The Songye people are a Bantu ethnic group from the central Democratic Republic of the Congo. Migrating from the Sheba area to the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the banks of the Lualaba River, the Songye settled in the savannah and forested plateau.
The Songye follow a patriarchal society and are economically sustained by farming. A central chief known as Yakitenge governs them.
Traditionally, the Songye relied on farming and hunting for subsistence. Fishing was not practiced unless it was during times of dire need, as rivers were associated with the spirits of deceased chiefs whose burial ceremonies often took place in the rivers.
The Songye people are well known wood carvers who are renowned for making ceremonial masks, power figures, and other ceremonial items. The pottery and weaving made by the Songye women and metal work by the men were regularly traded with neighboring peoples.
Songye shields tell the conflictual history of this people, who inhabit the central eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Once a vital part of the warrior’s garb, Songye shields are still hand carved from a solid piece of timber and typically feature violently zig-zagging grooves and white patina.