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Anziku / Teke / Tio Kingdom

The Anziku Kingdom, also called the Teke Kingdom, or Kingdom of Tyo or Tio, was a pre-colonial African state extending on both sides of the Congo River in the vicinity of Malebo Pool [Stanley Pool]. Arising in the fourteenth century west of the Lower Congo River region, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Teke kingdom grew powerful from mining iron and copper and trading them at the great market crossroads.

This kingdom was already an ancient and important presence by the sixteenth century. Variously named Tio, Anzicans, the Tege or Teke, or the kingdom of Macoco, this political entity is one of the best documented of Central Africa in the literature of travelers and chroniclers. Its territory covered extensive river trade routes north of the Congo/Zaire, and along its northern tributaries. Its miners and smiths developed advanced techniques of metalworking.

The origins of the Teke kingdoms are uncertain, but are thought to be as old as the Kongo and Loango kingdoms. The Teke people occupied the plateau region north of Stanley Pool on both sides of the Congo River. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries they fought against the Kongo, and in the eighteenth century they lost some of their northern territory to the Mboshi.

The Teke kingdom was organized into chiefdoms and provinces ruled by hereditary officials. Besides governing their territories the members of this hereditary class had the responsibility of selecting the king. In theory the king could remove a chief, but he was unable to do so without the support of other hereditary officials. He had neither a military force nor any judicial authority with which to control his subjects, and his main duties were religious rather than political. He was respected because of his special relationship with the ancestral spirits. He performed rituals and presided over religious activities intended to bring prosperity to his people and land.

No doubt the great river trade that linked Central Africa to the Atlantic coast provided the basis of the lord's growing autonomy. In his review of the Teke role in controlling the ivory, raphia, and slave trade. The term "Teke" came to be known as a category of slave in Colombia as early as 1560, and later in the seventeenth century as a special class of slave in Brazil, the "Ansiku." Of particular importance is the Teke control of trade at the giant market of Mpumbu at Malebo Pool.

Historical texts show strong centralized kingship up to the middle of the seventeenth century; the king is in charge of provinces and functions such as trade. Ngobila is the special administrator who controls the river. After 1700, however, references to the kingdom become scarce.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Teke society was in a state of flux, partly because of the nature of the slave trade. Chiefdoms, consisting of one or more small villages with perhaps forty inhabitants each, evolved as the basic unit of social organiza-tion. The chief settled disputes, collected taxes, and conducted vil¬lage affairs. He was assisted by two counselors and two priestly families. The chiefs and other titled officials who inherited their positions came from a small aristocratic group.

The Mu-ndequetes (pl. Ba-ndequetes = Ba-tekete, or Ba-teke) of the old Portuguese authors (and the A-nzichi, that is A-teke, or Ba-teke) of the old Italian authors, are one and the same people with the Ma-iaka. Hence the history of those ancient and famous conquerors and cannibals is also that of the Ma-iaka. The Anzicana of the sixteenth century, as described by Duarte Lopes in Pigafetta's book, occupied exactly the some area as the Ba-teke and Ma-iaka land of today.

A Sudanese stock known as A-nzika proceeded south and reached the Gabon country before the close of the tenth century, displacing the pygmies. Here they became known as Ba-Teke. Or, according to another theory, the Ba-Teke were closely allied to the primitive A-nzika, and possibly preceded them. Several other migrations followed.

About the middle of the sixteenth century the Ma-iaka invaded their western neighbor, the Kingdom of Kongo, conquered and destroyed the capital S. Salvador, and forced the King, with his faithful vassals and Portuguese allies, to seek refuge on the islands of the Kongo River. When the Governor of S. Thome arrived with the reinforcements sent by the King of Portugal to his "brother," the King of Kongo, the Ma-iaka were defeated by the superiority of fire-arms and driven back to their former, and present, seats beyond the Kuangu.

The ancient and famous kingdom of Micoco or Makoko has been identified with the modern Ba-teke of the French territory, north of Stanley Pool, and thus several historic and geographic riddles of long standing seem to be satisfactorily solved. This great nation of the Ba-teke and Ma-iaka has been parcelled out by the European powers, who had no inkling of its ethnic unity and importance, to France, the Kongo. State and Portugal, France getting the lion's share.

Soon after the Portuguese discovery of the Kongo kingdom, the Makoko or principal chief of the Bateke was a powerful personage in the region to the north of Stanley Pool, and that a considerable development of Bateke culture had taken place in that region, extending southwards to the large island on Stanley Pool. It is probable, however, that the mass of the Bantu‘speaking Bateke came from the south-east, from that congeries of tribes between the liwango, Kwilu, and Kasai whose worn-down dialects at the present day offer a slight resemblance to the Teke language.

Janzen notes that the Tio king, Makoko, like those of Loango, Kakongo, Ngoyo, and Vungu, was ordained by a powerful, permanent spirit linked to a territorial domain. This was the spirit Nkwe Mbali, thought to be as old as Tio kingship itself. There are no good historical indicators of the date of origin of the Tio kingdom, although legends in the wider region — from Kongo to the coast of Loango — suggest its origin well before the fifteenth century. The ideology of the local authority rooted to an estate and ordained in a territorial or place-specific spirit is widespread in the Equatorial African region, as it was on the coast.

Vansina believes that Tio kingship arose out of the acknowledgement of mystical superiority of one of the local authorities — "squires" — followed by a modest tribute payment in exchange for insignia of legitimation. The king thus became a primus inter pares among the regional domainal squires. This mystical—ideological—origin theory of the state among the Tio is defended by Vansina because of the low population densities of the region, which would rule out conquest as an explanation, and because of the structural similarity of the role of local squire to that of the king.

Although Vansina doubts any integral association of the kingdom's formation to the introduction of metal-working technology, royal symbolism closely associates the kingship with smithing. Royal anvils, a sacred fire, the royal smith, and the second title of the kingdom, ngandzuunu, "owner of anvils," gave the king an aura of mastery over this important technology.

In the mid-seventeenth century a major reform was introduced in Tio political structure related to emergence and spread of autonomous lords. These lords possessed many characteristics in common with the Lemba priests, including their major insignium the nkobi charm box. The nkobi lords ruled over the squires, collected tribute from them, and were recognized by them as nkani, mediators of tribute to higher-up lords, and ultimately the king. About twenty lower-level nkobi lords became the nkani of the local squires. A few of these lords, and several major lords, constituted the first-rank nkobi lords of greatest prominence.

At Stanley Pool the Ba-teke were the chief tribe. By the late 19th Century they appeared to have only recently come down to the Congo from the region between that river and the Ogowe, where they were met with by De Brazza. They scarred their cheeks with lines, and often wore their abundant hair drawn tightly over a pad into a kind of chignon. Their headquarters may be said to be at the town of Mpumo Ntaba, the successor of De Bracza's Makoko.

The tastes of Congo tribes of teh 19th Century varied considerably. At Lukolela the general ambition of the head men was to own as many slaves as possible, so that they might insult their neighbors with impunity and destroy those who resented it. Besides this ambitious desire, they had a great love of metal ornaments. The Lukolela chief points with a great deal of pride to his brass anklets, and will boast of the massive "molua" (woman's large brass neck-ring) round his wife's neck. The Ba-Teke, of Stanley Pool, were engaged largely in the ivory trade, buying from the up-river native traders, and exchange their tusks with the white merchants on the coast for cloth, guns, and powder.

In the region of the French Congo, by far the most numerous nation were the Bu-Banghi, who dwelled in the U-Banghi valley. Villages of two or three thousand inhabitants are by no means rare in the territory of the Bu-Banghi, who came traditionally from the north towards the end of the eighteenth century. They penetrated as far as the banks of the Lefini, where they were arrested by the king of the Ba-Tcke, who vanquished them in a battle which lasted three days. Ever since that time they are unable to descend in canoes down to Stanley Pool without paying tribute to a Ba-Teke official, bearing the title of the "River Chief." Nevertheless, they still continued to advance southwards, and were generally well received, owing to the part they play as agents of the local traffic.

The Bu-Bunghi are a highly enterprising people, daring speculators and great newsmongers, so that on their arrival in a village they are immediately surrounded by eager listeners. They are also the leaders of fashion for all the surrounding populations, for they display great skill in dressing their hair in points and bars, in painting the body and covering it with tattoo patterns and raised seams or welts, produced by means of two bamboo twigs forming a seton. The women submit to the torture of wearing massive copper necklaces and leg ornaments, and some of the great ladies toil painfully along under a load of jewellery weighing a hundred and ten or even a hundred and twenty and a hundred and thirty pounds.

The Mboshi, who give an alternative name to this post on the Lower Alima, were one of the most savage peoples in the whole Congo region. Their defiant and dogged attitude renders them a thorn in the side of their more peaceful Ba-Teke and Ap-Furu neighbours, and the French themselves had much trouble in maintaining the station of Pombo in their territory. Physically the Mboshi are a tall and stalwart people, but lacked the graceful carriage of the Ba-Teke and the sculpturesque beauty of the Ap-Furus. Those dwelling on the banks of the river preferred to take wives from foreign tribes.

From the fetishmen, who are at once wizards, judges, and executioners, they endeavour to protect themselves by many-coloured marks daubed round the orbits and on other parts of the face. Thus white preserves them from drowning, red from wounds, yellow from fire. Unlike most other Africans, they were indifferent to personal ornamentation, and despise the meretricious charms of the toilet in which so many native tribes spend a great part of their existence. They displayed no taste for art, and even the dance and tam-tamming are reserved for solemn occasions of national interest.

The Ba-Teke occupied the riverain tracts along the Upper Alima and the upland waterparting, which in many places is strewn with a white sand giving it the appearance of a saline waste. Some of the tribes encroach westwards on the Ogoway basin, and southwards on the district watered by the Nkheni and the Lefini. They even cross to the left side of the Congo south of Kwamouth, and their domain is altogether scarcely less extensive than that of the Bu-Banghi, although the several tribes differ greatly one from the other. The Ba-Teke of the plateaux presented marked contrasts to the Bu-Banghi, both in physical appearance and social usages.

They were less robust, of smaller stature and less stout, most of them being so very thin that they have been compared to "walking skeletons." They are remarkably frugal, a little manioc and a few grubs or insects picked up on the way sufficing to support them even on the march. The women carry long sticks, furnished at the extremity with a little raw hemp, which serves to catch the grasshoppers, the "Ba-Teke food," as they are called. Insects are taken by firing the grass, and the Ba-Teke are also partial to smoked toads, although preferring to all other meat the roasted larvae of certain species of butterflies.

By the late 19th Century, in time of war the Ba-Teke still practiced cannibalism, eating the captives and slain in battle.

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Page last modified: 14-06-2017 19:45:41 ZULU