Songo, the African tribe where children are raised by their uncles

Stephen Nartey April 27, 2023
A boat man riding on the lake/Photo credit: Wallpaper Flare

The Songo tribe of North Angola are believed to be descendants of the Mbutis and Mbundus who settled in the area during the influx of Bantu-speaking tribes some 2000 years ago. Their culture is believed to have been largely influenced by the Lunda empire of Mwata Yamwo, which presided over the affairs of the region in the 17th century, and subsequently by the Chokwe that controlled the territory after overthrowing the Lunda empire.

Throughout its existence, the Songo tribe has had its cultural practices influenced by neighboring tribes like Kongo, Lunda, Chokwe, and Yaka, which explains why the ruling class comes from Lunda ancestry. Anyone who does not belong to this origin is considered enslaved. Though the region was taken over by the arrival of the Europeans, that invasion did little to adulterate the culture of the Songo people.

One of the notable customs practiced by the tribesmen is the offering of male children to their uncles when they turn five years. In Songo culture, chiefs inherit power through the matrilineal system. It is considered that the son is the property of the mother’s side of the family, in other words, the Son-in-law has provided security to whom he married. This is why the cultural practice of children being raised by their uncles instead of their parents is revered among the Songo tribe.

This practice has significant cultural significance and is deeply rooted in the traditions and beliefs of the Songo people, according to Gateway Africa. One reason for this practice is to ensure that the child receives a well-rounded upbringing. The Songo believe that children need to be exposed to different perspectives and experiences to become well-rounded individuals. It is believed that when raised by their uncles, children are exposed to different personalities, life experiences, and values that they may not have otherwise encountered if they were only raised by their parents.

Another reason for this practice is to ensure the continuity of the family line. In Songo culture, family ties are highly valued, and the family line is considered essential. By having uncles raise their nieces and nephews, the family line is preserved and strengthened. Additionally, it is believed that this practice fosters a strong sense of community and cooperation within the tribe.

It encourages extended family members to work together and support each other, creating a sense of unity and shared responsibility for the well-being of the children – which highlights its significant cultural significance. It reflects the tribe’s values of community, family, and well-rounded upbringing for children. This practice has been passed down through generations, and remains an important part of Songo culture, even today.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 27, 2023


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