Nganguela (also spelled Ganguela) is a term, pejorative in connotation, applied by the Ovimbundu to the peoples living east and southeast of them. The essentially independent groups constituting what was no more than a Portuguese census category was split by southward penetration of the Chokwe in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Only two groups in the western section of the territory accepted the name Nganguela; the others carried names such as Lwena (or Lovale), Mbunda, and Luchazi--all in the eastern division. The Lwena and Luchazi, roughly equal in number, constituted about a third of the census category of Nganguela, which in 1988 accounted for an estimated 6 percent of the Angolan population.
Unlike the farming peoples who numerically dominated the larger ethnolinguistic categories, the groups in the western division of the Nganguela were cattle raisers as well as cultivators. Those in the eastern division near the headwaters of the Zambezi River and its tributaries also relied on fishing.
All the groups included in the Nganguela ethnolinguistic category spoke languages apparently related to those spoken by the Ruund, Southern Lunda, and Chokwe. Lwena and Chokwe, although not mutually intelligible, were probably more closely related than Chokwe was to Ruund or Lunda. Except for sections of the Lwena, during the time of kingdoms most of these peoples were outside the periphery of Lunda influence, and some (in the western division) were affected by Ovimbundu activity, including slave raiding.
Of the ethnolinguistic categories treated thus far, the Nganguela have had the least social or political significance in the past or in modern times. For the most part thinly scattered in an inhospitable territory, split by the southern expansion of the Chokwe, and lacking the conditions for even partial political centralization, let alone unification, the groups constituting the category went different ways when nationalist activity gave rise to political movements based in part on regional and ethnic considerations. The western division, adjacent to the Ovimbundu, was most heavily represented in the Ovimbundu-dominated UNITA. Some of the groups in the eastern divisions were represented in the MPLA-PTA, which Mbundu and mestišos dominated, although the Lwena, neighbors of and related to the Chokwe, tended to support UNITA.
In the 1980s, the spread of the UNITA insurgency into the Nganuela-inhabited area adjacent to the Zambian border led to the flight of many Nganguela families into Zambia. The extent of this flight and its effects on the ethnolinguistic integrity of the Nganguela were unknown.
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