Central Africa

Angola Ethnic Groups Part 1

The vast majority of the roughly 12,000,000 residents that make up Angola’s population come from peoples of Bantu origin.

Another component arises from the mixture that occurred very early; first among the various groups that arrived in the territory, and later with Europeans (mostly Portuguese) during the period of colonization. There are also some non-Bantu minorities, such as the Bushmen or Bochimanes, and a considerable number of Europeans.

The languages currently spoken in Angola are, in order of antiquity: Bushman, Bantu and Portuguese. Of the three, only the Portuguese language has a written form.

The Angolan Bantus are divided into nine major ethnolinguistic groups: quicongo, quimbundu, lunda-quioco, mbundo, ganguela, nhanheca-humbe, ambó, herero and xindonga, which in turn are subdivided into about a hundred subgroups, traditionally called tribes.

Quicongo or bakongo group

It occupies Cabinda and the northeast, between the ocean and the Cuango River. Quicongos are traditional farmers, cassava being their main cultivation base. Some ethnic groups are engaged in commerce, such as the Cabda and, especially, the Zombo. The quitandas or markets constitute, in fact, an important element of Quicongo life and for them they came to count time.

The Portuguese instituted among the Quicongos, in the 16th century, a European court monarchy, where the king had vassals, counts, dukes and marquises, administering areas of the territory in the medieval way.

Kimbundu Group

It dominates a vast expanse between the sea and the Cuango River (Kwango). Its origin is unclear, although it may be after the 15th century. It is the fruit of many crosses. The ancient kimbundus were notable organizers of states and have famous warrior chiefs in their history. Under the authority of a Kimbundu (Ngola) king, the Portuguese instituted the Kingdom of Angola in the 16th century.

The Kimbundu ethnic pattern is characterized by being very mixed, especially in the Luanda area, but some genuine types can be found.

They developed an evolved agriculture, including coffee. In the islands that surround Luanda, Kimbunda communities made fishing their material and spiritual way of life, especially the Muxiluanda. The Luanda, in their marked taste for carnival festivities, express their ancestral propensity for holding spectacular folkloric shows and formerly maintained, on the island of Luanda, a cult of the mermaid (kianda).

The Kimbunda populations of the coast are highly integrated into the Western lifestyle, actively participating in many sectors of national life.

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It occupies an extensive area that goes from the northeast border to the south. The kiocos are the most important ethnic body. Originally from Central Africa, they emigrated en masse south in the 17th century, settling in the south of the Lunda. After a long period of fighting, the kiocos did not succeed in forming the Lunda territories until the 19th century, rapidly expanding north and south. The great expansion of the Quioca took this people beyond the borders of Angola, finding some nuclei in the Congo and Zambia.

Consequently, the physical characteristics of the kiocos present different variants. The designation lunda-kioco is of a historical order; in fact, kiocos predominate. This town, originating from an old culture of hunters in the savannah, is active and hard-working and is particularly skilled in iron and steel techniques, producing high-quality iron.

The kiocos once maintained admirable schools of sculpture and are versatile and highly skilled craftsmen. They are characterized by strong cultural unity, are good home builders, and are especially gifted for commerce.

Endowed with a lively sense of assimilation, they interbreed with almost all the ethnic groups with which they come into contact, establishing colonies wherever they go. The institutions and cults related to hunting are predominant and still maintain the regime of matriarchy.

Group mbundo or ovibundu

One of the most numerous, this group occupies a vast space in the central part of the western central half of Angola, a country located in Africa according to EXTRAREFERENCE, rising from the coast to the highlands. The Mbundu ethnolinguistic group is made up of fifteen main subgroups, the biennials and the bailundos being particularly notable. These constitute a synthesis of the Angolan peoples.

They were tireless travelers from the subcontinent and still maintain a great migratory trend today. They are said to originate from the lands located to the northeast, but, according to some experts, they probably come from the southeast of the Congo.

The Nano Wars, which began in 1803 and ravaged the lands of the plateau and the south-east for a century, were famous in the Mbundu region. The most important took place in 1848, and in it the bulk of the hordes was made up of the Huambos, one of the subgroups of the Mbundu.

From a sociopolitical point of view, the Mbundu were well organized and built strong defensive walls, some of them impregnable for the time.

They are considered as the peoples that best accept the patterns of Western culture, with the largest number of priests in Angola being of this ethnic group.

Angola Ethnic Groups 1