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Ekonde (Mongo-Ekonde, Ekonda)

Location: Kasai Region of the Democratic Rep of the Congo
Population: Uncertain, but at least 1,000,000

Arts and History: The Ekonde, a sub-group of the Mongo, are known mostly for their elegant copper anklet-form currency, though so little is actually known about them that it is possible that they could also have been worn for special occasions, like weddings. Their infrequent use was most-likely restricted to "bride price" transactions, serving not only as gifts between families but also to settle disputes which might arise surrounding the subject of marriage. They essentially are "prestige" objects. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the Mongo "are any of several peoples living in the African equatorial forest, south of the main Congo River bend and north of the Kasai and Sankuru rivers in Congo (Kinshasa). They include numerous ethnic groups such as the Bokote, Ekonda, Bolia, Sengele, Ntomba, Ndengese, Songomeno, Mbole, Bongandu, Boyela, Nkutu, and Tetela-Kusu. They speak dialects of a common language, Mongo or Nkundo, from the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo languages. Many groups are disappearing because of falling birth rates." Arts of the Mongo and their relatives, exist mostly in "oral" form, with songs and the dances associated with them dominant. Considering the fact that the Mongo peoples are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Congo Basin it is surprising that relatively few forms of the so-called "plastic arts" exist.