Bembe - Dem. Rep. of Congo

The Bembe group of people migrated from the Congo in the 18th century, resettling in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near its borders with Tanzania and Burundi.  They are a semi nomadic people, who often settle in forest environments, abondoning their small villages once the soil has become less fertile.  The women are responsible for crop cultivation, mainly rice, maize, groundnuts, beans as well as bananas. Chicken, sheep, pigs and goats are raised for their meat source. The men are reponsible for hunting and fishing. The Bembe, occasionally lease out their land to neighbors for grazing.

The 'cult of the ancestor' is an important part of Bembe social and spiritual life.  IT recalls the history of their respective clans through worship at private and public shrines, which apear in the form of miniature huts, enclosures or tables and are situated either somewhere in the village or on an ancestors' grave.  Often they are libated with food and animal sacrifice at the altar.  In return, it is believed the ancestor will protect the tribeand increases fecundity.

Ancestor figures normally only appear in the south-western Bembe territory.  They are roughly made and are usually a cylindrical bust mounted by a large head.

Secret societies are an important part in Bembe life.  The Bwami society overseas circumcision rituals, rituals inspired by the neighboring Lega, in which small statues and magical objects are handled and masks danced.  The Elanda society exercises social control over the tribe and is a men's only society, accessible through substantial initiation subscription being paid to the head of the society.  The Alunga male society is in charge of the pubic dances and is responsible for conducting the ceremonies which proceed a hunt.

Bembe spirituality is based on individual and lineage ancestor cults, as well as taking on a lot of the religious ideals of neigboring tribes. Among others, they honor the earth spirit, M'ma, nature spirit, bahomba, as wel as th espirit of Lake Tanganyika, Mkangualukulu.
Bembe Elanda Society African Mask