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George Peter Murdock
1897 — 1985

Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

Africa. Its Peoples and Their Culture History

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


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Explore also (a) the SemanticAfrica Peoples Vocabulary
(b) the Middle Zambezi Bantu mind-mapping diagram

Part Ten
Spread of Pastoralism to the Bantu
— 47 —
Middle Zambezi Bantu

All the Bantu peoples to be considered in this and the following four chapters possess cattle. They can, of course, only have received them from the north. A glance at Map 8, however, will reveal that they are separated from the closest cattle-raising people to the north by a band of Central Bantu who lack cattle. This gap, approximately 300 miles in width, must certainly have been crossed at some time in the past. The Ngoni, who raided north from Natal into Tanganyika during the nineteenth century, proved that it could be crossed. Their Mpenzi branch, who occupy today the Fort Jameson region in the middle of the gap and keep large herds there, likewise demonstrate that cattle can thrive in at least certain sections of the intervening Central Bantu territory despite the wide prevalence of the tsetse fly. Since the gap was crossed, it seems logical to postulate that this occurred at its narrowest point. This falls unquestionably in Northern Rhodesia between the lwa and Tumbuka tribes in the northeast and the Ila-Tonga cluster of peoples on the middle Zambesi River. We therefore assume that the ancestors of the latter were the first group of Southern Bantu to acquire cattle and the milking complex and that they acted as the mediators who transmitted pastoral skills to the rest. The Ila, Tonga, and their neighbors, whom we shall designate collectively as the Middle Zambesi Bantu, fall into the following tribal groups.

  1. Ila (Baila, Baschukulompo, Mashukolumbwe), with the Bizhi, Lumbu (Nanzela), Lundwe, Mbala, and Sala (Basala). They number about 40,000.
  2. Koba (Bakoba, Bakuba, Bayei, Maiye, Yeii, Yeye). They number about 20,000.
  3. Lenje (Balenje, Beni Mukuni, Lengi), with the Soli (Sodi). They number about 50,000.
  4. Lozi (Barotse, Barozi, Barutse, Marorse, Rotse, Rozi), embracing the dominant Luyi (Alui, Aluyi, Luyana) and the subject but related Kwandi, Mbowe (Mamboe), Muenyi, and Mwanga. They number about 180,000.
  5. Lukolwe (Balukolwe), with the /llbwela (Bambwela, Mambwela, Mbwera).
  6. Mashasha (Bamasasa).
  7. Mashi (Bamaschi), with the Makoma (Bamakoma), Mishulundu, Ndundulu, Nyengo, Old Mbunda, Shanjo, and Simaa. They are akin to the Lozi but subject to them.
  8. Mbukushu (Mambukuschu, Mucusso). They number about 10,000.
  9. Nkoya (Mankoya), with the Lushange (Baushanga, Ushanga).
  10. Subia (Massubia, Masupia, Subya), with the Leya. They number about 10,000.
  11. Tonga (Batonga), with the Gowa, Namainga, Toka, Tonka (Batonka), and We. They number about 130,000.
  12. Totela (Batotela, Matotela). They number about 20,000.

In this province the Bantu have by no means exterminated the earlier hunting and gathering population. Scattered groups of Pygmies still live among many of the eastern tribes, and even more substantial remnants of the indigenous Bushmen survive in the west. As elsewhere in southern Africa, this doubtless points to the comparative recency of Bantu occupation. The Koba have incorporated in their speech a number of the Khoisan clicks, or implosive consonants.
The economy of the Middle Zambesi, as compared with that of most other Bantu peoples, rests to an exceptional extent upon gathering, e.g., of water roots among the Koba and Subia; upon hunting, especially of aquacic animals; and upon fishing, in the rivers and in the swamps and flood plains of the Zambesi and Okavango. mong the Nkoya these activities even take precedence over agriculture. Most tribes keep a considerable number of goats, sheep, dogs, and c hickens. The Lukolwe, Mashasha, Mbukushu, Nkoya, and Totela have few cattle, in at least some instances primarily because of the tsetse fly, but these animals assume considerable importance in all other groups. On the whole, however, agricu lture provides the principal economic support. The Lozi, for example, are estimated to derive about 40 per cent of their food from cultivated plants as compared with 20 per cent from animal husbandry, 25 per cent from hunting, and 15 per cent from fishing.
The staple crops are sorghum, millet, eleusine, and, more recently, maize. Lesser food plants inelude cow peas, earth pea, okra, and sesame from the Sudanic complex and cucurbits, manioc, peanuts, and sweet potatoes from the American complex, as well as Malaysian yams and beans of unreported species. Men hunt, clear land, and do all the herding and milking, cattle being taboo to women. They also do most of the fishing (although women catch small fry in baskets) and participate to a limited extent in agricultural work. The bulk of the field labor, however, together with gathering, falls within the provinee of the female sex.
The Middle Zambesi Bantu occupy small, compact villages, commonly surrounded by a fenee or palisade and usually arranged with a cattle corral in the center, or occasionally, as among the Nkoya, an open plaza. Lozi communities maintain two villages each-one on an artificial mound in the flood plain of the Zambesi and another on the margin of this plain, to which they remove during the period of annual inundation. The prevailing house type is a round hut with a low cylindrical wall of rush mats or of wattle and daub and with a conical thatched roof. Some Koba, however, live in hemispherical mat lodges resembling those of the Hottentot (see Chapter 9).
Aboriginally the Ila were politically organized into small districts under a chief and a couneil of local headmen, and the Mashasha and Mbukushu likewise had petty paramount chiefs, bur most groups lacked any form o f integration more complex than an autonomous local community under a headman with nominal authority. In 1833, however, the Kololo, a Sotho tribe from South Africa, invaded the middle Zambesi region and established a powerful conquest state in what is now called Barotseland. They subjugated the Luyi, or ancestral Lozi, as well as the Mashi, Nkoya, Subia, and T o tela, and reduced the Mbukushu and southwestern Tonga to tributary status. In 1864 the Luyi overthrew and expelled the Kololo, but succeeded to their hegemony over the neighboring tribes and came eventually to be known as the Lozi (Barotse). Their state conforms to the pattern prevailing among the Sotho (see Chapter 51), with a divine monarch, a ruling aristocracy, a territorial bureaucracy, a council of ministers residing at the capital, and a prominent and independent Queen-Sister.
Only the Ila, and in very recent times also the Lozi and Tonga, require a bride-price. Other groups demand only bride-service or token gifts. Most tribes, with the exception of the Ila and Tonga, show a preferenee for local exogamy and also, with the exception of the Lozi, for cross-cousin marriage. Polygyny is general and exclusively nonsororal.
The first wife enjoys a preferred status, but each co-wife has a hut of her own. Ila men permit their wives to have publicly recognized paramours, from whom the husbands receive regular payments. The household unit regularly assumes the form of an independent nuclear or polygynous family rather than an extended family.
If we except the Lozi as a special case, to be considered separately, the province as a whole exhibits a uniform basic pattern of social organizacion, with certain modifications resulting from the introduction of cattle. All groups, so far as we can determine from the descriptive information available, possess exogamous matrisibs and corporate matrilineages, the latter usually localized as clans. The rule of residence accords basically with the norms prevailing among the Central Bantu immediately to the north (see Chapter 38), i.e., avunculocal in the west and, in the east, matrilocal with the right of removal to avunculocal residence in the case of positional succession. Where cattle are common, their use in marriage payments has resulted in the appearance of patrilocal residence, which now occurs with moderate frequency among the Tonga and has become general, except for chiefs, among the Ila. The latter tribe, as a consequence, has evolved exogamous patrilineages in addition to its older matrilineal kin groups, and is thus characterized by double descent. Cousin terminology, wherever reported, conforms to the Iroquois pattern. In general, the forms of social organization in the province are unmistakably derived from those prevailing among the adjacent Central Bantu, and the modest deviations are readily attributable to the influence exerted by the introduction of cattle.
The Lozi have a social system which differs in every conceivable respect from that outlined above. They possess no unilinear kin groups and are thus characterized by bilateral descent. They have eight noncorporate name groups, and an individual can claim membership in any or all of them provided that he is a direct descendant in any line of a person who was a member. Kinship terminology conforms to the Hawaiian rather than to the Iroquois pattern. Residence follows no single rule. Though patrilocality is preferred, a man, upon marrying, frequently cannot find an available house site on the small mound where his father's dwelling is located and must look elsewhere for a home. In such a case he seeks a site in the settlement of some close bilateral kinsman—a maternal or paternal grandparent, an uncle or aunt, or even in some instances his father-in-law. Lozi residence might thus be called multilocal. A village definitely constitutes a kin group, a “clan” of sorts, though the bonds of affiliation are bilateral and diverse rather than unilinear. Even inheritance reveals a fluid character. A man has one heir, carefully selected either by himself or by his close kinsmen after his death. Though the choice normally falls upon a son, this is by no means invariable, and a grandson or a fraternal or sororal nephew is not infrequently picked in preference to a son.
Gluckman, to whom we are indebted for an admirably complete description of this unique social system. assumes that it has great antiquity because it exhibits so excellent an adaptation to the peculiar local geographi cal conditions and such thoroughgoing internal consistency. In this assumption he is almost certainly wrong, for cogent historical evidence makes another interpretation very much more probable. From a distributional point of view, the Bantu neighbor of the Lozi in every direction, without exception, have strictly matrilineal forms of social organization, rendering it highly improbable that the ancestral Luyi could have been characterized by a social system of any other type.
We must not forget, moreover, the important historical events which Gluckman himself relates, namely the Kololo conquest of 1838 and the successful Luyi rebellion in 1864. The Kololo must have brought with them the type of social organization exemplified by all their other kinsmen (see Chapter 51), namely, a decadent system of agamous patrisibs largely superseded by a strongly func tional territorial ward organization. Twenty-six years of political domination could well have shattered the indigenous matrilineal social structure without providjng the model of a functional patrilineal system to take its place. Bilateral descent would thus emerge as a natural consequence.
It is further signjficant that the Luyi, who replaced the Kololo in the seat of power, had adopted the language of the conquerors and still today, as the Lozi, speak a Sotho dialect rather than one related to the speech of the surrounding tribes. This indicates that they had undergone a very high degree of acculturation before they revolted and assumed control of the kingdom. A people who had changed their language were unlikely to have preserved their kinship organization intac t. It would seem clear, therefore, that the social system of the Lozi, far from being ancient, is the natural product of known and relatively recent historical events.

Selected Bibliography