NOTE ON THE BAHAMBA of NGABWE (near Lake Tanganyika, in Kigongo village)

DB 1952 fieldnotes

About 10km south of Uvira along Lake Tanganyika and in the mountainous hinterland, one encounters five villages that are under the authority of “notable” (chief) Ngabwe Ndengo.

Traditionally, they were organised as a chiefdom headed by a mwami wa ishungwe. Traditionally they were the ruling dynasty in this village group. However, under the centralizing policy of the colonial administration these small chiefs like Nganbwe have lost their authority of chief in favor of the Vira Banalenge chief.

The Bahamba migrated from the Lwindi area in Mwenga territory together with eight clans (Baziba, Babogwe, Banyamuganga, Babumba, Babenga, Batumba, Basivi, Balama). The senior heads of these eight clans designate and initiate the chief. In addition to these groups there are also Bembe established within these five villages. They consider themselves to be the senior of the Bahamba of chief Simba Nyamugira of the Bahamba ruling among the Fulero in Uvira territory.

They speak kizyoba.

The Bahamba are patrilineal and patrilocal. The kinship terminology is close to Vira language and the principles of classification of kin are close to the Bembe system (e.g. wife of father senior to mother is kukwe; grandmother, junior to mother is mawemwanuke); paternal aunt is shengi(she is like a father); the maternal uncle is mwizo (he is also a tata, father; his wife is mukamwizoand must be avoided (respect and fear; so she is often referred to as mwizo). Cross-cousin marriage, both matrilateral and patrilateral, is possible, but for matrilateral cousins this is allowed only as long as the real maternal uncle is alive; afterwards, the cousin stays in his father’s place as mwizoand the patrilateral cousin as mwiwa. A man cannot marry his mother’s brother’s sons’ daughter for he is like a father to her).

Some Bahamba can be found elsewhere, as among the Vira; they have friendship relations (bwira) with the Basim’minje and Balenge, found among the Bembe and the Vira ruling dynasty.

Of Bahamba origin: the chief’s Banyambala or Bagingi officials were Muhinga, Mwenekaziba, Kimika and Sinyakima, members of specific clans.