Folk-knowledge the Fish among the Songola and the Bwari^|^mdash;Comparative Ethnoichthyology of the Za^|^iuml;re River and Lake Tanganyika Fishermen

1982 Journal of African Studies  
A field sllrvey in collaboration wi th the Insli tilt de Recherche Scientifiqlle (presenlly Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles) was carried Ollt near Kindu and Baraka, Region du Kivu, Republique du Za'ire (Sept. 1979-Feb. 19BO and Sept.-Dec. 1983). The folk knowledge of fish is described in detail for the two areas. The author identified 100 species from the Lllalaba River and 97 species from Lake Tanganyika. Songola fishermen n:nya subgroup) along the Lualaba (upper reaches of the
more » ... e, formerly the Congo) River have lOB vernacular names and 12 inclusive folk categories of fish, consisting of six levels of categorization. There are 18 series of "growth fishe" fish which have two to four di fferent vernacular names according to their life-cycle stages. All the "growth fishes" of the Enya are large-sized fishes and their names change by growth size. The thresholds for the different names seem to be related to the mesh sizes of traditional fishing nets. Bwari fishermen of northern Lake Tanganyika have a simpler system of folk classification than the Songola-Enya. They have 79 vernacular' fish names and -1 inclusive folk categories, consisting of three levels. There are A "growth fishes". They were diverse in body size and a small clupeid ndagaa, one of the most. abundant and important fishes for the l.ake Tanganyika fishermen, has as many as four life-cycle stages that determine its market price. The difference in the folk knowledge of t,he fish between these two peoples might be understood by t.he difference in the composition of the fish fauna of the two areas; in Lake Tanganyika whi Ie small-sized cichl id species (called inclusi>'ely as .LENDA by the Bwari) are abundant., it is the ndaga8 that prevails in today's catch. A comparison of the fish names among 15 peoplcs of Central Africa suggested that fish nomenclatures of Bantu societies have little similarity between independent water systems. I found only two stems havin~a universal distrilJulrion in Central Africa: .nJ·ik. for electric catfish and .sembe for lung-fish. Fishermen of Central Africa have an accurate and rather objective knowledge of fish on which they are dependent. As l'el, some of the fishes are regarded as sJlecial. Some nre regarded as tahoo, ot.hers used as charm medicine. lIaving an intermediate character he tween fish lIud ot.her creatures (bird or tree) and hllving anomalous features are good reasons to r'egard t.hem as speciaL Where do all these differences come from? In order to consider the problems concerning the comparative ecology and epistemology of African peoples more properly, we must. he equipped with a better knowledge on the environment (fallna and flora), I inguistics, and ethnography.
doi:10.11619/africa1964.1982.1 fatcat:cfqajbqifjfy3fjaxvukhkmsgu