|Fig.1: Did you know that the Luba and Lunda Kingdoms would hold hands while sleeping so they wouldn't float away from each other?
|Fig.2: The Bantu migrations led to many
cries of "Olly olly oxen free!" throughout
Central and Southern Africa.
Things didn't get off to a peaceful start though. The Luba leader, Nkongolo Mwamba, established the Luba Kingdom around 1585 simply by saying, "Okay, I'm the king now!" However one of his military men, Ilunga Mbidi, was much more popular with the Luba ladies, and Nkongolo sought to eliminate him as a potential threat. Ilunga was tipped off by the notoriously Luba looselips and fled, leaving behind his sons Kalala and Tshibinda. Nkongolo thought this was the end of the problem, but Kalala grew up to be just as suave and savvy as his father, hurting his Luba libido even more. The story goes that Nkongolo made Kalala do a ritual dance, but with the old trap of a concealed hole in the floor with spears underneath right where he was to do the big finish; Kalala avoided the trap with the Luba limbo move, making Nkongolo officially "served" (whatever that means). Nkongolo then tried the simple method of sending an army to kill him, but Kalala and his supporters fought back, and it was Nkongolo that ended up with a Luba lethal wound.
|Fig.3: Tshibinda Ilunga
never left home to found a
new kingdom without his
The longterm success of both kingdoms was not solely due to their ability to play nice with each other, as much as their kindergarten teacher appreciated it. The Luba and Lunda established a political system unique in 17th century Africa that shared power between the king and a council of wise sagacious men (aka: old farts). The king, or balopwe, possessed a sacred right to rule from the gods above, and he in turn would become a god after he died. While that fact would make any man get a big head (just ask any North Korean Supreme Leader), the council, or bamfumus, kept the king in check and reminded them he needed to fulfill his earthly duties before he received the pleasure of having people compose chants and dance around fires in his honor. When this finally happened, the bamfumus facilitated the succession of the next king, ensuring a smoother transition than the interior-decoration-war that occurs when a new President and First Lady move into the White House. This dual-power system worked extremely well, and was soon adopted by other neighboring territories. Consider the fact that the Luba king and council worked together successfully at the same time that the English king and parliament were fighting in a civil war, and you tell me which culture was more "civilized."
Of course, good governance couldn't have been the only reason that the Luba and Lunda were the bee's knees. Natural resources were abundant in the Congo River Valley, and the two kingdoms used their human resources to take advantage of them. Legend tells that jack-of-all-trades Kalala Ilunga created an advanced iron forging technique that allowed them to make better tools and weapons (Kalala was obviously deemed "Most Likely to Succeed at Everything" in his yearbook). So the combination of a working political system and those persuasive pointy objects of theirs convinced many neighboring tribes that they were better off for than against the Luba and Lunda. These villages were incorporated into the ruling bureaucracy, where the chief remained in charge but answerable to the king. Oh the joys of middle management! By the 19th century, both kingdoms possessed extensive trade connections, human capital, and more recipes for sweet potato casserole to shake a well-forged spear at!
|Fig.4: Examples of art from Luba and Lunda cultures, all of which are deadly when hit over
the head (some more than others).
|Fig.5: Belgium, a country of under 12,000 square
miles, took control of a piece of African territory
nearly 80 times its own size. Sounds like some-
body was compensating for something...