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Mwila, or Mumuhuila people are a cluster of semi-nomadic ethnic group living in southern Angola, in the area of Huila. Mwila people actually belongs to the larger Nyaneka-Khumbi (Nhaneka-Humbe) amalgamated ethnic inhabiting the Haumpata Plateau and along the headwaters of Rio Caculovar in South Western Angola in Huila Planato or Huila Province, the province that takes it name from the people.
Mwila people are of Bantu origin and are said to be one of the earliest Bantu people to undertake the Great Bantu migration to domicile in their present location in Angola. Unlike the other ethnic groups that fled from Angola to neighbouring country, Namibia as a result of wars, drought and invasion by powerful ethnic groups, the Mwila people and their parent ethnic group Nyaneka-Humbe did not disperse outside Angola.
Mwila people are semi-nomadic people who engage in subsistence agriculture and some form of livestock keeping. They grow mostly maize and as well as other staples. They keep animals such as fowls, goat and cattle. They have a tribal chief who serves as the head of the tribe followed by a headman. Serving under the headman are the elders. Conflicts are resolved by the elders and the headman. A diviner is also often called upon. The Mwila are traditionalist who believe in a Supreme being. They also believe that the spirits of their ancestors can either work for their good or for their worst.
They are famous for keeping to their traditional African culture as exhibited in their stylish hairstyles, unique way of putting up dresses and how they specially adorn their body with ornaments. Women hairstyles are very important and meaningful in Mwila culture. Women coat their hair with a red paste called, oncula, which is made of crushed red stone. They also put a mix of oil, crushed tree bark, dried cow dung and herbs on their hair. Besides they decorate their hairstyle with beads, cauri shells (real or plastic ones) and even dried food. Shaving the forehead is considered as a sign of beauty. The plaits, which look like dreadlocks, are called nontombi and have a precise meaning. Women or girls usually have 4 or 6 nontombi, but when they only have 3 it means that someone died in their family.
African designers, make sure you get inspired before the west snatches it and we start screaming ‘cultural appropriation’. For now enjoy the visuals below.