African Cosmologies – Tabwa

In the summer of 2006 I worked with Manuel Jordan-Perez researching the cosmological systems of civilizations in Africa. I have copied below text and diagrams from research done on the Tabwa civilization. My best to Manuel who led me in this research. Below is a chart of Tabwa cosmology and cosmogony:


  1. Duality – most things have a positive and negative side to them these opposing sides are synthesized into a representative whole that is the manifest of the thing.
    1. Moon
      1. Positively may provide light and allow for safety, knowledge, and order to be perceived out of chaos and obscurity.
      2. Negatively may maliciously withhold its light.
      3. Goes through cycles but always containing within it positive and negative aspects.
    2. Chiefs
      1. Offer knowledge and wisdom allowing people to perceive and defend themselves against danger.
      2. May be responsible for allowing evil to exist, example “Drunken King” Nkongolo Mwamba a tyrant and king of excess embodied by the sun.
      3. Must exist balancing positive and negative forces and events
        1. Use lunar symbolism such as the Mpande shell to represent their success at this balancing.
    3. Spirits
      1. Mipasi
        1. May be identified by an ng’anga as the source of an affliction in which case mikisi will be commissioned to represented the mipasi.
        2. May provide guidance through dreams serving as a source of wisdom and inspiration.
      2. Mikisi
        1. When ignored they gain attention through “-kisa” (the root verb) which means, “to cause suffering or bring misfortune”
        2. “-kisa” also refers to the power that knowledge and the recognition of knowledge lends one.
        3. These figures therefore represent the duality of the spirits effecting them.
      3. Mutumbi
        1. Nearly blinded by daylight so rarely seen and apparently “invisible”.
        2. Yet lots of tracks seen so must exist.
        3. Similar to moon it this “invisible” but existent fashion.
      4. Twins
        1. Take lunar names and are covered in ashes hiding their differences from each other when the new moon has risen.
        2. Celebrated and given gifts in honor of their positive side.
        3. Beaten with a switch and feared because of their negative side: the possibility that they could use their powers for evil.
  2. Mulalambo – “endless lines of symmetry” serve to create divisions between the parts of things yet at the same time unite and offer reconciliation between the divided parts of these things. An “endless line” is a division that exists yet cannot be felt.
    1. Mutumbi’s Tunnels
      1. Mutumbi followed his dogs down a “seemingly endless tunnel” to the find the supreme deity, Leza, in the city of light.
    2. Body Midline
      1. Defines the symmetry and opposition existent in the human condition.
      2. There exist half-beings that represent cases of unresolved litigation in need of arbitration and the deployment of social justice.
      3. Myth of great leader associated with hunting whose body split along the midline and is composed of half beeswax and half flesh.
      4. This recognition of division symbolizes the unification of the body
    3. Natural Formations
      1. i. Mwila divide
      2. ii. Lake Tanganyika
      3. iii. Milkyway

Duality and Symmetry

Everyone and everything has power. It appears as though they are both made up of precisely the same parts just being viewed from different perspectives.

Below is a chart of Tabwa cosmology as based on opposition:

Below is a chart of the Balamwezi cosmology integrated into a Balamwezi pattern:

Below is a chart of the Balamwezi cosmology:

The above research referred to books by Allen F. Roberts.