Pende people

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A Pende mask in the Ethnology Museum of Berlin

The Pende or Phende (ethnonym: Bapende or Baphende; singular Mupende or Muphende) are an ethnic group found in the south-western Democratic Republic of the Congo also in the Kasai Occidental province around the diamond mines of Tshikapa, and especially in the Kwilu District. Their population is estimated to be around 250,000.

The Pende or Phende language is one of the Bantu languages. Phende are culturally close to the Yaka and Suku people that live in neighboring areas.


Much like the Yake and Suku, Phende are originally from the strip between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cuanza River, in Angola. They relocated to Congo in the beginning of the 17th century, as a consequence of the Lunda's expansion.[1] Around 1885 they were menaced again by the expansion of the Chokwe people.[2]


The Pende are known for their xylophone-based music, and their dances. Dancers traditionally wear colorful masks and Mungandji costumes made of raffia, as well as hairdresses that resemble the shapes of Phende huts.[3] Traditional dance ceremonies are often held in Kikwit, the largest city of the Kwilu province. Pende sculptors are also well known for their ability to give a fluid surface to their ivory pendants (badges) portraying human faces.[4]

Leon de Sousberghe, a Belgian ethnologist and Jesuit, is the greatest specialist of phende culture.


  1. ^ Ancestral Mothers of the Bapende
  2. ^ Pende Information
  3. ^ The New Congo Collection
  4. ^ Baphende Gikhoko Mask