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Teke People Traditions & Culture

Teke people

Teke people - Kidumu tribe

The Teke tribal people originate from the Ogowe region in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. They are part of the Kidumu tribe who has very strong spiritual values and the family is the most important social unit of the tribe. The Teke people usually have one family head that has the right to life and death over all the family members and is often called upon as a tribunal chief or mfumu mpugu to decide the fate of a family member when they have done wrong doings. The tribal chief has a tendency to own many slaves and controls the lives of others as he increases his power and status. The name of the Teke people originates from the occupation of the tribal Teke people that is, trading from Teke, meaning, to buy. The economy of the Teke is mainly based on farming maize, millet and tobacco, but the Teke are also hunters, skilled fishermen and traders. They believe in a supreme being, the creator of the universe called Nzambi, whose favors can be obtained with the help of tutelary spiritsTeke tribal chief

Songye Power FigureAfrican Nkishi Power Statue
The Teke people are very spiritual and the tribal chief was chosen as the religious leader. He was highly respected and never doubted in any decision he made. He was the most important member of any family and is the person that would contact the spiritual Gods through potions and bones to speak to the spirits and rule safety over his people.

The Teke or Kidumu people are well known for their Teke masks, which are round flat disk like wooden masks that have abstract patterns and geometric motifs with horizontal lines that are painted in earthly colors, mainly dark blue, blacks, browns and clays. The traditional Teke masks all have triangle shaped noses. The masks have narrow eye slits to enable the masker to see without being seen. They have holes pierced along the edge for the attachment of a woven raffia dress with feathers and fibers. The dress would add to the mask's costume and conceal the wearer These Teke masks are mainly used in traditional dancing ceremonies such as wedding, funeral and initiation ceremonies of young men entering adult hood. These disk shaped masks are used as social and political identifiers of social structure within a tribe or family.Congo - Teke- tribal people
Teke artists carve fetish figures. Three elements are characteristic: a variety of head dresses, the presence of fine parallel scarification's on the cheeks, and the addition of fetish materials bonga either in an abdominal cavity or in a body-enveloping sack from which the head and feet protrude. Each figure has its own specific purpose not related directly to its appearance. Figures of identical appearance serve also for success in hunting, trading, and other activities, each figure's purpose being known only to the owner. These figures protect and assist the Teke and, if a fetish figure successfully demonstrates its power, its owner may detach bonga, break it into several pieces and insert fragments into other figures.Teke mask

The French first arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo in late 1800. History has shown the French to occupy the Congo in the 1880's. During this period traditional Teke ceremonies were very few,the French ruled the Congo for 80 years and during this period the Teke people suffered heavily from colonial exploits with government gathering land for their own use and ensuing damage to traditional economies including massive displacement of people. Round Teke masksThis cause the local economy and food reproduction to dwindle and it was only much later in the 1960's that the Teke people started to gain back their independence and traditional life started to flourish once again.

Nkishi power statueAfrican Fang figureAfrican Handcrafted Teke MaskAfrican Luba mask

A selection of African Teke crafts on African Crafts Market

AFRICAN CRAFTS MARKET is a company situated in South Africa that has many Zulu pieces of art available for sale, from the lovely Zulu bead work and grass weave baskets through the traditional Zulu shields. To view the items that may be of interests to you go to our gallery pages on our website at

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