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( ( ( ( ( Luba People Written by: Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha Last Updated 8-15-2014 Alternate title: Baluba Biographical Information Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, California State University, Northridge. His contributions to SAGE Publications's Encyclopedia of African Religion (2009) formed the basis of his contributions to Britannica. Alternate title: Baluba IMAGES

View All (2) Luba, also called Baluba , a Bantu-speaking cluster of peoples who inhabit a wide area extending throughout much of south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo. They numbered about 5,594,000 in the late 20th century. The name Luba applies to a variety of peoples who, though of different origins, speak closely related languages, exhibit many common cultural traits, and share a common political history with past members of the Luba empire, which flourished from approximately the late 15th through the late 19th century. (See Luba-Lunda states.) Three main subdivisions may be recognized: the Luba- Shankaji of Katanga, the Luba-Bambo of Kasai, and the Luba-Hemba of northern Katanga and southern Kivu. All are historically, linguistically, and culturally linked with other Congo peoples. The Shankaji branch is also connected with the early founders of the Lunda empire.

The Luba empire was one of the most-renowned African states. Archaeologists have shown that the area where the heart of the empire was situated, east of the Kasai River around the headwaters of the Lualaba River, was likely inhabited by the 5th century ce, with the beginnings of the empire emerging by the 14th century. In the 16th and 17th centuries, most of the Luba were ruled by a paramount chief (bulopwe or balopwe), although smaller independent chiefdoms already existed. The Luba empire was fragmented by Belgian colonization between 1880 and 1960, and the breakdown of the empire resulted in the development either of smaller chiefdoms or of small autonomous local lineage groups.

The Luba are savanna and forest dwellers who practice hunting, food gathering, and agriculture (cassava, corn [maize]), keep small livestock, and live in villages of a single street, with rectangular thatched-roof huts along either side. They fish the Congo River and its main tributaries intensively. Luba practice circumcision and women’s initiation; they have associations for hunting, magic, and medicine. The Shankaji and Hemba are renowned wood-carvers; they are especially known for their carvings of anthropomorphic figures, ceremonial axes, and headrests.

Luba literature, including epic cycles, is well developed. The renowned Luba genesis story articulates a distinction between two types of Luba emperors whose forms of government were shaped by their own moral character and private behaviour: Nkongolo Mwamba, the red king, and Ilunga Mbidi Kiluwe, a prince of legendary black complexion. The differences between the two are profound: Nkongolo Mwamba is the drunken and cruel despot, Ilunga Mbidi Kiluwe, the refined and gentle prince. Nkongolo the red is a man without manners, a man who eats in public, gets drunk, and cannot control himself, whereas Mbidi Kiluwe is a man of reservation, obsessed with good manners; he does not eat in public, controls his language and his behaviour, and keeps a distance from the vices and modus vivendi of ordinary people. Nkongolo Mwamba symbolizes the embodiment of tyranny, whereas Mbidi Kiluwe remains the admired caring and compassionate king.

Luba cosmology casts Nkongolo’s evil government in aesthetic terms. Nkongolo is said to be the son of a hyena; he is so ugly that no one resembled him before or since. His red skin symbolizes the colour of blood, and he is thus said to be “Muntu wa Malwa,” a physical and moral monstrosity who brings suffering and terror into the world—an uncivilized man who lives in an incestuous relationship with his own sisters. Mbidi the black prince introduces the “civilized” practices of exogamy and enlightened government based on moral character, compassion, and justice. He is said to be beautiful, and the people identify with him. Mbidi’s son, Kalala Ilunga, who would eventually defeat Nkongolo, is recorded as being a paradigmatic and sage king.

The Luba religion shares a common cosmology and basic religious tenets with many other types of African religions. Although the Kiluba language does not have a specific word for religion, it has an extensive lexicon that describes the nature of the Supreme Being, the supernatural world, and various religious activities. The Luba belief system includes the belief in the existence of a Universal Creator (Shakapanga), the afterlife, the communion between the living and the dead, and the observance of ethical conduct as a

sine qua non condition for being welcomed in the village of the ancestors after death.

Among the most-important components of the Luba religion, three important figures constitute the supernatural world: Leza (Supreme God), mikishi or bavidye (various spirits), and bankambo (ancestors). In the world of the living, the main figures are kitobo or nsengha (priest), the nganga (healer), and the mfwintshi (the witch, the embodiment of evil and the antithesis of the will of the ancestors).

Religious activities include prayers, praise songs and formulas, dances, sacrifices, offerings, libations, and various rituals, including cleansing or purification and rites of passage. Besides prayers and invocations, means of communication with the divine include the interpretation of dreams and especially the practice of lubuko (divination) to consult the will of the ancestors before any important decision or to know the causes of misfortune.

At the core of the Luba religion is the notion of bumuntu (authentic or genuine personhood) embodied in the concept of mucima muyampe (good heart) and buleme (dignity, self-respect). Bumuntu stands as the goal of human existence and as the sine qua non condition for genuine governance and genuine religiosity.

Although the Luba notion of bulopwe is rooted in the concept of divine kingship, no one in practice identified the king with the Supreme God during the time of the Luba empire. Power was never personal; it was exercised by a body of several people. The Luba understood that the power of the king should be limited and controlled to guarantee the welfare of the people. Thus, the Luba empire was governed by an oral constitution based on the will of the ancestors (Kishila-kya-bankambo). A powerful religious lodge, the bambudye, acted as an effective check on the behaviour of the king and even had the power to execute him in case of excessive abuse of power. It was assumed that the king had to obey the mandate of heaven by governing according to the will of the ancestors. Those ideals of genuine personhood and good government had their foundation in the spiritual values inculcated by Luba religion.

The Luba religion was disseminated to the outside world by the publication of Placide Tempels’s Bantu Philosophy in 1945. The controversy generated in the international community by that book and its notion of “Bantu philosophy” placed Luba religion and thought at the centre of the vast intellectual debate that led to the birth of contemporary African philosophy and African inculturation theology.

Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha Ed. ( ( ( ( ( (

Bantu philosophy Written by: Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha ( ( ( ( Biographical Information Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, California State University,

Northridge. His contributions to SAGE Publications's Encyclopedia of African Religion (2009) formed the basis of his contributions to Britannica.

! Last Updated 7-22-2014 Bantu philosophy, the philosophy, religious worldview, and ethical principles of the Bantu peoples—tens of millions of speakers of the more than 500 Bantu languages on the African continent—as articulated by 20th-century African intellectuals and founders of contemporary African philosophy and theology.

Originally, the term Bantu philosophy referred to research done on traditional culture between 1950 and 1990 in Central Africa—more specifically, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (called Zaire in 1971–97), Rwanda, and Uganda by philosophers and theologians such as Mulago Gwa Cikala Musharamina, John Mbiti, Mutuza Kabe, and Alexis Kagame. That research was part of the process of decolonization of knowledge that began with the collapse of European colonial empires in the wake of World War I and World War II. It was intended to rediscover the ancestral philosophical worldview and spiritual values that had been denigrated and distorted by colonial education. That goal was accomplished by analyzing African proverbs; the structure of Bantu languages, songs, art, and music; and various customs and social institutions. In so doing, “Bantu philosophy” scholars defined the criteria needed for a philosophy or theology to be “African.” Those criteria involved the use of African languages and an African worldview.

That method of philosophizing and theologizing was inaugurated in 1910 by Stefano Kaoze, the first Congolese to gain substantial training in modern philosophy. In his essay titled ““La Psychologie des Bantu”” (“Bantu Psychology”), Kaoze articulated what he regarded as the Bantu way of thinking about knowledge, moral values, God, life, and the afterlife. Working in the context of Christian evangelization, Kaoze called for the replacement of colonial Christianity with an “African Christianity.” For such an Africanization of Christianity to occur, he maintained that the Gospel should be preached in African languages and with African methods and that it should address the real issues of African lives, including colonial oppression. He inaugurated the basic method of African theology, which consists of the following elements:

• The establishment of the elements of a traditional African philosophy and a philosophical anthropology to be used as the foundation for a theological discourse

• The use of traditional religion and wisdom (proverbs, myths of creation, traditional vision of God, traditional ethic, and oral literature) as the foundation for theology

• The use of African languages • The unveiling of the “cultural unity” of African cultures through comparative studies

that grasp the common features of African worldviews, ethical principles, and spiritual values and the use of them to articulate an African theology

• The defense and promotion of human rights as a fundamental task of African theology

However, it was Bantu Philosophy, a book published in 1945 by the Belgian missionary Placide Tempels, that popularized the notion of Bantu philosophy in Africa and in the West. That small book generated much controversy that played an important role in the development of contemporary African philosophy and inculturation theology. The merit of Tempels’s Bantu Philosophy resides not in its findings and conclusions, which are viewed as having several weaknesses, but rather in the challenge the book itself poses and in its revolutionary outlook. As Tempels states in the book’s last chapter:

The discovery of Bantu philosophy is a disturbing event for all those who are concerned with African education. We have had the idea that we stood before them like adults before the newly born. In our mission to educate and to civilize, we believed that we started with a “tabula rasa”, though we also believed that we had to clear the ground of some worthless notions, to lay foundations in a bare soil. We were quite sure that we should give short shrift to stupid customs, vain beliefs, as being quite ridiculous and devoid of all sound sense. We thought that we had children, “great children”, to educate; and that seemed easy enough. Then all at once we discovered that we were concerned with a sample of humanity, adult, aware of its own brand of wisdom and moulded by its own philosophy of life. That is why we feel the soil slipping under our feet, that we are losing track of thing; and why we are asking ourselves “what to do now to lead our coloured people?”

Like many European missionaries, Tempels had embarked for the Belgian Congo (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) imbued with Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s myths about the “primitive mind.” However, after years of work among the Luba, one of the many Bantu-speaking cluster of peoples in Africa, Tempels realized the mistakes of the Western idea of Africa. Having carefully studied the Kiluba language and discovered the wisdom of Luba proverbs and worldview, Tempels underwent a deep conversion that led him to acknowledge African moral values and the value of the Luba conception of God. In a time when the notion of primitive people was taken for granted, Tempels shocked European society by choosing as the title for his discovery of Luba worldview “Bantu philosophy,” rather than “primitive philosophy” or “religious thought,” as Marcel Griaule did with the philosophy of the Dogon.

Although Tempels’s work was criticized from several angles, his work did refute the

colonial invention of a “savage” Africa by demonstrating the existence of a coherent Bantu ontology, a sound system of belief in the Supreme Being, and a coherent ethical system that guides an African existential trajectory. Tempels argued that the Bantu had a clear vision of human dignity and the rights of the individual. That was radically antithetical to prevailing theories. Although Tempels still remained captive to the colonial worldview and his belief in the superiority of Christianity, his mea culpa opened the door to a radical demystification of colonial scholarship. That is why some of the leading figures of the Negritude movement, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor and Alioune Diop, and the nascent publishing house Présence Africaine embraced Tempels and promoted the book in French and English translations.

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