Holoholo people

Holoholo people
Regions with significant populations
Tanganyika District, Democratic Republic of the Congo 15,500
Holoholo language

The Holoholo people (also Horohoro or Kalanga) are an ethnic group that live around Kalemie on Lake Tanganyika in the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, and on the opposite shore of the lake in Tanganyika.


As of 2002 there were about 15,500 speakers of the Holoholo language.[1] The name "Holoholo" was given to them by the Belgians. It comes from the sound of their greeting, which outsiders found comical. The alternative name "Kalanga" simply means people who were there before the current population.[2]


Holoholo statuette of a woman from the 19th century or early 20th century

The Holoholo are a matrilineal people.[3] They are descendants of Baguha people who fled from the Luba Empire when it was expanding eastward in the 18th century, settling around Kalemie where the Lukuga River leaves the lake.[4] During the period of Luba dominance that followed the eastward expansion under Luba king Ilunga Sungu around 1800, bambudye secret societies were introduced among the Holoholo and other peoples, propagating oral traditions of the Luba royal family. The Holoholo adopted and adapted the Luba genesis myth, in which they believed there was a mountain called Ilunga Sungu on the west side of the Lualaba towards the Luba heartland, This refers to the location of the court of Ilunga Sungu at Katende.[5]

The 1935 book Les peuplades du Congo belge shows the Holoholo living on both sides of the Lukuga.[6] They became middlemen in the Arab and African slave trade. With suppression of this trade the economy collapsed and disease and local warfare decimated the population. Today the economy is mostly agricultural based on sorghum, maize, peanuts, and beans. Fish are caught with nets, dried and sold locally, the main source of cash in the area. Sorghum is used to make beer.[4]

The Holoholo who live in Tanzania around Kungwe Mountain have a tradition that their ancestors came from the Congo side by means of a long island that continued Kungwe Mountain into the lake. The lake level is highly variable, so it is conceivable that they crossed at a time when it was much lower than today, when part of the ridge separating the northern and southern basins of the lake would have been exposed.[7] Thousands of Holo-holo had settled along the Tanganyikan side of the lake by 1915, having sailed over in canoes. A census in 1948 counted 4,410 Holo-holo in Tanganyika.[8] In 1987 the Holoholo people had an estimated population of 12,500 in Tanzania. They traditionally lived in the Mahale Mountains on the east shore of the lake opposite Kalemie. However they were expelled from this area after 1979 to make way for the Mahale Mountains National Park created in 1985.[9]



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