Lunda Empire was an empire in Central Africa, located along the Kisai tributaries, which was very influential in the modern day Shaba Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, eastern Angola, and Western Zambia.
Oral history has it, around 1450 Mulopwe Chibunda Ilunga, legendary hunter from the Luba Kingdom founded a new Lunda Dynasty by marrying the Lunda princess Rweej. Their son became the supreme lord, Mwaant Yaav( Lord of Vipers) by unifying the Lunda people and expanding the empire. Much of the empire's growth took place during the 1600s and 1700s. Rivalry for the throne would cause splinters and formation of new kingdoms. The Luena, Lozi, and Imbangala kingdoms all claim descent from the Lunda. The Empire was diminished by a Chokwe invasion and later taken over by Belgium, which kept the Lunda political structure in place for its own use.
The Mwaant Yaav ruled with a royal court council and loyalty from chiefs of various territories. Chiefs were left to their own authority, as long as they paid tribute. They were also advisors at the royal court. Each territory was assigned a kilolo, royal advisor of Mwaant Yaav, who collected tribute.
Lunda religion comprised of a supreme god called Nzambi. Individuals did not communicate to him directly but via ancestor spirits. Lunda chiefs were viewed as guardians of local spirits and wielded immense power on locals.
The empire grew by controlling the lucrative trade route from the Kwango River to Kisai tributaries. The capital would later be moved to the Kisai tributaries to exploit trade. It collected tribute from conquered people in foodstuffs like yams, millet, cassava, and maize(corn). The empire exchanged foodstuff for copper, salt, raffia cloth, and tobacco. The kingdom initially did not have a large population for widescale farming, so it began to raid villages and polities for such endeavors. Later raiding would be practice for the more lucrative Atlantic slave trade. The Lunda would eventually sell its criminals into slavery instead of executing them. It is estimated that 1/3 of slave coming from the region was originating from the Lunda Empire, after 1850. The empire also profited from the ivory trade, which did not last due to diminished elephant population, in the latter part of the 1800s.
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