA or sacred grove.

Such is the court of MALUANGO.

[1. For the meaning, see Chapter XVI.]

Maxienji, Mafuka, Hambuku, are each attended by a MAFUKA (messenger), MANGOVA (knight) and a MASAFI (major domo).

Mamboma has three ZINGANGA as his attendants, NGANGANKICI (fetish), NGANGA BAKICI (sacred grove), and NGANGA XILEMBA.

Mamata has MAZONGA MAKAYA as his attendant.

Mankaka is attended by his successor MUELA.

The names of these courtiers are BABI ACI opposed to the name by which ordinary people are known, BACI CI.

MALUANGO also has a private MAMBOMA with him apart from the above courtiers, and KUTECI, his apothecary, is also generally with him.

With regard to the chief personages in this court, there are some sayings in very old Fjort which will help us perhaps to a little more precise information about them and their offices.

Of Mamboma they say:

Kanga lumbi; Kanga mbeta
Malamba malambakana, Xivili.

I don't think anyone to-day can translate this exactly, but it carries the following meaning with it: "just as the sun rises and sets, so it is Mamboma's business to look after the crowning and burial of Maluango; and just as a woman cooks and intends to go on cooking (and watching her pots), so Mamboma watches over the BAVILI."

Of Mambuku they say:

Mambuku nandu, nkaka bakamba,
Xikata kata xianlo tenda Maluango yeza'ntu.

"Mambuku the guardian of the gateway leading from the Mayombe country into Luango, is hard-headed and obstinate, and like Maluango's little box with its closed lid will only open his mouth at his bidding."

Of Mafuka they say:

Mafuka xikangu kangula bana mampanga.

Mafuka as the royal messenger keeps on tying up people by word of mouth, or with a wordy yoke."

Of Maxienji they say:

Maxienji, magundu lubenda
Sanga mbuila zika, monho
Bungu maci, Xindundu,
Ku zikula ntandu.

"Just as Mafuka is the bearer of messages, so Maxienji is the bearer of the news of the death of Maluango; he prays Mamboma to bury him; and just as the wife with her water-bottle leaves her husband's corpse on its way to burial to fetch water, so he leaves Maluango's body with the people of Mamboma, and looks after the Badungu or Xindundu (Maluango's police), who are now scattered about in the grass ready to rob all passers-by while Mamboma's people keep 6n burying Maluango in the open on the hill (at Lubu)."

Of Mankaka of Loango they say:

Mankaka zi Loango
Benze, moanga
Ke ku benzanga mitu bantu.

Mankaka the executioner of Luango cuts and twists about (Ke=not?) to keep on cutting off the heads of people."

I think it will be found that these ancient sayings refer to a time when the official language of Luango was more in accordance with that of the ancient Kongo, so many of the words used in them are not of the Luango dialect. This perhaps points to Luango as having been a conquered province. The religion and social system may then have been superposed?


Upon his death MALUANGO is given the title of NTAWTELA, and is buried, as we have seen, by MAMBOMA, and his people, MAMBOMA, is the prime minister of the living king, his regent during his absence, and the ruler of the kingdom during an interregnum. He is always a slave, and as such incapable of succeeding to the kingship. On the death of the king, it is the duty of MAMBOMA, through the MAMBOMAS of the other provinces, to call the princes together and proceed to the election of the new high priest NGANGA NVUMBA. The choice is restricted to the sons of the princesses living in KONDI, but not to any particular one. The diviner NGANGA MPUKU with his magic mirror is called in, should there be any need of divine interference owing to want of unanimity.

In the meantime MAMBOMA and his court take the place of the court of the late MALUANGO, although MAMBOMA is always in subjection either spiritually to the NTAWTELA or bodily to MALUANGO, so that he is always either the servant of the dead or of the living.

At the gate of the XIBILA or MALUANGO'S sacred ground there sits a certain personage called MAXILACI. MAMBOMA claims this person as part of his court, but so does MALUANGO, and from the fact that he is at the gate of the XIBILA (sacred ground), there can be no doubt that he now is part of the latter's following.

MAMBOMA has a court of twelve, not counting MAXILACI.

2. XENDU, the executioner.
6. MAFUKA, the messenger.
8. MAMBOMA MICITATA, Mamboma's Mamboma, the ruler the earth.
9. MABUNDU, representing his followers.
10. MANTU BOMA, his successor.
11. KABA, the one who allots,
12. MALUNGONGOLO, the crier.

These twelve are the assessors in the six divisions into which Mamboma's court is divided, and which correspond to the divisions of Maluango's court.

Division I.

A person representing Maluango, in his office of FUMU heads this division and his name is MAXINGANANKULU, and when he, aided by LUEMBA LAMBA and XENDU, cannot settle the question in arbitration they call in the NGANGA Mpusu, who has a small but neatly made basket of grass with a tight-fitting lid on it. When the name of the guilty one is mentioned he finds it impossible to take this lid off.

Division 2.

MAMBOMA KAYI, acting in the place of MALUANGO as NTINU, presides over this division, aided by NJIMBI LAMBA and the messenger MABUNDU MABUNDU (a kind of chief of police), and if they cannot properly prove the person guilty, they call in the NGANGA XIKETEMBI, who has two wisps of grass, a mat NKWALA, and a boy. The boy lies upon the wisps and mat and the NGANGA tries to lift him up by the two ends. If the name mentioned or thought of by him is that of the guilty party, the wisps and mat cling to the body of the boy in such a way that he can easily be lifted up, and the pressure is such on the body of the boy as to cause him at times to spit blood.

Division 3.

MAMBOMA, under his spiritual title NKANGA LUMBI, takes the place of MALUANGO as NGANGA VUMBA aided by KONGOLAMBA and his MAFUKA; and if they are not satisfied with the evidence they will call in the MKANGA NTALI, who has a small bundle of medicines wrapped in cloth and feathers. This he keeps on smelling till he thinks of the guilty one, when the odour confirms him in his suspicion.

Division 4.

MAMBOMA, in the place Of MALUANGO XIVANJI, aided by TATA LAMBA and MAMBOMA MICITATA, tries the accused, and if unable to convict, calls in the NGANGA XISENGO, who has a knife which he makes almost red-hot and passes across the palms of the hands or calves of the legs of the accused. If there appears the smallest sign of a blister, the person is considered guilty. (This custom is called XISENGO.)

Division 5.

VUTA MALEKA, the conciliator, takes the place of the king as MUENE, aided by the MABUNDU and MANTu BOMA, and in the final appeal he calls in NGANGA SUKU, who rubs the palms of his hands together, till he thinks of the name of the culprit, when his hands refuse to meet but turn back to back.

Division 6.

No one can fill in the office of NKICI CI, so that the services of the KABA and MALUNGONGOLO are called in with those of Nganga MPUKU NYAMBI who, if necessary, looks into the magic mirror to find out who shall become the new NKICI CI or NGANGA NVUMBA, who is then elected.

The Abbé Proyart says that everybody knew that when the king died MAKAYI would succeed him, and other writers have also told us who it is that will succeed the king; is it not possible that these authors have been in error, and that they have mistaken these temporary occupiers of the offices of MALUANGO for his real successor, whom nobody can name until he has been chosen and elected by MAMBOMA and the princes?

Battel also mentions a certain four, one of whom shall succeed the NTAWTELA. (See Ravenstein's Battel, Congo and Angola.)

At the present day the Bavili consult these diviners without the intervention of MAMBOMA.
MPUKU NYAMBI often accompanies the present NGANGA NVUMBA. He wears a head-dress of the red feathers of the tail of the grey parrot. He holds a mirror with BILONGO (medicines) attached to the back of it in one hand, in the other he carries a small bundle of medicines out of which the feathers of the fowl protrude. He is not only the diviner (in case of dispute) of the MALUANGO to be elected, but also uses his powers to-day to divine the cause of the anger of the powers, or the person who has caused sickness or other evils to fall upon the petitioner or his dead relation.


Each province under its manifumu [1] has its courts modelled upon the two we have described and each petty prince as the chief of these districts is a magistrate, or KONGOZOVO.

[1. The manifumu is named after his province: thus the chief of XIBANGA is MA XIBANGA.]

BUALI is the name of Maluango's centre province, and it has a road to the sea at Luango. The naines of the Kongozovo in this province are-Mpili, Ntumpu, Mpanji, Lubu, Bukulibuali, Xifungu, Butoko, Pongo, Xisu, Sauza, Nkondo, Kubemba, Lombo, Mengo, Mongo-ntandu, Nkatiga, Mbanga, Xibalo.

There are six other provinces-Mbuku, Luanjili, Zibanga, Kondi-Ndingi, Xikamba, Samanu.
MBUKU contains the following Kongozovo as far as I can gather. (It is bordered by Mayombe and Buali). Binga, Mfinio, Makollo, Inda, Lilu-ngoma, Xikana-xiinbuku, Mvuadi, Xilala, Tombi, Bilinga.

LUANJIM, bounded by the river Lueme and the sea, contains Mpaka, Xingambi, Mvumva, Ximbamba, Xinuka, Ximbambuka, Ngoio-ntu, Mpita, Kote-mateva, Njeno, Nanga, Xinangananga, Nkotchi, Winga, Ntembo, Futu, Luanjilinkula, Mvetu, Xinyambi-xinani, Kata-mavata, Xiabi, Lulobi, Mvampili, Mbambala.

XIBANGA, bounded by the sea and Mayombe, is composed of Lubu, Yombo, Bifundi, Belolo, Longobondi, Xilunga, Xibote, Mabondi, Maxilunga-luemba, Batli-kondi, Xinjili, Konkuati, Xitenda, Seta-banda, Ximbia, Longo, Xisanga and Kwilu.

KONDi NDINji, bordering Kakongo and Sundi. Ndinji, Kondi-ndinji, Xicita ndinji, Kaii-kon'dinji, Nombo-xindinji, Sanga, Xingango, Mpanga-mongo, Xivava, Sevi, Ntumbi, Maxonzo, Lutati, Samputu, Bulali, Sokoto, Kama-mbota, Ximbuku, Kumbi-liambo.

XIKAMBA (East of the Lueme river and west of Ndinji) contains Kaii, Nzaci, Xikaka, Sanza, Kutoto, Xamba, Mpemo, Jebba, Buamongo, Buku-ntamba, Xizibila, Nzanzi, Mvuli, Mieli, Nsuku, Konkonguati, Busu mbanda.

SAMANu, bounded by the sea in the west and Ndinji on the east. Buambu, Xinxonzo, Xiloango, Xela, Maxi-mabanda, Liku, Xikasu, Ntandu-lumana, Kikaka, Bixekete, Buswenji, Tungu, Nkotchi, Pam Kondi, Tero, Mabuli, Xibota, Ximaniamatadi.

In the olden days, traders situated in these provinces only heard of "Maluango" as a great over-lord, and all their palavers; were settled independently of him by these Kongozovo. This gave rise to the impression that these Kongozovo were independent princes, and that there was no connection between these petty princes and Maluango. It was only on great occasions that Maluango was appealed to, and this was done through regular channels. Palavers from south of the river Xiluango were carried to Njeno, on the Lueme river, who transferred them to Maluango's Mafuka. This connection can even be carried from Maluango to Kongo at San Salvador through "Nieno" of the Lueme river and "Hgeno" (Banana) on the Kongo, and the Mafukas (or messengers).

This semi-independence of these petty princes quite misled Mr. H. M. Stanley, who, in a letter dated from Gibraltar to Col. Strauch in the early eighties despaired of creating "Free States" in the Kongo. The Kongo would have worn a very different appearance to-day had the kingdoms of Kongo, Kakongo and Luango been resuscitated and governed on natural lines, if not as one kingdom, then as at least three Free States."

Nothing could have been more disastrous to the welfare of the people and the country than the absolutely insane way this country was cut up between the French, the Portuguese, and the independent State of the Congo.

Next: Chapter 5. Law