Zande people

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Zande men with shields, harp
Azande men with shields, harp
Total population
about 1.1 million
Regions with significant populations
Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic
Christianity, African Traditional Religion

The Azande (plural of "Zande" in the Zande language) are an ethnic group of Central Africa's Triangle or The Central African Triangle Countries.

They live primarily in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in South-central and Southwestern part of South Sudan, and in southeastern Central African Republic. The Congolese Azande live in Orientale Province, specifically along the Uele River; Isiro, Dungu, Kisangani and Dorima. The Central African Azande live in the districts of Rafaï, Bangasu and Obo. The Azande of South Sudan lives in Central and Western Equatoria State, Yei, Maridi, Yambio and Tombura.[citation needed]

Name and language[edit]

Niam-Niam warriors. From "Au coeur de l'Afrique: trois ans de voyages et d'aventures dans les régions inexplorées de l'Afrique centrale", by George Schweinfurth in Le Tour du Monde, 1874

The word Azande means the people who possess much land, and refers to their history as conquering warriors. Variant spellings include Adio (Makaraka), Zande, Zandeh, A-Zandeh and Sandeh. The name Niam-Niam (or Nyam-Nyam) was frequently used by foreigners to refer to the Azande in the 18th and early 19th century. This name is probably of Dinka origin, and means great eaters in that language (as well as being an onomatopoeia), supposedly referring to cannibalistic propensities. This name for the Azande was in use by other tribes in South Sudan, and later adopted by westerners. Today the name Niam-Niam is considered pejorative.[citation needed]


The Azande speak Zande, which they call Pa-Zande. (also known as Pa-Dio, Zandi, Azande, Sande, Kizande, Bazande). Azande are members of the Ubangian language and are from the Bantu family, with an estimated 1.1 million speakers.[1] "Zande Language" is also used more widely set closely related to all other Bantu languages, besides Azande proper: including Adio, Barambu, Apambia (Bakpo), Geme, Kpatiri and Nzakara.[citation needed]


Location of Zandeland

The Azande population is spread over three Central Africa's Triangle countries, namely South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. Azande territory extends from the fringes of the South-central and Southwest Upper basin of South Sudan to the Semitropical rain forests in Congo and into the Central African Republic.

Estimates of Azande speakers reported in SIL Ethnologue (2009) are 730,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 62,000 in the Central African Republic (1996 estimate) and 350,000 in South Sudan (1982 estimate), amounting to a total population of just above 1 million.[1]


The Azande are mainly small-scale farmers. Crops include maize, rice, groundnuts (also known as peanuts), sesame, cassava and sweet potatoes. Fruits grown in the area include mangos, oranges, bananas, pineapples, and also sugar cane. Zandeland is also full of palm oil and sesame. From 1998 to 2001, Zande agriculture was boosted since World Vision International bought agricultural produce. Since then, the Azande managed to supply enough maize, soya beans, sesame, sorghum and groundnuts to feed the whole population of southern Sudan.[citation needed]

Traditional beliefs[edit]

Most Azande traditionally practiced an African Traditional Religion, but this has been supplanted to a large extent by Christianity. Other traditional beliefs include magic and witchcraft. Among the Azande, witchcraft is believed to be an inherited substance in the belly which lives a fairly autonomous life, including performing bad magic on one's enemies. Witches can sometimes be unaware of their powers, and can accidentally strike people to whom the witch wishes no evil. Because witchcraft is believed to always be present, there are several rituals connected to protection from and cancelling of witchcraft that are performed almost daily. When something out of the ordinary occurs, usually something unfortunate, to an individual, the Azande may blame witchcraft, just as non-Zande people might blame "bad luck".

Oracles are a way of determining from where the suspected witchcraft is coming, and were for a long time the ultimate legal authority and the main determining factor in how one would respond to the threats.

E. E. Evans-Pritchard and other anthropologists have paid special attention to Azande stories about Ture, his two wives Nanzagbee & Nangbafude and a friend Mr. Bandurasa.[citation needed] Tule is known as Ture. Tule (pronounced [ˈture]), which means "spider" in Zande, is sometimes portrayed as a trickster, similar to Anansi or Br'er Rabbit.

There was also a social institution similar to pederasty in Ancient Greece. As E. E. Evans-Pritchard recorded, male Zande warriors between 20 and 30 years of age, in the northern Congo, routinely took on young male lovers between the ages of twelve and twenty, who participated in intercrural sex and sex with their older partners. The practice largely died out by the mid-19th century, after imperialist Europeans had gained colonial control of African countries, but was still surviving to sufficient degree that the practice was recounted in some detail to Evans-Pritchard by the elders with whom he spoke.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Zande in: Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
  2. ^ E. E. Evans-Pritchard (December, 1970). "Sexual Inversion among the Azande". American Anthropologist, New Series, 72 (6), 1428-1434.


  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Niam-Niam". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1979) "Witchcraft Explains Unfortunate Events" in William A. Lessa and Evon Z. Vogt (eds.) Reader in Comparative Religion. An anthropological approach. Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 362–366
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1967) The Zande Trickster. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E.1937 Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. Oxford University Press. 1976 abridged edition: ISBN 0-19-874029-8