Peoples Between the Kwango and the Kasai
Four clusters have been distinguished among the mixture of peoples in this area. The Yaka cluster includes, among others, the Suku. The Mbala cluster also includes several groups and is perhaps the most fragmented of the lot. The Pende cluster includes the Kwese; the Lunda cluster includes the Soonde and the Chokwe. The Lunda, closely related to the peoples of western Shaba, are included here by anthropologist Jan Vansina because they are separated from their core area and have had a longtime relationship with the other peoples in the area. Mixture and mutual influence have characterized these peoples, often in less than peaceful ways.
In general, Lunda expansion led to the formation of Lunda-ruled states, a process that continued through the first half of the nineteenth century. The Chokwe, who became such a powerful presence in the core Lunda area in western Shaba in the second half of the nineteenth century, also drove north here in the same period, fragmenting local groups but also incorporating many of them. They were stopped only in 1885 by a coalition of Mbun, Njembe, and Pende, the first two being peoples of the lower Kasai.
Except for the members of the Lunda cluster, most of the peoples in the area originally spoke a dialect of Kikongo or a language related to it. Over a period beginning in the seventeenth century, a good deal of movement was set in train by the expansion of the Lunda Empire. The result was the establishment of Lunda-influenced political patterns among Kongo peoples in the area.
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