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At the Back of the Black Man's Mind, by Richard Edward Dennett, [1906], at



Sonio.-Killing the King.-The Provinces.-The Formula.-Maluango's Lesson.

I COULD not, if I would, give you an exact account of the meanings of the names of all the rivers and places in Luango, so that I will restrict my study to the river Kuilu and its tributaries, and the names of the provinces into which the composite kingdom of Luango, is divided.

Starting south of the Kongo we find the name Solo, or SONIO, as that of a province in Kongo's composite kingdom. When the natives talk of the banks of a river they stand with their backs to the sea, and call the right bank the man side and the left bank the woman side (the word Solo might be translated as the power of life in fatherhood).

Now just opposite to the province of Sonio on the woman side of the great river Kongo, we have the province of NGOIO (the power of life in motherhood).

NEAMLAU told me that he had the right to take the cap of NGANGA NGOIO, but that as this chief was always killed on the night after his coronation he did not care to do so. It is said that when Kongo sent his sons to govern his provinces, he sent NGOIO with them as a kind of high priest, and undoubtedly the NKICICI BUNzi has its home at MBAMBA in this province or district, and its NGANGA also.

But both Sonio and Ngoio are names used at times for the whole kingdoms of Kongo and Kakongo, which makes me think that these names are really their sacred names. Certain it is, that just as MAKONGO had to marry a princess Of SONIO, so MALUANGO had to marry a princess of NGOIO.

And just as Sonio and Ngoio for the natives represented Fatherhood and Motherhood, so BUKOIO, the sacred name for Luango, represents, as an effect, offspring (or as a cause, birth-giving power).

There is a legend which throws some light on the thoughts of the BAVILI regarding their origin. It runs thus

The birth-giving power of the sun (Luango).

translated to me " though the fish-basket be empty there still remains the smell of the fish," which I think means to say that although Luango, may not be the really great kingdom, yet, as the descendant of Kongo, it at least has some of the renown attached to that great father kingdom. In other words, if Maluango (great MFUMU in his own kingdom) is not the MFUMU, Still, in relation to Kongo, he is MANIFUMU.

This connecting of the seed of the great Kongo with the sun,[1] taken in connection with the name NGOIO (NGO NDE the moon) is very suggestive, for it leaves us to suppose that the Father Kongo must be on a line with some higher power, the moon being an intermediate effect, while the sun (the offspring and the propagator) becomes the intermediate cause, just as the offspring Luango is-that is, the father, through the mother, has a son who in his turn shall propagate his image. I know of no NGANGA BUKOIO in Luango and very few people seem to know that BUKOIO BU NTANGUA is the sacred name of the country. But MAMBUKU is the very powerful chief of the province of BUKU.

The people are now seldom, if ever, called to meet the king in his XIBILA and so valuable traditions are being lost, and it has become very difficult to piece together even the headings of these lessons, and of course, quite impossible to give them in his words.

I will now give you the names of the provinces and rivers.

[1. See p. 104.]

And here let me clearly state that the order in the following formula of twenty-four Bakici baci was obtained by the help of two or three intelligent non-Christian natives in an attempt to complete the philosophy of the Bavili. I therefore, first give a list of the titles and lands, and secondly in table form the order as established by myself and the natives. The contents of the sacred groves are the same as those given in chapter IX. In discussions it always appeared to me that these natives instinctively connected the animals, trees, and omens with the foregoing groves discussed in the last chapter, but they could give me no intelligent reason for so doing, save that they were all BAKICI BACI.

SAMANU is the most southerly province of Luango on the sea coast, just on the northern bank of the LUANGO LUICI or CHI LUANGO river which divides it from the mother province KAKONGO. The natives say that SAMANU means the waters of purity.

XIBANGA is the most northerly province divided into two parts by the waters of the KWILU river-the part to the north being the home Of XIKAMACI, where they say a pretender to the throne of Maluango is never wanting.

The meaning of XIBANGA is of the quality of seed.

LUANJILI is the province joining the two above provinces together with the exception of the sea frontage of BUALI, a strip of land containing the road from Buali to the beach. It is in this province that the kings of Luango are buried. LUANJILI means of fused rocks.

XIKAMBA is the centre inland province facing the Mayombe on the east, and its meaning is of the quality of informing or calling. It joins NKONDI to MBUKU.

NKONDI is the province on the South-east of BUALI where the sisters of Maluango reside and have children from among whom the king's successor is chosen. The word means a hunter and this connects the province with fruitfulness (see P. 103).

MBUKU is the province to the East of BUALI and northeast of XIKAMBA, where MAMBUKU resides and guards the Eastern gate of the kingdom-the province where the sun rises. MBUKU means explosion.

These six provinces surround BUALI, the centre province in the middle of which MALUANGO has his XIBILA or sacred grove. The meaning of BUALI is the deep of breathing life.

The sea is called MBU, the deep, an enclosed space. It is at the mouth of the river, where whirlpools are created by the meeting of the fresh and the sea waters that the deeps of maternity exist, which they call MBUNGU NTWALI.

The KUILU, is the principal river of the kingdom of Luango, the word means to and from the sky. Into this river the tributaries LUICI, LUKULU, and the LUALI run.

NYANGA is the name of the lake and means the repetition of the four, and it is here that the NYARI, the name by which the KUILU is known in its upper reaches, has its source.[1]

The Sacred Rivers and Provinces and Contents of Sacred Grove.





(Contents of the grove.)






MACI (rain water).
MBU (salt water).



XIVUNGA (seed).
MTI (tree).



NZO (house).
XINKONKOLO (oyster shell).



XINIOKA (snake).
XAMA (snake).



MBIZI or NFU (fish).
SUSU (fowl).



VUMUNA (animal).
XIBULU (beast).






In the above order it will be seen by the meaning of the words that the order of the six categories is maintained.

[1. The meanings of these words are: Kuilu, to or from heaven; Luici, primeval essence; Lukulu, of the spirit, of the departed, or of the ray of light; Luali, of the breathing life, Nyanga, continuance of being; Nyari, of the road of being.]

The following lesson, if not exactly what Maluango used to say to his people, at any rate is a close reproduction of it. I have talked over these questions with him many times, although I never heard him address his people in a sacred grove. In the reading of these symbols it will be noted that my friends have as it were doubled the formula in the middle and taken the first and sixth families together, and worked down and up towards the line dividing the third and fourth.

Maluango is supposed to be speaking.

The way of Being, to and from sky.
The Source and the mouth of the river must not
be separated in your minds.
God is the Source of all things the


Great ruler (Nyari) in heaven as I am the ruler on earth-


From heaven to heaven do we come and go-


We suckle our young like cattle


And know our wives like the beasts of the field.


But as we come together let us remember that we


Are also one with God so that our


living offspring born through the birth-producing powers given to us by the Sun may also inherit and absorb the bright and


pure waters of morality.




The waters of life that have risen from their source are accumulated in the lake and as they flow onward


are mingled with those of the river of primeval matter.


It is true that in our lower nature we are as the fish of the sea and the


birds in the air who bring forth abundantly,


but let us remember our higher nature and seek to live.

Xivunga Mti.

rather as the tree and herbs that have seed in themselves and also bear fruit

Xi Banga.

and seed. For on the wrong side of the river Kuilu lives the usurper who would lead us to wrong thoughts and actions and the consequent punishment.


Lukulu and Luali.


Two other great rivers flow into our river of Being, that of spirit and nature. And thus by spiritual law through the spirit of our ancestors we are connected with and of God, by natural


law we are connected with and of the Sun. In us are two great lights, the light uncreated and the created light.


In our lower nature the snakes that crawl


and feel and give birth to


offspring are at one with us, but rather should we be called to look to what


the colours of the rainbows symbolise to us than to their snake-like nature, and to,


the house of love that contains all the mysteries of generation, so that our offspring may be in death in


union with Nzambi even as parts of rocks are fused in one by heat.


Such are the lessons I would have you learn from my title Fumu, under which I am the way or will and power that has been sent by my father to rule all living things in the sea and rivers and on the land in this kingdom of Luango; Lamba Dende (to cook kernels) walk cautiously if you wish to attain the great end in life, and do no wrong so that your conscience will not force you to come to me crying Dianu (kill me, put me out of the country).

Next: Chapter 13. Sacred Trees