The Balengue live in Equatorial Guinea bordering Gabon. Their language is Molengue, a language that is similar to many in the so-called Bantu group. However, the Balengue are a small group of people who are also called the Molendji. They are related to many of the other people in the northwestern cluster of Bantu speakers in Gabon. This northwestern cluster is composed of several groups, including the Bubi, Duala, and Kossi; however, the Balengue are a significant group within the area. Moreover, they are also in close proximity to the Fang people, a larger ethnic group that has had an important cultural impact on the Balengue people.
The Balengue, like other Bantu peoples, believe in life after death, and they believe that the dead can and will interact with the living. In this regard, they are not different from many other Africans who accept the idea that ancestors are active in the lives of the living. All Balengue believe that those who have died can have a significant influence on the way the living carry out their lives. Because the Balengue are a coastal people, much of their religious ideology is related to the sea.
For the Balengue, the dead can help or harm the living based on a person's relationship to the dead and whether the living are respecting or giving honor to the ancestors. As in other African religious experiences, there are spirits that can censure those who do not honor the traditions, customs, and rituals of the society. Those who have knowledge and ability to manipulate the phenomenal world are respected for their closeness to the ancestors and their powerful energies. These are energies to be appreciated for their ability to assist or prevent certain actions. The ancestors also protect their family members and loved ones from those who may mean to do them harm. For the Balengue, as is the case for many African peoples, the living and the Dead have a close relationship, and, thus, the ancestors must be regarded as part of the Balengue society who bring the natural and so-called supernatural worlds together.
The Balengue have long accepted that spiritual and physical realities are often merged and that it is impossible to separate the actual world that can be seen from the world that is unseen. Moreover, there are many representations of the spiritual world manifest in the natural world. Everything that exists represents something that is spiritual. Water, trees, animals, and rocks are manifestations of the divine. It is therefore critical to the Balengue people that the natural environment be honored and respected as the ancestors or other deities would be honored. This is to establish peace and harmony between humans as well as between the seen and the unseen.



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Further Reading

  • Asante, M. K., and Nwadiora, E. (2007). Spear Masters: An Introduction to African Religion. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  • Mbiti, J. S. (1991). Introduction to African Religion. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.