Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Azande are a large group, living in Sudan and the Central African Republic as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Azande constitute a conglomeration of originally distinct ethnic groups that became culturally, politically, and linguistically united through conquest during the first half of the eighteenth century. They were led by two dynastic clans. In colonial times, traditional patterns of shifting cultivation were disrupted by cotton growing and other economic schemes and consequent resettlement. The diet is supplemented by hunting and fishing. Since independence, coffee has become an important cash crop in western Zandeland, and in many areas some cotton is still grown. The Zande have long been known as expert blacksmiths, potters, and wood carvers.


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Africa --Central Africa


Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Central African Republic


OWC Code


Collection Information

Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Azande file consists of 46 documents, of which nine are translations from the French, one from German, and the remaining 36 in English. Of the above , two new articles were added in English in 1997 (Reining, 1959, no. 69 and Reining, 1962, no. 70). These additions to the file discuss the use of money by the Azande (no. 69), Azande markets, and the economy of the 1950s (no. 70). The focus of the file is diffuse. The majority of documents seem to be concerned with the Azande of the Sudan region, especially in the Bahr-El-Ghazal province of western Sudan (see the works of Evans-Pritchard), while others center around the Uelle River districts in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), and in the eastern part of the Central African Republic. Probably the most comprehensive studies of the Azande in this file appear in Evans-Pritchard (1937, no. 2), Lagae (1926, no. 3), Baxter & Butt (1953, no. 56), DeSchlippe (1956, no. 60), Culwick (1950, no. 61), and Evans-Pritchard (1971, no. 68). The work by Evans-Pritchard (1937, no. 2), written by a noted British anthropologist, is an outstanding publication on Azande witchcraft, with much additional information on social organization. Lagae's work on the Azande (1926, no. 3) contains much data on social organization, ceremonies surrounding the individual life crises events, and secret societies. Baxter & Butt (1953), a compilation by two anthropologists from secondary materials, is a good account of the whole culture, with emphasis on religion, socio-political organization, and culture history. DeSchlippe (1956) is a thorough study by an agronomist of the Azande traditional system of agriculture in terms of its environmental and cultural limitations. Culwick (1950) is an evaluation of dietary patterns, food production, economic organization of agriculture, and nutrition. Evans-Pritchard (1971) is a piecemeal account of history and political institutions, particularly of the old kingdom of Gbudwe in the Sudan. There are numerous other docum ents in the file which cover in detail many of the subject areas not examined thoroughly in the major works. Some of the ethnographic topics discussed in these studies include linguistics, material culture, bride wealth and bride price, medicine, the family, political organization, warfare, fine arts, flora and fauna, and cannibalism. The file as a whole covers a great deal of material on socio-political organization, history, religion and magic, economics, but covers only lightly such topics as language, human biology, and material culture.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Zande" by Eva Gillies, in the Encyclopedia of World Culture, Vol. 9, Africa and the Middle East, John Middleton and Amal Rassoms, eds., 1995. The name of the political territory of Zaire has been updated to Democratic Republic of the Congo by John Beierle in July 1997. The synopsis and indexing notes were also prepared by John Beierle in July 1997.

Overview by

John Beierle

Collection Indexing Notes

ABINZA (AVULE) -- witchdoctors -- categories 756, 791

ATORO -- ghosts, spirits of the dead -- category 775

BENGE -- the poison oracle -- 787, 278

BORO(IRA)MANGU -- a witch -- category 754

IRA GBEGBERE (KITIKITI) NGUA -- a sorcerer -- category 754

MANGU -- witchcraft -- category 754

MBISIMO -- the soul -- category 774

MBORI -- the supreme being -- category 776

NGUA -- magic, medicine, leechcraft -- categories 789, 755, 757

PANGUA (PA ATORO) -- divination -- category 787

SIMA -- a spell -- category 789

SOROKA -- oracles -- categories 787, 278, 791

Zande scheme of economic development -- category 654

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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