Pende - Sociopolitical Organization



Those who possess authority possess it in the name of the ancestors. They must be faithful to the rules that were left by them and be exemplary in conduct, especially in sexual matters. They are responsible for the transmission of the life that was received from them. Around the middle of the twentieth century, a chief was dismissed because he had seen his sister's nudity, which amounts to incest. It is those in authority who speak in public and who practice nearly all of the trades (smith, sculptor, weaver, tanner, healer, diviner, musician or singer, hunter, and public orator). The women's jobs are raising crops and preparing food, making pottery, and freshwater fishing. It is said of the local lineage chief (there is no chief of the whole clan), an old man, that "he holds, controls, the seed" ( wakwata mbuto ); he is the guardian of the fecundity of the lineage. Of the chief of the district, they say that "he holds, controls the earth" ( wakwata mavu ). The earth is considerd to be the source of fecundity or life, in the widest sense, of the universe and the stars. Yongo, a Moshinga chief, said that he had to sleep alone "in the entry [ha khukhe ] when the moon is in its last quarter so that it might come back to its full brightness," whereas to abstain from sexual relations in the light of day would be an offense against the sun. He must also sleep alone when several women of the district are pregnant, so that they may be able to bring their pregnancy to term. For the whole group, continence is to be observed from sowing time, especially of millet (millet is the chief of the seed and has its own storehouse), until the first shoots appear. The top wife gathers some of the shoots, prepares them, and presents them to the chief. When he has eaten them, he can resume sexual relations. People announce that the chief has slept (with his wife), and the next day the lineage chiefs follow his example, then all of the people. Similarly, the hunters, several days before the hunts, and the chief with them, even if he does not take part, are expected to abstain from sexual relations. Artists or artisans—the smith, the sculptor of masks, dressers of these masks for dancing, the dancers themselves, and the player of the big drum—often have to observe continence before undertaking their activities. Continence is imposed on the ngambi (lawyer-judge) for eight days before he can pick up the sculptured can that he handles at the palaver, and for as many more before putting it back in its compartment. But it is on the chief that such periods of continence and other prohibitions are imposed in large numbers. In certain districts, as at Niegenene, complete continence with the wearing of a condom was imposed from the time of a chief's investiture. The chief was obliged to send back his wife or wives, and a brother's wife brought him his meals.


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