Photo above: Section of a village showing administratively imposed house types among the Nyindu people of territoire Mwenga (Photo Biebuyck, 1952).

Note based on Field research in 1952

In late 1951, this composite ethnic group was established in Mwenga territory, which had limits with the Shi, the Bembe, and the Lega-Basimwenda. The Nyindu, are a complex group of people some related to the Bembe and the Lega and some strongly mixed with hunting populations of unclear origin. The principal clan groups are:

  • The Batumba, a dynastic group from which the titled chief (mubeza) is recruited.
  • Three other clans claim primordial origin in ‘Angele Itombwe.
  • The later incoming Nyindu clans trace origins either with Bembe, Lega, or Shi.

In addition to the central chieftainship (Mwami), most Nyindu groups have an association called Bwami Bwa ‘E’umbu. The doctrines, aims, and procedures of this association have much in common with the same association among the Bembe and the Lega Basimwenda. Most Nyindu groups have the Bwami association, but the hierarchical structure and the paraphernalia are different from those of the Lega and Bembe, although many of the ritual procedures of initiation are similar to those of the Bembe and Lega, to whom they are geographically close.

The central chieftainship is hereditary within the Batumba clan. The candidate is selected by two sets of office holders called Bagingi and Bazyoga. In the ritual of selection, an official of the Bagingi group called Nyamushungwe catches the candidate with a leopard hide. This selection is done following secret procedures and oracles. After he is caught, the candidate is taken to the Nyzyembwe (title of the leader of the Bagingi).

The Nyamushungwe and Nyzyembwe then make a hat in goat’s hide (kikumbu) and a skull cap (kalemba) in wickerwork imbued with red color. For these two sacred insignia ‘e’o’o, the candidate provides two heads of cattle, three goats, ten chickens, and packs of small beads, oils, etc. Representatives of the Bazyoga group bring various foods, including fish, cane rats, and elusine, prepared by their wives. The chief elect will then be hand-fed and will receive the kidasa hat (or kitasa). This hat is probably made from hyena hide with an ishungwe shell attached in the front.

As part of the enthronement rituals, the chief elect is seated on a stool, while the Nyamushungwe beats the kalinda (drum) and provides the chief with advice and prescriptions. During this initiation, the chief also receives a wife, always from the Bashimbi clan. She becomes the Namwami; she is the one who anoints the chief and places the ishungwe hat on his head; it is also during this rite that the chief will have his only sexual relation with the Namwami. After the enthronement, the chief cannot have any further contact with her; should she nevertheless conceive a male child, the child would have to be banished into another clan.

Another important ritual is the death of the chief. The Bagingi transport the moribund chief to a house in the forest. The chief’s wives are then lead to believe that he has mysteriously disappeared. No one mourns the dead chief, because he is believed to survive in his successor. Thus, when the chief dies in the forest, the event is kept secret. After some time, having received goats and chickens from the dead chief’s wives, the Bagingi place a spear upside-down near the entrance of the village to notify people of the death of the chief. No verbal announcement is ever made. The Bwami hat that he had (ishungwe) passes to the Bagingi for safekeeping; it is turned upside down until a new chief is chosen.