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The Old Congo

The Old Congo

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Published by Kofi Black
By John Henrik Clarke
By John Henrik Clarke

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Published by: Kofi Black on Apr 11, 2011
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Clark Atlanta University
The Old CongoAuthor(s): John Henrik ClarkeSource:
Phylon (1960-),
Vol. 23, No. 1 (1st Qtr., 1962), pp. 61-65Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 10/04/2011 21:25
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ByJOHNHENRIKCLARKE
The OldCongo
THE
PEOPLE ANDNATIONS
of
CentralAfrica haveno records of theirancientand medievalhistorylikethe"Tarikhes Sudan"orthe"Tarikhel Fettach" oftheWestern Sudan(WestAfrica).Theearlytravelersto theseareasaremostlyunknown.Inspiteoftheforest asanobstacle to the formation ofempires comparableto thoseofthe WesternSudan,notablekingdomsdid riseinthispartof Africaand someofthem didachieve ahighdegreeofcivilization.TheCongovalleybecame thegatheringplaceofvariousbranchesofthepeoplewe knownowas Bantu.WhenthehistoryofCentralAfricaisfinallywritten,it will be ahistoryofinvasions andmigrations.Accordingto oneaccount,between two and threethousandyearsagoagroupoftribesbeganto moveoutoftheregionsouthorsouthwestofLakeChad.Sometimeduringthe fourteenth andfifteenth centuriesthecenterofAfricabecame crowded withpastoraltribes whoneededmorelandfor theirlargeflocks and herds. This conditionstartedanothermigrationthatlastedfor morethana hundredyears.TribeswiththeprefixBatotheir namesspreadfartothe westinto theCongobasinand southwardthroughthe centralplains.TheBechuanaandBasutowereamongthesetribes.Tribes withtheprefixAma-greatwarriorsliketheAma-Xosa and Ama-Zulu-passeddownthe easternside.Inthemeantime someofthemorestabletribesintheCongoregionwerebringingnotablekingdomsintobeing.TheKingdomofLoangoex-tendedfromCapeLopez(Libreville)tonear theCongo;and theCongoEmpirewasmentionedbythePortugueseasearlyasthefourteenthcentury.The ChiefofLoango,Mani-Congo,extendedhiskingdomasfarasthe KasaiandUpperZambesiRivers.Thiskingdomhadbeen in ex-istencefor centuries whenthePortuguesearrivedinthefifteenthcen-tury.Theyspokeadmiringlyof itscapital,Sette-Camo,whichtheycalledSanSalvador.TheKingdomofCongodatesbackto thefourteenthcentury.Attheheightofitspowerit extendedover modernAngola,asfar east as theKasaiandUpperZambesiRivers.Further inlandtheKingdomofAnsikawascomprisedofthepeopleof the BatekeandBayoka,whoseartistictalentswereveryremarkable.NearthecenteroftheCongowastheBakubaKingdom(orBush-ongo),stillnotedfor itsunity,theexcellenceofitsadministration,itsart,itscraftsmanshipandthebeautyofitsfabrics.61
 
PHYLONSouth oftheCongobasin thewholeBechuanaterritoryformed avast statewhichactuallyruledforalongtimeovertheBasutos,theZulus,theHottentots and theBushmen,includingin asingleempirethegreaterpartof theblackpopulationofSouthernandCentral Africa.Thiswas theeraofBushongo grandeur;thepeoplewenow know asBalubas.OnlytheBushongoculturekeptits records and transmittedthemal-most intact tomodernresearch.The Bakubas arean ancientpeoplewhosepowerandinfluenceonce extendedover most oftheCongo.Theirhistorycan be tracedtothefifthcentury.Formanycenturies theBakubashavehadahighlyorganizedsocialsystem,animpressivear-tistic traditionand asecularformofgovernmentthatexpressedthewillofthepeople throughademocraticpoliticalsystem.Today,asformany generationsin thepast,the courtofa Bakubachiefis ruledbyaprotocolasrigidandcomplicatedasthatof Versaillesunder LouisXIV.Atthetopofthe Bakubahierarchyis theroyalcourtcomposedofsixdignitariesresponsiblefor cabinet-likematterssuchasmilitaryaf-fairs,justiceand administration.Atonetimetherewerein theroyalentourage143otherfunctionaries,includingamasterofthehunt,amas-terstoryteller and akeeperoforal traditions.In thesixteenthcenturythe Bakubas ruled overagreatAfricanempire.Thememoryoftheirgloriouspastisrecalledinthe tribewithhistoricalexactitude.Theycanname thereignsoftheirkingsforthepast235years.Theloyaltyofthepeopletotheserulersisexpressedina seriesofroyalportrait-statuesdatingfromthereignofShambaBolongongo,thegreatestand bestknownofthe Bakubakings.IntheBakubasystemofgovernmentthekingwasabove all asym-bol,ratherliketheMikadointheeyesof theJapanese.Hisministers,theKolomos,paidhimgreat respectinpublic,eveniftheywere his knownenemies. Inprivate theymadenopretenseofsubservience.Ifthekingwantedtosee hisministers he hadtogototheirhouses or meet themonneutralground.Theordinarymembersofthetribehadrepresentativesat the courtonapoliticalandprofessionalbasis. Some oftheseofficialsrepresentedgeographicalareas,tradesandprofessions.Theweavers,theblacksmiths,theboatbuilders,thenetmakers,themusiciansand thedancers allhadtheirrepresentativesat court.There waseven aspecialrepresentativeof thefathersoftwins.Therepresentativeofthesculptorswas held inhighestesteem. TheBakubasculptorsareconsidered tobethe finestinAfrica.ShambaBolongongowasapeacefulsovereign.Heprohibitedtheuseoftheshongo,athrowingknife,the traditionalweaponoftheBushongo.This wiseAfricankingused tosay:"Killneitherman,woman norchild.Aretheynotthe childrenof Chembe(God),andhavetheynot62

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