Family and Religion in Luba Life


The Luba people who are the focus of this article live the eastern Kasai Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Luba established one of the great pre-colonial empires of the central Congo savannah. It stretched from the eastern Congo River to Lake Tanzania and northwest to the convergence of the Lulua and Kasai Rivers.1 The family occupies a central place in the personal life of each Luba man or woman and in the social, economic, and political organization of Luba society. Anthropological studies from as early as the 1950s have stressed the central position of the family in the social organization of African societies (Radcliffe-Brown and Forde 1953). The purpose of this article is to review the principal elements of the organizational structure of Luba society that convey power and importance to the Luba family. Luba people’s conception of the purpose and role of the family, of values and norms that inspire and regulate their behaviors as family members, as well as the actual changing forms of their familial behaviors across the time can inform us on these elements (Van Caeneghem 1956; Mukenge 1967; 2002). Calling on the author’s previous fieldwork among the Luba and other early studies, this article examines, in anthropological and historical contexts, religion and worldview as pivotal in defining relationships between family and other social institutions. A list of selected references is included.

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