Luluwa Information

Location: Southeastern Congo (Zaire)
Population: 300,000
Language: KiNalulua (Bantu)
Neighboring Peoples: Luba, Lunda, Chokwe
Types of Art: Luluwa are known for their sculpted statues marked by intricate scarification patterns and their finely carved utilitarian objects, including hemp pipes. They also carve several mask types used in initiation.
History: The Luluwa are closely related to the Luba Kasai and migrated along with them in the 18th century following an attack by the Luba Katanga. All of the palm trees in the region were cut down on the orders of Chief Kalamba in an effort to inhibit the consumption of palm wine. In 1875, he introduced and encouraged the smoking of hemp as an alternative, and a series of rituals developed surrounding the practice among the Luluwa. Both ivory and slaves were traded to the Chokwe in exchange for guns prior to European colonization. Since settling into their present location the Luba Kasai have grown more quickly than the Luluwa, at times threatening their sovereignty. Currently, both groups live peacefully in the same area.
Economy: Primarily farmers, Luluwa women grow manioc as a staple crop, as well as beans, sweet potatoes, maize, yams, peanuts, and bananas. The men are responsible for clearing the forest and preparing the soil for cultivation. They also hunt, fish with nets, and trap animals in the surrounding forests. Salt is found in the region and is collected and sold to neighbors to generate income.
Political Systems: At the most basic level, Luluwa society is divided into castes, including nobles, warriors, freemen, foreigners, and domestic slaves. Chiefs are chosen from the noble caste and are responsible for ruling their individual villages. While individual communities are relatively independent, there is a prime minister who oversees a council that is chosen from the heads of various patriclans. They are then responsible for watching over the various community leaders.
Religion: The Luluwa recognize both a supreme being (Muloho) and a creator (nvidi mukulu). The ancestors, both mythic and recent, are honored at shrines, while nature spirits connected to the surrounding forests are believed to reside in trees and rocks. There are various religious practices that focus on fertility, the protection of children, and ensuring a successful hunt. Hemp is used in many ceremonies and at one time was mandatory for members of certain religious groups.

Back to the Museum