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Equatorial Bantu

George Peter Murdock (1897-1985)
Africa. Its Peoples and Their Culture History

New York. McGraw-Hill. 1959. 456 p.

Part Eight: Expansion of the Bantu
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Equatorial Bantu

In a broad band across the tropical-forest zone of the Congo Basin, within 5°N and 5°S of the equator, live a block of Bantu peoples with remarkably homogeneous cultures, whom we shall call the Equatorial Bantu. The culture of these Bantu tribes shows striking resemblances to that of the Eastern Nigritic peoples to the north. This need not entirely reflect recent diffusion. If, as seems likely, the bulk of the Equatorial Bantu came from highland Cameroon and if the Eastern Nigritic peoples, as we have surmised (Chapter 29), originated in adjacent Adamawa, the ancestors of the two groups have been neighbors for thousands of years, thereby explaining at least some of the similarities between them. In both instances, of course, the penetration of the tropical forest followed, and was made possible by, the acquisition of the Malaysian food plants. The Bantu occupation of the province must have occurred at a relatively early date—certainly prior to the expansion of the Mangbetu cluster of the Central Sudanic peoples, since, as we have seen (Chapter 28), the Mangbetu subjugated some of the Bantu tribes whom they found in possession of the country when they arrived. It was almost certainly the vanguard of the Equatorial Bantu who emerged from the tropical forest into Uganda, encountering there the Cushites, whom they were ultimately to absorb but not until they had borrowed from them the elements of East African agriculture.
The postulated derivation of the Equatorial Bantu from upland Cameroon rests in part on the near universality of patrilineal descent among them. The original Bantu appear to have been matrilineal and avunculocal, but the Cameroon Highlanders, as we have noted (Chapter 30), seem early to have achieved the transition to the patrilineate. On the other hand, certain features of Equatorial Bantu culture, partic ularly the prevailing house type and settlement pattern, point definitely to an origin on the Guinea coast. These suggest an intrusion of peoples from the coastal region akin to the Northwestern Bantu. Numerous authorities, indeed, have noted ling uistic and other resemblances between the latter and tribes like the Dzem, Kaka, and Sanga who became separated from them by the late southward expansion of the Fang. Such groups presumably have made the shjft from matrilineal to patrilineal descent since their arrival at their present location in consequence of pressures exerted by their neighbors.
The lack of notable cultural differences among the Equatorial Bantu makes it unnecessary to divide their numerous component tribes into clusters.

  1. Amba (Awamba, Baamba, Bahamba, Bamba, Bwamba, Wawamba), embracing the Bulibuli, Bwezi (Babwizi), and Vonoma. They number about 60,000.
  2. Babwa (Ababua, Baboa, Bobwa), with the Babeo (Bangelima, Mongelima), Bakango, Bangba, and Boyeu.
  3. Bangi (Abango, Babangi, Bayanzi, Bobangi, Bubangi), with the Furu (Apfourou, Bafourou), Loi (Ballohi, Baloi, Balui), Ngiri (Bangili, Bangiri, Bonguili), and numerous lesser tribes. The Bangi proper number about 60,000, the Ngiri about 65,000.
  4. Bati (Saari, Babati, Bobate, Mobati, Mombati), with the Benge (Amubenge, Bange, Mobanghi, Mubenge).
  5. Binza (Babinja, Babinza, labinja, Vinza, Wavinza).
  6. Bira (Babeyru, Babila, Babira, Baburu, Bagbira, Bavira, Wabira, Wavira), with the Pere (Babili, Bapere, Bapiti, Peri). They number about 45,000. The Forest Bira and Plains Bira differ appreciably in culture.
  7. Bomitaba, with the Bodongo, Boka (Bokaka), and Bonga.
  8. Budja (Boudja, Mbudja), with the Bale (Mabale, Mbali, Mobali), Bango (Babangi, Bobango, Mobango), and Maginza.
  9. Budu (Babudu, Banabuddu, Mabodo, Mabudu, Wabuddu).
  10. Dzem (Diezem, Djem, Ndzem, Njiem, Nyem), with the Badjue, Coma (Gouma), Kwele (Bakuele, Bakwili), Ndsime (Nedjimi, Mendsime), and Nzimu (Dsimu, Dzimou, dsimu, Zinm). They number about 30,000.
  11. Fang (Fan, Fanwe, Mfang, Mpangwe, Pahouin, Pangwe), with the Bane (Bene), Bulu (Boulou), Eton (Etun, Toni), Mvae (Mwai, Mwei), Mvele (Mwelle), Ntum (Ntumu), Tsinga (Batchenge, Betsinga), Yaunde (Jaunde, Yadunde, Yaounde), and numerous lesser subuibes. They number in excess of 700,000.
  12. Kaka, with the Bakum (Biakumbo, Bjakum), Besimbo, and Pol. They number about 50,000.
  13. Kalai (Akalai, Akelle, Bakalai, Bakale, Bakelle, Bangomo, Bangone, Bembance, Ingouesse, Kele, Mboue), with the Bangwe, Basissiou (Mochebo), and Ongomo. Their population was estimated at 25,000 in 1906.
  14. Kota (Bakota, Bandjambi, Ikota, Kura, Okota), with the Chamai (Bouchamai), Hungwe (Mahoungoue, Ongwe), Kiba (Bokiba), Ibamba (Ambamba, Babamba, Bambamba, Obamba, Ombamba), Mbao (Bambao, Mbaon), Ndasa (Bandassa, Mindassa, Umdasa), Ndomo (Bandomo, Ndumu), Ngie (Banghie, Banguie), Pu (Bapou, Bapu), and Wumbu (Bahoumbou, Bavoumbo, Bawumbu, Vumbo, Wuumbu).
  15. Kumu (Babumbu, Bakoumou, Bakumbu, Bakumu, Komo, Vuakumu, Wakumu). They number about 21,000.
  16. Lengola (Balengora, Walengola).
  17. Lika (Balika, Malika, Walika).
  18. Lokele (Likile, Lukclle, Lukemu), with the Turumbu (Torumbo). They number about 30,000.
  19. Maka, with the Bikay, Bikele, and So. They number about 55,000.
  20. Mbesa (Bombesa, Mombesa), with the neighboring Ngombe (Gombe).
  21. Mituku, with the Baleka and Balulu.
  22. Ndaka (Bandaka, Wandaka), with the Bali (Babale, Babango, Mabali, Mbale, Mubali, Wabali, Yambuya).
  23. Ndoko (Ooko).
  24. Ngala (Bamangala, Bangala, Mangala, Mongalla, Ngola, Wangala), with the Boloki (Baloki, Boluki), Lobala (Lubala), Ngombe (Combe), and numerous other uibes. Their population was estimated at 110,000 in 1907.
  25. Nyari (Babvanuma, Bandjali, Banyari).
  26. Pande, with the Gundi (Bagunda, Goundi, Tgundi).
  27. Poto (Bapoto, Foro, Mafoto, Upoto), with the Mondonga.
  28. Rega (Balegga, Barega, Bulega, Kalega, Lega, Ouregga, Valcga, Vuacegga, Walega, Warega), with the Bembe (Balembe, Vabembe, Wabembe).
  29. Sanga (Bassanga, Bosanga, Masanga, Misanga), embracing the Besom (Binjombo, Dscherma, jasua, Minjombo), Bidjuk, Bumali (Bomali, Boumaoali), Bomam (Bomome, Mpomama), Bombo (Bumbon, Bungbon), Esel (Esse, Lissel), Konambembe (Kunabembe), Lino, Mbimu, Ngwili (Bangili, Bounguili, Bungwili), and Pomo (Bongondjo). They number about 20,000.
  30. Soko (Basoko, Bazoko).
  31. Songola (Basongola, Goa, Usongora, Watchongoa), with the Enya (Baenya, Ouenya, Vouaghenia, Waenya, Wagenia, Wenja), Gengele (Bagengele), and Kwange (Bakwange).
  32. Topoke (Eso, Geso, Tofoke, Tovoke).