The Mongo


The Mongo people are an ethnic group comprising multiple tribes living in the great central basin of present day Demoncratic Republic of Congo.  The tribes include in the Bangala (Ngala), Babangi, Bokote, Ekonda, Bolia, Sengele, Ntomba, Ndengese, Songomeno, Mbole, Bongandu, Boyela, Nkutu, and Tetela-Kusu.  The tribes share many cultural traditions and speak dialects of the dominant language of the region,  Mongo-Nkundo (Linkgala, Lomongo).  The Mongo traditionally cultivated cassava and bananas but also relied on wild-plant gathering, fishing, and hunting.  Before colonization, Arab incursions had partially touched the region.  A thriving domestic slave trade downriver was in place. The Mongo remember times of war with their neighbors, the Ngombe tribe, which resulted in great social upheaval.  The wars were constant throughout the 19th century until the arrival of the first European colonists.

The lands of the Mongo tribes were colonized by Belgium around 1883 and as it spread towards the interior it brought imported illnesses as well as exploitation.  Ancestral lands were seized and became plantations.  Whole populations worked as forced labor or were deported to support the colonial war efforts elsewhere.  Despite the sensitivity of certain missionaries to the destruction of the culture, and their attempts to reinforce it both before and after independence, the policies they implemented contributed to political and social fragmentation which remains a problem to this day.


Ngombe with ngulu sword

A Mongo Chief with ngulu sword