Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Mongo live in the Congo Basin of central Zaire. The Mongo are primarily agriculturalists cultivating cassava and bananas, but with a very strong secondary reliance on gathering, fishing and hunting. The basic unit of social organization and economic activity is the patrilocal extended family led by a senior elder. Extended families are aggregated into localized lineages which are further grouped into clans. Clan members live dispersed across several villages, but form a political group under the leadership of elders from the senior lineage. Seclusion-ending festivals for first time mothers and grieving spouses are the major focus of Mongo organized ceremonials.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Central Africa


Congo, Democratic Republic of the

OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

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

The Mongo Collection (FO32), covers cultural and historical information on the Nkundu and Boyela (central Mongo) and Ntomba and Ekonda (southern Mongo), circa 1880s to 1980s. The earliest and most comprehensive source in the collection was compiled by a Belgian Roman Catholic missionary, Gustave E Hulstaert, who lived among the Nkundu (northern Mongo) in the 1930s (Hulstaert 1938, no. 2).  Originally written in French, this work provides rich information on Mongo marriage types and family life. The collection also includes an article by a Belgian ethnologist, E. Boelaert, which may be regarded as the first systematic attempt at understanding Mongo social organization (Boelaert 1940, no 3). The remaining documents are by professional anthropologists who conducted fieldwork in different parts of Mongo society in 1970s-1980s (Nelson 1994, no.3; Pagezy 1991, no.11, Sato 1983, no.12). Nelson, an American anthropologist, explores the history of the Mongo people from 1880s-1940s, as they suffered from, and adaptively responded to, the authoritarian rule of Belgian colonialists. Topics covered include forced labor on foreign rubber and palm oil plantations, changes in the power base of local leaders, and transformations in kinship system and community organizations. In discussing these themes, Nelson challenges earlier works by explorers and eurocentric researchers that failed to recognize the agency of Africans in shaping historical trajectories. Héléne Pagezy, an anthropologist based in France, discusses the Mongo practice of making first time mothers build a plump physique. The author argues that this practice can be taken as an example of what she calls “biocultural interaction” in shaping women’s status (Pagezy 1991, no.11). Hiroaki Sato, a Japanese anthropologist, describes and analyzes the hunting techniques of the Boyela of northern Mongo who supplement their tuber-based diet with protein from hunting (Sato 1983, no.12).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document. The collection excluded information on Mongo-speaking ethnic minorities in the Congo Basin such as the Twa.  

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Bokukulu - Mongo generic term for European rubber agents - use "INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (648)" and "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"  

Bosongo - bride price - use "MODE OF MARRIAGE (583)"

Ifomo - hunting trip, usually lasting from a few weeks to 3 months - use "HUNTING AND TRAPPING (224)" and "ANNUAL CYCLE (221)"

Ilongo) - patrilineage  - use "LINEAGES (613)" with "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Iyongi - daily hunting routines - use "HUNTING AND TRAPPING (224)," possible with  "DAILY ROUTINE (512)"

Lasako - Mongo generic term for oral literature (includes histories, folktales, proverbs, poem, songs and greetings)  - use "VERBAL ARTS (5310)"

Linkudu - Mongo domestic unit (a patrilocal extended family) - use "HOUSEHOLD (592)" and "EXTENDED FAMILIES (596)"

Molekele - literally, real women (status of a first time mother who completed her post-delivery seclusion) - use "POSTNATAL CARE (846)" with  "GENDER STATUS (562)" and "AVOIDANCE AND TABOO (784)"

Tata - household head - use "HOUSEHOLD (592)" and "EXECUTIVE HOUSEHOLD (644)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

Close Box