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Southwestern Bantu

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

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

Part Ten: Spread of Pastoralism to the Bantu
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Southwestern Bantu

In the southern half of Angola and the northern half of South-West Africa reside a number of tribes whose languages form a distinct sub-division within the Bantu group as a whole and who likewise constitute a fairly homogeneous cultural province. These Southwestern Bantu, as they are commonly called, adjoin the Central Bantu in the north and northeast, the Hottentot and Bushmen in the south and southeast. They are aolso connected, by a narrow corridor along the Okawango River, with the Middle Zambezi Bantu, from whom they unquestionably acquired cattle and the milking complex. They have no geographical contact whatsoever with the Southeastern Bantu, who will receive our attention in the following three cahpters, and they differ markedly from the latter in both language and culture. The common assumption that they constitute merely a branch of the Southeastern Bantu lacks even a shred of factual support.
The aboriginal inhabitants of the province belonged to three distinct groups ofhunting and gathering peoples. A very few Pygmy remnants survive in the north. Large numbers of Bushmen live in enclaves within Bantu territory as well as along its southeastern margin, the Hottentot to the south are, as we have seen (Chapter 9), merely pastoral Bushmen. The third group of indigenous hunters, Negroid in race but Khoisan in language, includes the Koroca on the coast and the Bergdama in the extreme south. The Nyaneka, alone among all Negro peoples, are personally familiar with remnants of all three groups of hunters and sharply differentiate them. The tribes of the province, though extremely numerous, fall into the following eight distinguishable groups.

  1. Ambo (Ovambo), embracing the Eunda, Evale, Kuanyama (Ovakuanyama, Ukuanyama, Vakuanyama), Okafima (Kafima), Ombalanru (Ombarandu), Ombandja (Bandya, Cuamato), Ondonga (Aandonga, Ovandonga), Ongandjera (Ovagandjera), Onguangua, Ukualuthi (Ovanguuruze), and Ukuambi (Ovamguambi). They number about 175,000.
  2. Herero (Damara, Ovaherero), with the Mbanderu and Shimba (Himba). Reduced from 100,000 to 25,000 in the Herero War of 1904-1906 against the Germans, they have appreciably recovered since then.
  3. Kwangare (Kwengare, Makwangare, Ovakuangari). This completely undescribed tribe is perhaps actually a branch of the Ambo.
  4. Mbundu (Banano, Bimbundu, Mambari, Mbali, Munano, Nano, Ovimbali, Ovimbundu, Umbundu, Vakuanano, Vanano), embracing the Bailundu (Mbailundu), Cenga (Chilenge), Cingolo (Quingolo), Cipeyo (Quipeyo), Citata (Quitaca), Civula (Quibula), Ciyaka (Quiaca), Eketete (Quiquete), Elende (Lende), Kakonda (Caconda, Cilombo, Quilombo), Kalukembe (Caluquembe), Kasongi (Cassongue), Mbongo (Bongo), Namba, Ndulu (Andulo, Ondura), Ngalanga (Galanga), Ngalangi (Galangue), Sambu (Sambo), Sange, Viye (Bie, Bihe), and Wambu (Huambo). They were reported in 1940 to number about 1,300,000.
  5. Ndombe (Andomha, Bandombe, Dombe, Mundombe), with the Hanya (Hanha, Muhanha), Kilenge (Cilenge, Quilenge), and Nganda (Ganda).
  6. Ngonyelu (Ngonzelo), with the Nhemba (Nyamba, Nyemba).
  7. Ngumbi (Bangumbi, Humbe, Khumbi, Muhumbe, Nkumbe, Ovakumbi, Vahumbi, Vankumbe), with the Hinga (Ehinga, Ovahinga), Kipungu (Cipungu, Pungu, Quipungu, Vatyipungu), and Mulondo (Balondo). These peoples were depopulated by severe famines in 1912 and 1915, when the Ngumbi proper were reduced from 80,000 to 10,000.
  8. Nyaneka (Banianeka, Munhaneca, Ovanraneka, Vanhaneca). They were reduced by the famines of 1912 and 1915 from over 120,000 to about 40,000.