Photo above: The supreme ruler of the Lunda people posing in front of his brick house built by by the colonial administration (1957).


Photos taken by DB between 1947 and 1958. For information on the Lunda, see Biebuyck article in Zaïre (1957).

Photo 1: The ruler, mwaantayaav, Mbaku Citend, is dressed in the full paraphernalia of his high status, including a medal from the colonial government that establishes him not only as the king of the Lunda people but also as a chief recognized by the colonial government. He sits against the background of a large brick house that had been built for him by the local colonial administration; behind the brick house are all the traditional houses of those who are intimately associated with him such as, for example : his cook (a man), his musicians, the fool (the one who can ludically insult him publicly), his spouses and some of his sisters.

Except for his western shoes and his “palata” (a silver medallion given by the colonial administration to the chiefs), the mwaantayaav is fully dressed in traditional garb: heavy beaded jacket (circa 40lbs), an elaborate raffia skirt, a beaded hat, with  a sheathed knife attached to animal skin strip slung across his chest. He also wears a very large bracelet (rukaan) on his left arm, the outside of which is made of vines but which, allegedly contains small exuviae (nails, teeth, bone, hair) of his predecessors; it is the most important symbol of his power.

The mwantayaav is seated on an elaborate stool with carvings of an almost-mythical animal which he received as an hommage during a trip to the Lunda in Zambia, under the authority of Musoka Ntanda, Lunda who, in the tradition, depended on him. The throne is placed on a leopard hide superimposed on a lion’s hide. This is a privilege of the ruler who only can be seated on these two hides. To the right of the throne, an extremely rare spear is planted in the ground. It is comparable to the insignia of the Luba chiefs.

Photo 2: The ruler is dressed in a European jacket, shirt, and necktie, but also wearing a jackal apron. He wears the distinctive beaded crown and the rukaan bracelet.

Photo 3: The ruler on his throne, is surrounded by some of the important political leaders, including the so-called successor to the throne, the pseudo-ruler who at the enthronement ceremonies symbolically wrestles the ruler as if he wished to oust him from the throne.

Photo 4: The mwaantayaav steps out of his “palanquin,” aided by one of his ritual officers.

Photos 5-8: High-ranking dignitaries in Western dress and traditional crown, including (photo 7) a high-ranking notable who is in charge of a large landed domain (cisidil). At the time of my research among the Lunda, this person had an especially high status because the royal village, musuumb, was, since a few years, established on his lands. It must be noted that the supreme ruler of the Lunda people is said to be a “beggar for land” since no specific piece of land belongs to him or the royal kin.

Photo 9: One of the two most highly ranked women of the empire. She is probably the incumbent for the title of Rweej (historically the first female ruler whose powers were usurped by the Luba hunter Cibiind a yiruung) or the title of Nswaan a muruund (the so-called sister-wife of the first mwaantayaav). As part of her high status, she wears a beaded crown very similar in design to that of the ruler and a skirt of leopard hide.

Photos 10-12: the ruler’s orchestra: a large xylophone, consisting of nine plank keys and nine calabash sound boxes, is carried by a musician in the orchestra, which is always ready to play morning and evening in the ruler’s compounds and that accompanies the ruler wherever he travels. The orchestra also includes a small membranophone drum with two membranes, a very large slit-drum fixed to a bamboo pole and carried by two men, one of whom beats the drum, a calabash rattle. Singers always accompany the orchestra.