Kongo Religion

Doctrines The Kongo believe in a cosmos divided in two, 'this world' (nza yayi) and 'the land of the dead' (nsi a bafwa). The two worlds are divided by a body of water, traditionally called Kalunga, and also known as nlangu (water), m'bu (ocean), or nzadi (great river). Life in that sense is a cyclical and repetitive movement between the two worlds mentioned above, resembling the path of the sun. At the rising and setting of the sun then, the living and the dead exchange day and night.
In Kongo belief, man's life does not end, it constitutes a cycle, and death is merely a transition in the process of change. Following that belief, a man's soul does not dwell in the grave after his death but leaves it to become a ghost (n'kuyu) in the land of the dead, which is called ku mpemba a fula.

History Three main periods in the history of the Bakongo can be distinguished: the emergence of the 'old kingdom' in the 13th Century, the era of the slave trade between 1665 and 1885, and the colonial period that led to the plural societies of the Belgian Congo and Zaire in the 20th Century.
The 'old kingdom' was at the centre of trade between the coast and the interior, and between the Angolan savanna and the Gabon forests to the north. It was based on a dual organization between village (vata) and town (mbanza). Its mythical founder, Ntinu Lukeni (or Wene), arrived at Mbanza Kongo after crossing Nzadi from his father's kingdom on the north bank, the historical kingdom of Vungu. The original inhabitants of the area were large-headed dwarfs called BaMbakambaka, Mbwidi-Mbodila, and BaFula Mengo. The king of Kongo thereafter was the embodiment of the cosmological world of the Bakongo, he had direct links with the forces that affected its prosperity, he controlled the weather, he could summon the dead, and he was able to bless his subjects with a movement of his fingers.
The Portuguese first arrived in Kongo in 1485, and were regarded as visitors from the land of the dead. Nzinga Nkuwu, king of the Bakongo was baptised in 1491, and while he gave up Christianity two or three years later, his son Afonso, persisted in the faith. During the 16th Century efforts to convert all the Bakongo continued through the work of the Jesuits.
From the end of the 'old kingdom' in 1678, to the arrival of the colonial administration, the slave trade and a free sense of trade between Africans and Europeans dominated the costal region and certainly influenced the future developments in Kongo society.

Symbols The sun constitutes a daily important symbol in Kongo life, because it is a sign of the constant cycle of life, so that at the rising and setting of the sun the living and the dead exchange day and night. The setting of the sun symbolizes man's death and its rising his rebirth, or the continuity of his life. Rising = beginning, birth, regrowth; ascendancy = maturity, responsibility; setting = handing on, death, transformation; midnight = existence in the other world, eventual birth. The sun therefore ultimately symbolizes the path of the soul.

Adherents No official figures available.

Main Centre
 Republic of the Congo, Zaire, and Angola.