Pende - Orientation

Identification and Location. The Pende occupy a territory that extends from the banks of the Lutshima, a tributary of the Kwilu, to the Kasai. The Kwilu crosses this territory, as does another large stream, the Loange, forming a boundary between the Zairean provinces of Bandundu (formerly, Léopoldville) and Kasai and separating administratively the western Pende from the eastern Pende (or Pende-Kasai). The latter differ markedly in language, certain customs, artistic styles, and economic development from the western group, which is the focus of this article. They have as neighbors, to the south, the Sonde, Lunda, and Cokwe; and, to the east, along the Kasai, the Luluwa and Luba-Kasai. Along the Loange, the western Pende adjoin the Wongo and Lele; to the north, they share a border with the Mbun (Mbunda) and Mbala. The Mbala and Kwese inhabit areas to the west of the western Pende; the Kwese language resembles that of the Pende, but the Kwese lack their artistic gifts. Torday (1913) describes as Kwese three districts that he visited in 1906: Moshinga, Ndala, and Samba. The district heads who reviewed this text affirmed that they always called one another "Pende." He describes as "Pindi" the remainder of Pende territory.

Demography. The last colonial census (1959) indicated that there were 200,000 western Pende and another 40,000 Pende in Kasai, the whole divided into about fifty districts of varying population—from a few hundred (e.g., Niegenene, with 420) to more than 20,000 (e.g., Moshinga, with 23,000). According to figures released prior to the 1988 elections, the Pende may have numbered 450,000 at that time. The high birthrate made double that number probable. But the Mulele rebellion produced a good many victims (except in Kasai, which was not involved). With the disappearance of medical service, and the increase in dietary deficiencies (in proteins and salt), infant mortality has become higher than ever. Emigration to the cities of Kikwit, Leverville, and Bandundu is also occurring.

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