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Nkongolo Insults Mbidi Kiluwe


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(Luba/DRCongo)

Nkongolo is the rainbow king.

In the country of the east, Buhemba, on the right bank of the Lualaba River, there once were a man and a woman—Kiubaka-Ubaka, he who builds many houses, and Kibumba-Bumba, she who makes much pottery. Guided by the sound of chopping, the man discovered the woman, who was preparing firewood. They lived for a long time under the same roof, and brought forth twins of the opposite sex, who became inseparable companions. The twins found a place rich in fish, and spent the day catching fish, the night in each other's arms. In their turn, they brought forth twins, who lived in the same manner, far from their parents. This new generation took up trapping. So pairs of twins, moving in each generation a little farther westward, populated the country.

Nkongolo, the first divine king of the Luba, was the offspring of Kiubaka-Ubaka and Kibumba-Bumba. He brought all the lands of the west under his authority. He crossed the Lualaba with a large following, and he built a great village. About the same time, a hunter called Ilunga Mbidi Kiluwe left his village to conquer the peoples living between the Lualaba and Lubilash Rivers. On the way home, he met his brother-in-law, Nkongolo. Mbidi Kiluwe was shocked to see that Nkongolo ate and drank in the company of his people, and Nkongolo was astonished to see his guest disappear behind a screen at mealtimes. Mbidi Kiluwe angrily told him that he had conquered the country but had failed to observe the elementary prohibition that obliges a king to hide himself when he eats or drinks. He then departed from Nkongolo. When he arrived at the Lualaba River, he told the local chief that Nkongolo had insulted him. Mbidi Kiluwe had left behind Nkongolo's sisters, Mbidi's wives Mabela and Bulanda, who were pregnant. He entrusted them to the care of the diviner, Mijibu. The sons they would bring into the world were to rejoin Mbidi. He said that the chief would recognize them by their black skins, that if a red-skinned man asked permission to cross the river, he was to be refused. But if a black man asked, he should agree at once. At the village of Nkongolo, Mabela and Bulanda each gave birth to a boy, Kisula and Kalala Ilunga. Nkongolo invited his nephew, Kalala Ilunga, to a game, and, with Mijibu's help, Kalala Ilunga had no trouble beating his uncle. When Nkongolo invited his other nephew to a game, Mijibu magically made it possible for Kisula to win. Nkongolo's mother told her son not to contest with Kalala Ilunga. Angered by the growing renown of his nephew, Nkongolo caused a pit to be dug, lined with iron spikes, and hidden under a mat. He invited Kalala to dance in his honor. Mijibu gave Kalala two spears, and told him to brandish one while using the other to test the ground during his dance. Kalala Ilunga, dancing, hurled his spear at the mat. The weapon passed through it, revealing the trap. Kalala Ilunga fled, determined to join his father. Nkongolo pursued him, but the nephew had already crossed the Lualaba River when his uncle reached its bank. Faithful to Mbidi Kiluwe's orders, the local chief refused to allow the king to cross. Nkongolo tried in vain to build a stone causeway across the river: his iron implements were useless against rock. Nkongolo then decided to lure Kalala Ilunga to his side of the river. He compelled the diviner Mijibu and one Mungedi to climb to the top of a great tree and call the fugitive back. There was no response from Kalala to their calls. Mijibu and Mungedi spent two days without food at the top of the tree. Mijibu escaped, thanks to his magical powers. He crossed the Lualaba with a mighty leap. But Mungedi died of hunger. Mijibu succeeded in joining Mbidi Kiluwe, who raised a great army and entrusted its command to his son. Kalala Ilunga's army had seized the capital. Nkongolo took refuge. A woman discovered him, and Kalala Ilunga's army encircled the hideout. Nkongolo was captured, beheaded, and castrated. The head and genitals of the dead king were sent in a basket to Kalala Ilunga's father. A miracle happened at the village of Lenga. When the man who was carrying the basket placed it on the ground, a termite hill formed over it with extraordinary speed, burying it under a mound of red earth. Mbidi Kiluwe reminded his son of the precise ritual observances required of divine kings. A king was obliged to take food and drink alone, and out of sight. A special house had to be devoted to the preparation of royal meals, because it was forbidden for the king to eat in a place where fire had been made. After securely establishing his rule over the country, Kalala Ilunga took the name of Ilunga Mwine Munza. See also: Kalumba

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Subjects: Religion.


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