Punu people

The Punu or Bapunu (Pungwe|Pungu|Uréwé) (Sira, Ban Sira), are a Bantu meta-ethnicity of Central Africa. They are one of the four major people of Gabon, inhabiting interior mountain and grassland areas. They are around the upper N'Gounié and Nyanga Rivers in Gabon. Bapunu also live in the Kibangou, Divenie and Mossendjo districts of the Republic of the Congo. They speak the Yipunu or Yisira language.


Subgroups of the Punu (Sira) people include:

Subgroups of the Punu-speaking groups include the Bagambu, Badumbi, Simbu (Dibur Simbu), Mbagyenga, Kogu, Ilabu, and Jungu. The Punu subgroups all have cultural attributes in common; most notably the tracing of matrilineal descent, inheritance of property, and succession to high political office[citation needed].

Punu Sira culture can also be found in the Americas, where a number of Punu knowns as Kongo were taken as captives.[citation needed].

Origin and EthnogenesisEdit

According to the Oral traditions of The 9 Punu clans, the Punu came from the North via Egypt in the 5th Century BC and they settled in Nubia they were known as Uréwé. Between the 100's and 500's of this era because of the growing zele of christianism and Islam they left Nubia for the Northeast of Democratic Republic of Congo and Great lakes Region ( Uganda) in where they settled and organized themselves into small chiefdoms[citation needed]. They brought with them metallurgy and technics of pottery. In the late 10th century some of the Uréwé migrated southward occupying the South East part of actual Democratic Republic of Congo, the Eastern kasai Region up to the Tanganyika-zambeze Basin[citation needed]. In the 14th century Portugueses were deep into slavery trade, many African tribes who were inhabiting the inner part of East of kongo kingdom such as People of Matamba, Yeke people from Zanzibar, and the Uréwé group (Suku-Bwissi-Nyangwe-kiga) Who settled in Kivu, Maniema and Sankuru were taken to America[citation needed]. In the 1500s the Portugueses and the christianized Kongo king were fully engaged into slavery and both parts wanted to have control on Ndongo kingdom and Matamba Kingdom resulting a resistance from both kingdoms that leads to a coalition of most of the Eastern Tribes into a powerful Army[citation needed].

DNA/Haplogroup & Y-chromosomeEdit

  1. The Punu Peoples Haplogroup

The E1b1a1a1f1a is linked to West Central Africa. It is rarely found in the most western parts of West Africa. It is however widespread in Nigeria and in certain parts of Gabon (The Bantu expansion has revisited a new analysis of the variation of the Y chromosome in West Central Africa. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.1365-294X.2011.05130.x.

It is also closely linked to East and South-East Africa (Eritrea, Somalia, etc.), where a group of geneticists believe it originated there. There is another school of genetic thought which states that the origins of E1b1a1a1f1a are Levantine (essentially, the eastern Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt). #The Egyptians, Carthaginians, Aksumites and Omanis are Genetic cousins of the Punu group.

At a mutational difference of 1, the Aksumites, Punu and Omani are the best candidates to be from the same direct ancestor. The Egyptians are too. They are only an ancient pool of direct ancestors. For the moment, we assume that all other tribes and cultures with a genetic distance greater than 1 would be genetic cousins. In other worlds. We share a common ancestry further back in time. This delay could be a few generations for some, centuries for others ... millennia. #Migration Provisions At one point in the last 1,500 years or so, a North African man with negroid male ancestors carried Y-DNA, with a key mutation, in East Africa (Uganda) and South Africa. North West (Carthage and Numidia) This corresponds to the other cultures and tribes of the same ADNJ, namely the Berbers and the Tuaregs. At one point, one of his descendants, a man of Merowic or Berber-Tuareg origin with this haplogroup and this DNA, settled in what is today Gabon. It's not surprising. Africa has truly ancient trade routes. And where there are trade routes, there are people. Where there are people, DNA is exchanged and mixtures appear.

Much more DNA testing needs to be done on African populations to better understand the evolution of current African mixtures and history. Much more DNA testing needs to be done. # Punu DNA found in America The Geneticians suggested that perhaps the ancestor who had been kidnapped and then sold into slavery had been specifically chosen because it was known that his family was not indigenous to Gabon. They may have been part of Punu for only a few generations (Slavery and deportation cable). If his family was arguing with a rival family or clan, that's all it would take. The Punu were all heavily sold during the Atlantic slave trade. Given what is going on in the world right now, this scenario is not only conceivable, it is highly likely.


According to Magang-Ma-Mbuju and Mbumb Bwass the Punu people come from the people called «Jagas» and come from Kasaï and Zambezi. According to them, it was the Punu people who had invaded the kingdom of Kongo in 1568 and they were known as Jagas.[1]

Claude Hélène Perrot said that before the publication of the work of these two authors (Magang-Ma-Mbuju and Mbumb Bwass), many studies devoted to the Jagas problem had shown that this warrior group was of diverse origins, B.M. Batsikama and M. Ipari had concluded that the invaders of Mbanza Kongo in 1568 were populations of Kongo origin. The Punu people migrated into The Republic of the Congo in the 16th century and migrated into Southern Gabon in the 18th century.[1][2] In the late 19th century they were noted for their cloth made of palm fiber and iron weaponry and Bronze Masks by Paul Belloni Duchaillu.


Punu economy is based on shifting hoe farming conducted in fields that have been carved out of the rain forests through slash and burn techniques. This is supplemented when necessary with hunting, fishing, and livestock, such as goats, sheep, and chickens. The surrounding Equatorial forests also provide various fruits, nuts, and tubers for consumption. The main crops include banana, yams, cassava, maize, peanuts, and manioc. Most labor is divided between the sexes, with men doing most of the hunting, gathering and clearing of land and women doing the other agricultural tasks.

Resistance Leaders During Colonial Rules ca.1850-1930Edit

Mavurulu Nyonda Makita Mavurulu Nyonda Makita or Mavurulu or Mavouroulou, born around 1870 and died in 1911, is a punished anti-colonial combatant leader in Gabon [1]. Mavurulu Nyonda Makita Biography Birth Around 1870 Death 1911 Biography More commonly called Nyonda Makita, Mavurulu was born around 1870 within the Bagambu clan in the Nyanga region [2]. He is a Mocab clan chief whose authority extends between the Punu and Tsogho "Countries". He would have been highly initiated in Bwiti by his uncle Mbombè, a Tsogho chief installed in the region of Mimongo. He rebelled with his people in 1906-1907 against the colonial policy of France. He died in Ndendé in 1911. July 1 marks the commemoration of the Battle of Mavurulu. Nyonda Makita's insurrection (1907-1912) The Nyonda Makita uprising began in May 1907. It unfolded in southern Gabon in the Moabi region to the north and south and upper Ngounie to the east and the expansive mountain to the west. [1] Its headquarters were in Kumeramba, Murundi and Mokabe [1]. During his revolt he fought the French and especially Captain Conrad, reinforced by the Sicre battalion and by a Senegalese troop. At the same time Nbombe has been at war for 4 years, in the Fang country the Binzima Movement (1907-1910) fights with more than one hundred thousand soldiers [3]. In 1911, he continued the fight alone and hid in Lebamba. To prevent his family from being executed, he went to Ndendé. He died there a few weeks later. His death created unrest but in 1912, the revolt was put down. Following this revolt, the Bajag territory was divided up by the colonial authorities in order to separate Mitsogho and Punu because the French feared this alliance

Ndende Dibantsa ( Jean Baptiste)Edit

Ndende DIBANTSA (ca. 1875 - 1939) Ndende, was an anti-colonial Punu leader born around 1875 and died in a strange way, some sources claim that he had been poisoned. He was known as the most dynamic leader in the coastal regions of southern Gabon. Ndende was educated by Catholic missionaries, he could read and write. Later he had learned carpentry and worked for the French Navy in his youth. However because of the use of force, the discontent of the Indigenous Peoples, the rise of secret societies (Leopard men) and the crimes that went with it. All Gabonese leaders, regardless of their ethnic origin, rose up against Les imperialistes. Already from 1908 to the 1940s, a series of French administrators had created plans to impose segregation in the Gabonese capital of Libreville. Unlike most African ports, Libreville has never been clearly divided into African and European sections. In 1913 Ndende decided to have a house built near the residential areas of Africans and he had written a petition against segregation in Gabon and it was from there that he became the man to shoot down French colonists. Its resistance, added to the actions of other Resistant leaders like the Leopards men where Mavurulu as well as the arrival of the First World War put an end to the colonial government's projects. In 1919 Ndende and other educated Gabonese leaders decided to create the organization (LDH), the league for human and citizens' rights. I) THE INFLUENCE OF LDH In 1914 Ndende was elected President of the League for Human and Citizen Rights (LDH) and later During the same year he supported the moderation of work reforms, a leadership which spread until Dahomey where several organizations were formed. the image of the (LDH). In 1915 Ndende and the LDH had received financial aid from all Gabonese men in the Diaspora who worked in French Sudan, Dahomey, Belgian Congo, Ivory Coast and Senegal. Ndende demanded the increase in wages of all African workers and the respect of black workers on an equal footing with Westerners.

From 1917 to 1927 Ndende had managed to attract the attention of the human rights organization of France whose headquarters was in Paris which turned the facts upside down. Previously complaints by the natives passed through the colonial administration before arriving in Paris but Ndende sent the complaints directly by telegram without going through the colonial administration denouncing the rise in food prices, segregation and violence against workers and natives already tired from years of epidemics.

NB: Jean-Baptiste was a Catholic first name given to him by Catholic missionaries.


Punu or Sira society is based on memory and traditions, they are organized around a chief, like most African societies. Ancestors and their spirits are a big part of their society as well, they believe that their ancestors can guide them and help them in life. There are Nine punu clans such as:










Each clan has an animal as Mystical Totem that they cannot hunt or eat, which is their taboo, Many sub-clans are related to the nine main clans. There only a few general taboos that apply to the Sira in general, some are: the flesh of dogs, cats and snails. The Punu are matrilineal and patrilocal, they think their descent goes through the woman not the man

Punu Sira Subgroups and Meta-Ethnic IdentityEdit

The 9 Groups people's Subgroups comprise the following subgroups:




Jungu pasi
Jungu pasi













White mask

Punu (Sira) culture is one of the traditional matrilineal cultures of Africa. Punu art is wide-ranging and renowned, especially for the tradition of crafting bronze and Wooden Masks and divers artifactes.

Some of their most important mythological stories is called Nyambye Mbumba the creator of the universe, literally meaning "the Serpent God" Knowns as ouroburus in the most of the myths of creation in the old world.

Elements of Punu culture also include, Punu art, Raphia cloth, Punu Sira seasonal Calendar, Punu Chieftaincy, Punu Masks, Punu Dances, Punu Palm wine festival, Punu tribal musical instruments and Punu religion.

White masksEdit

One of the well known Punu art objects are the white masks with nine dots on the forehead symbolizing the nine Punu clans, now known as the Punu masks.The masks are life size, they can cover a persons face. They are worn by the dancers in south Gabon. When there is a major community event the dancers wear these masks, one major event would be a dance performed for a secret society. Europeans have been trying to discover the Punu society for a long time, but not until June 1865 did the first European discover the first white mask. Later in 1925-30 Europeans had more access to the societies and the secrecy was less than before.[4]

Black masksEdit

Black mask

Black masks in Punu culture were worn by dancers as training masks, which perform first to announce the arrival of the white mask dancer which is more experienced. Sometimes when a misfortune happens to a group they take white masks and paint them black. This type of masks in only danced with in the dark at night. Different from the other two masks, these masks are rarely found in a museum because they used to hide them very well. They hid these masks because the belief that they are dangerous and they have an evil nature.[5]

Tribal DancesEdit

[citation needed]The Punu have several tribal Dances but the most importants are :

Mukugye It characterized by a Man dancing on the tall stilts, the same dance were identified in Ancient Quilombo dance of Matamba people said MonteCocculo

Mboanda it is a dance which the dancers, male or female are on stilts but in this case they dance not as a rite but for a common event like a king or chief crowning, a wedding etc.

Malamu is a local Punu dance of Moabi county

Ikwara is a male rite dance on short stilts.

Ikoku is the most famous dance among Punu people, in Ancient time it was only used for rites but today it has been vulgarized. The ikoku is related to twins and snakes Mudume and Mubambe, during the Ikoku the dancers use mostly the waist by moving it a same way like in Oriental belly dances.

Ibasa is also a local dance from Nyanga Region.

Traditional ClothesEdit

[citation needed]


The Ipepe (Ashira clothing) is traditional weaved fabric of Punu people. The woven fiber fabric of Ashira of Gabon.The woven fabric is formed by weaving. Woven fabrics are often created on a weaving loom and composed of numerous fibers in fibers woven on a warp and weft. Technically, a woven fabric is a fabric made by intertwining two or more threads at right angles to each other. The Punu have used this technic since the dawn of time and by this technic, they made "Ndingi",a Cloth fabric made of palm fiber or Ipepe made of specific cotton and silk.


The Nambe- Nambi or Námba is a garment used as a blanket by the Punu Often made from the NDENGI factory with motifs specific to the Punu such as diamonds, squares or parallel horizontal lines in opposite colors. Today we notice a degradation of the clothing memory Chez Les Peuples punu du Gabon et du Congo whose history and culture had been erased. The Námba was taken by Women like Men its covered the Toub, and the tsiri. As you can see the dancer (spirit) Mukudji is the only proof of the existence of the Nambi which formerly was in vogue.


Le Tob- Tomb - Tobe (under clothing of the punu - Ashira People) The loin cloth was worn by the Apono Peoples of Gabon as underwear by men and women. The Apono Ndingi loincloth was made of silk fiber, cotton or triangular palm and tied exactly opposite in the Bushmen way - it was tied at the front and tucked in the same place. A similar loincloth was worn in ancient Egypt.


The Punu believe in their God Nyambye, they feared evil spirits, they used to do chirurgical operations after someone death to find out the cause of the dealth however if the cause of the late person could not be found it was then the wizard (mulosi) from the family circle who should be held responsible. People were jealous of successful people and they believe that their jealousy would cause the successful person harm or death. Illness was always seen as a work of an evil spirit and the only way to heal was by a special ritual to cast away the evil spirit's work.[6]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b Claude Hélène Perrot, Lignages et territoires en Afrique aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles : stratégies, compétition, intégration, KARTHALA Editions, 2000, p. 59–60. (in French)
  2. ^ Guy Claver Loubamono-Bessacque in (Yves Le Fur (dir.), 2017, pp. 18–25), en particulier p. 21. et Alisa LaGamma, Muses de l'avant-garde et leur origine punu, carte des migrations depuis le XVII e siècle, p. 159. (in French)
  3. ^ Perrois, Louis. (2008). Punu. Grand-Dufay, Charlotte, 1947-. Milan: 5 Continents. pp. 24–26. ISBN 978-88-7439-401-2. OCLC 244301482.
  4. ^ Perrois, Louis. (2008). Punu. Grand-Dufay, Charlotte, 1947-. Milan: 5 Continents. pp. 7–11. ISBN 978-88-7439-401-2. OCLC 244301482.
  5. ^ Perrois, Louis. (2008). Punu. Grand-Dufay, Charlotte, 1947-. Milan: 5 Continents. p. 49. ISBN 978-88-7439-401-2. OCLC 244301482.
  6. ^ Perrois, Louis. (2008). Punu. Grand-Dufay, Charlotte, 1947-. Milan: 5 Continents. p. 32. ISBN 978-88-7439-401-2. OCLC 244301482.