PEOPLE OF THE WATER: THE LIBINZA OF THE ISLANDS OF THE NGIRI RIVER, DEMOCRATIC REPUPLIC OF THE CONGO – Part 1: THE ISLAND VILLAGES.

(part 2 will be: THE WATER)

Anthropologist Pierre Van Leynseele invited in 1970 to photograph the people he studied, the Libinza, on the islands in the marshlands of the Ngiri River, between the Congo River and the Ubangi River, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then called Zaïre). I spent three weeks with the Libinza in October 1970, first visiting various islands, then staying for about 2 weeks at one island in the village Liketa. Each village consists of several islands linked by channels in swamp grassland which surrounds the islands. Many of these islands were artificially made adding soil to raise emerging sand banks. Beyond the grasslands is swamp forest, also reached by channels.The photographs are from various villages and various islands.

Additional infornation at Download liner notes  from recordings (see discography below).

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Men of Libinza tribe in canoes with village island in background.

THE VILLAGE

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Heavy rain over the village where I spent the last 2 weeks.

Women in the village

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Market day: Women from mailand tribe (not identified) (probably Bodjaba) selling manioc to Libinza islanders

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Girl preparing manioc.

Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ngiri River area, Libinza tribe.

Island on a cloudy day, seen from the house where I was staying.

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Woman keeping grubs in dead palm trunk.

Africa, Libinza tribe, Ngiri River islands, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Young woman preparing grubs for frying. The first time you try it, you close your eyes; but in fact the grubs are pretty tasty.

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Women weaving palm leaves to make thatch roof.

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Girl grooming another girl’s hair.

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Women grooming another woman’s hair.

Music and rituals

Once word got around that I had a tape recorder, I was invited in several villages and islands to record their music.

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Men making mokoto slit drums (idiophones).

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Boys playing drums.

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Boys performing traditional Pongo wrestling to the beat of drums.

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Men playing drums.

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Percussion instrument: struck beam (idiophone) made of a horizontal wooden beam hit by sticks played by several men. It marks the rhythmic base of the musical piece.                                                                                      “L’instrument est une poutre percutée. C’est un instrument que l’on retrouve en Centrafrique, Cameroun, Gabon, RDC principalement. On y frappe généralement le soubassement rythmique  des pièces.” (Rémy Jadinon, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium)

A diviner had visited the island  to cure a woman. He was using Western clothes, using herbs or magical substances, with no drumming or dancing. He invited me to his island to make a demonstration of his full performance in ceremonial dress.

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Diviner dancing to the beat of drums.

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Diviner dancing in ceremonial dress.

We were coming back from another island, almost at dusk. I heard some drumming and I asked my paddler to go there. He asked the woman diviner if I could take pictures; she agreed. As it was getting dark I used High Speed Ektachrone (ISO 160) pushed to ISO 400. Even so the pictures were underexposed. Photoshop (and a lot of work) did a miracle…

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Woman diviner performing a curing ceremony.

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Sunset over Ngiri river.

Contact for quote   or   Purchase photograph online

I first met Pierre Van Leynseele during my military service in 1959-1960 in the then Belgian Congo where we belonged to the same unit. We must have remained in contact by letters, as later I knew he was studying anthropology at UCLA, where I met him again in 1964 or 1965. After about a year in Los Angeles I moved to New York, where I started selling pictures to book publishers. In 1970 Pierre contacted me, asking me if I wanted to photograph the ethnic group he was studying, the Libinza, in (then) Zaïre, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pierre Van Leyseele (1933-2009) got his MA in anthropology at UCLA under the direction of anthropologist Daniel Biebuyck, but later it is mostly Jan Vansina who oriented him during his work on the Libinza, His doctoral thesis was directed by Adam Kuper, at Leiden University in 1977. He was an Honorary Professor of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (Free University of Brussels, Social Sciences).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Pierre van Leynseele: Les Libinza de la Ngiri: l’anthropologie d’un peuple des marais du confluent Congo-Ubangi: I have not read it, as it is not availabe online of for download (perhaps as a Google Book?) Apparently it is only available at some university libraries. I have been informed that French book publisher L’Harmattan will re-publish it. I have not read anything by Daniel Biebuyk, Jan Vansina or Adam Kuper. The first two are among the main specialists on Central African anthropology.

DISCOGRAPHY

Recordings I made during my stay at the Ngiri River, initially published by Folkways Records, now distributed by the Smithsonian.

Music of Zaïre, Vol. I: Libinza Music of Zaïre,

Vol. 2: Bodjaba, Bamwe, Djamba

Download liner notes   (same notes for Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

(part 2: THE WATER)

4 thoughts on “PEOPLE OF THE WATER: THE LIBINZA OF THE ISLANDS OF THE NGIRI RIVER, DEMOCRATIC REPUPLIC OF THE CONGO – Part 1: THE ISLAND VILLAGES.

  1. Pingback: PEOPLE OF THE WATER: THE LIBINZA OF THE ISLANDS OF THE NGIRI RIVER, DEMOCRATIC REPUPLIC OF THE CONGO – Part 1: THE ISLAND VILLAGES. | Jacques Jangoux´s JungleView blog

  2. Pingback: PEOPLE OF THE WATER: THE LIBINZA OF THE ISLANDS OF THE NGIRI RIVER, DEMOCRATIC REPUPLIC OF THE CONGO – Part 2: THE WATER.. | Jacques Jangoux´s JungleView blog

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