Azande

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The Azande are a people who live in southwestern Sudan, immediately north of the Congo and east of the Central African Republic. The Azande traditions are ancient; they see themselves as having originated in several clans that stretch back into history. Like many African people, they have a history of migration and, within the past 200 years, a history of fighting for their independence from outside, mainly European legal and social, encroachments.
Despite these intrusions, the religious principles that constitute their Azande heritage have remained relatively intact. Although Europeans instituted customs and traditions from Europe into the social life of the people during the colonial period, there remains among the Azande a strong commitment to their belief in the traditional conception of one creator deity who brought the universe into being.
The Azande believe that Mbori, the almighty God, is responsible for the creation of the world, but they do not have shrines, temples, rituals, or ceremonies to worship Mbori. In many ways, the religion of the Azande reflects the African understanding of the separation of the creator from the ordinary lives of the people. Thus, the people may turn to Mbori for consultation, but this is rare because the people are more likely to turn to oracles as daily necessities. This is more in keeping with the ancient traditions of Africa as seen in the Nile Valley during the reign of the pharaohs or as seen in other African traditions.
The principal oracles are identified as having a direct relationship to the ancestors of the Azande. Furthermore, the ability to do harm to other people is considered something that is inherited by a small group of people who are therefore able to measure out the kind of discipline necessary to maintain societal harmony. At the base of all misfortune, however small, in someone's life is a disorder in the human universe. Someone is responsible. Nothing occurs as misfortune without the intervention of humans. People who die are usually the victims of murder, in the sense that someone caused their deaths.
Those priests or priestesses who are able to discern the nature of order, harmony, and balance in the society are usually responsible for carrying out punishment on those who would disrupt the social order. Out of fear, many people refuse to engage in negative behaviors. One of the greatest cultural characters among the Azande is the character of Ture, who maintains the middle ground between order and chaos, as in many African traditions, and applies the conventional wisdom to various activities, actions, and social situations. Some authors have referred to Ture as trickster figure, similar to Ananse among the Akan, but this is to minimize the psychological and social effect of a character who is not about tricking anyone, but rather about enforcing through instruction the value of the middle ground between chaos and order.
The process of marriage among Azande gives a woman the option to reject the marriage if she finds it unsuitable. After the marriage ceremony, the husband always remains indebted to the wife's family. It is impossible to be truly divorced from the family of the woman inasmuch as the woman is considered a valuable part of her family's wealth.

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Further Reading

  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1971). The Azande: History and Political Institutions. London: Clarendon.