Yombe people

Yombe-sculpture in Louvre, Paris

At least two groups of people in Africa are described as the Yombe people. They reside primarily in Zambia, Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Adept at crafts and art, the men are involved in weaving, carving, and smelting, and the women make clay pots. Popular figures include the Nkisi nkonde and female phemba statues.


In 1981 there was an estimated 15,000 people of the Yombe, living in an area of 625 square miles (1,620 km2).[1] The Ba Yombe refers to people among the tumbuka of Zambia.[2] Another group, also referred to as the Mayombe people, live in the south-western part of the Republic of the Congo, with others living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. [3] The most common language of the Yombe is the Tumbuka language.[1]

Economic practices

The Yombe are primarily involved in agricultural production, growing crops such as plantains, maize, beans, manioc, peanuts, and yams. Though they grow primarily for food supply, they also sell their crops at the market. Goats, pigs and chickens are raised and fishing is practised on the Congo River. Adept at crafts and art, the men are involved in weaving, carving, and smelting, and the women make clay pots.[4]

Cultural and religious practices

The artistry of Yombe figurines and statues is well known, usually objects of prestige, kings seated on the throne, or female phemba (maternity) statues.[4] Nkisi nkonde figurines, masks and drums are also made for ceremonies.[5] Their funerary figures are renowned for their realistic depictions.[6]

The supreme deity of the Yombe is Ngoma Bunzi, who hails from an unreachable realm called Yulu. He is contacted via Nzambi a Tsi (earth spirits) and Simbi (river spirits). The Yombe people build shrines as memorials to prominent ancestors, such as village chiefs who has special powers.[5] The Yombe people of northern Zambia believe that people have three different identities,: biological, social, and spiritual. Their social standing affects the type of funeral which might be given. [7]


  1. 1 2 "Database for Indigenous Cultural Evolution (DICE):Yombe Factsheet" (PDF). University of Missouri. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. Chondoka, Yizenge (16 December 2015). A History of the Tumbuka from 1400 to 1900. Xlibris Corporation. p. 238. ISBN 978-1-4990-9628-6.
  3. Appiah, Kwame Anthony; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (eds.), Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (1st ed.), New York: Basic Books, p. 2035, ISBN 0-465-00071-1
  4. 1 2 "Tribal African Art: Yombe". Zyama.com. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Yombe". Art & Life in Africa. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  6. Vogel, Susan Mullin (1981). For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-87099-267-4.
  7. Fukuyama, Mary A.; Sevig, Todd D. (28 July 1999). Integrating Spirituality into Multicultural Counseling. SAGE Publications. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-5063-2072-4.
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