The name Babemba means “the people of the lake.” The 60,000 Bemba settled mostly in northeast of Zambia, but also in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They share a number of traits with their neighbors on the shores of Lake Tanganyika: the Lega, the Buyu, and the Binji. The territory surrounding them is covered with forests, plateaus, and wooden savannas traversed by rivers. The Bemba have the reputation of being a proud, hard people who learned the art of the hunt and the harvesting of honey. They practice slash-and-burn agriculture; a social, ritual, and economic value is connected to the hunt. Villages, consisting of about thirty huts were abandoned every three to four years once the soil became exhausted. The Bemba borrowed the bwami association from the Lega, but they have also other secret societies. Once circumcision had been performed, the bwami essentially consisted of dances, songs, and the handling of objects. Initiates would use figures sculpted from elephant tusks or wood, wooden masks, and, as emblems of the highest levels, a stool or an anthropomorphic figurine. The initiation in the elanda male society ended with the appearance of the Mask, the viewing of which was forbidden to the non-initiated. Otherwise, this oval mask that sometimes sports antelope horns was entrusted to a dignitary and hidden outside the village in a secret place.
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