Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Ila are a Bantu-speaking people living along the Kafue River in southwestern Zambia. They were primarily cattle herders, but also practiced farming near the river, supplemented by fishing, hunting, and gathering. Traditional Ila society was organized into villages administered by a headman and an informal council of elders. A group of villages formed a territorially defined community loosely governed by a chief, with the village headmen forming a council. Communities formed according to local groupings of matrilineages; matrilineal clans were larger, cutting across communities. The Ila never had any centralized political organization or paramount chief.


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


Africa --Southern Africa



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Collection Overview

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

The most comprehensive sources in Ila collection are two volumes by Smith (a missionary and professional anthropologist) and Dale (a colonial magistrate and anthropologist) who lived among the Ila during the opening decades of the twentieth century. This work is the first systematic attempt to understand pre-colonial Ila culture and society, covering a wide variety of themes including history, social organization, subsistence, religion, law, the arts, and life cycles (Smith and Dale 1920). Some of the information in these volumes was updated in an "addendum" that drew on Smith’s return visit in 1947 (Smith 1949).

Other works in the collection focus on specific themes including: herding practices (Fielder 1979); marriage and family life (Brelsford 1933); the role of cattle in exchange and social relations (Fielder 1973; the dynamics of wealth and power (Tuden1968); slavery (Tuden 1958); song (Fowler 2000); concepts of crime and punishment (Cutshall 1982); and the consequences of colonial public health programs (Callahan 1997).

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

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Bulongo -- god associated with earth and mediation with ancestral spirits -- Use Spirits And Gods ( 776 ) or Cult Of The Dead ( 769 )

Cishi -- localized matrilineally related kin groups, forming communities as kin group, use Kin Relationships ( 602 ) or Lineages ( 613 ) with Settlement Patterns ( 361 ) as politically affiliated group of villages -- Use Community Structure ( 621 )

Kusena -- to lend a wife -- Use Sex And Marital Offenses ( 684 ) with Extramarital Sex Relations ( 837 )

Leza -- god associated with the sky and raingiving -- Use Spirits And Gods ( 776 ) with Ethnometeorology ( 821 )

Lubambo -- publically recognized arrangement in which the paramour of a married woman pays her husband in cattle -- Use Sex And Marital Offenses ( 684 ) with Extramarital Sex Relations ( 837 )

Lunungu -- patrilineages -- Use Kin Relationships ( 602 ) or Lineages ( 613 )

Mambukwe -- paramour of a married woman -- Use Sex And Marital Offenses ( 684 ) with Extramarital Sex Relations ( 837 )

Masamba -- protective charms -- Use Magic ( 789 )

Masoto -- illicit intercourse -- Use Sex And Marital Offenses ( 684 )

Mukoa -- exogamous matrilineal clan -- Use Clans ( 614 ) with Mode Of Marriage ( 583 )

Praise -- names -- Use Status Role And Prestige ( 554 )

Rain -- making rituals -- Use Organized Ceremonial ( 796 ) with Prayers And Sacrifices ( 782 ) or Ethnometeorology ( 821 )

Spitting, in oaths -- -- Use Prayers And Sacrifices ( 782 ) with Ritual ( 788 )

Trial by ordeal -- -- Use Trial Procedure ( 695 ) with Pharmaceuticals ( 278 )

Yaws -- -- Use Morbidity ( 164 )

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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