The Bembe originate from the northwest forests of Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are representative of numerous ethnic traditions including Lega, pre-Lega, Boyo-Kunda, and Bemba. They are a tough and proud people who absorbed other populations and their systems of thought in the process of carving out their current homeland in a time of widespread conflict and under economic pressure from European invaders and slave traders during the 19th century. Their desire for more land continues to result in conflict in the area today.
The Bembe rely heavily on farming, which is done mostly by women. Rice, maize, groundnuts, beans, and bananas are the staple crops. Goats, sheep, pigs, and chicken are raised for meat. The men are responsible for supplementing this diet through hunting, to which they attach great ritual importance. Occasionally, the Bembe lease out some of their land to neighbors for grazing, and recently they have begun to prospect for alluvial gold and tin, which they can sell.
Although there is no centralized local authority in Bembeland, government is run quite effectively through a large number of patrilineal clans. The Bwami society, which is made up of the influential men in the community, is responsible for making the political, economic, and judicial decisions which affect the community.
Religion is based on individual and lineage ancestor cults. The Bembe have also absorbed many of the religious ideas of their neighbors. They honor bahomba (nature spirits), m’ma (the earth spirit), and the spirit of Lake Tanganyika, Mkangualukulu, among others.
FACTS ABOUT BEMBE
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ebembe or Kibembe (Bantu)