Final summary: Central & Southern African AncestryDNA results 2013-2018

Without wanting to rehash things this blog post and following ones will provide a quick recap of my final AncestryDNA survey findings for continental Africans. These results were obtained during 2013-2018 but I had not fully processed all the data up till now. Starting with my Central & Southern African section. Which I first published on 17 February 2017 when I had only 32 Central & Southern African AncestryDNA results available for my analysis (see this overview). As my survey has been ongoing I have managed to collect a sample group which is now three times greater. Consisting of no less than 96 AncestryDNA results of Central & Southern African persons! Follow the link below for detailed analysis & new screenshots:

Table 1 (click to enlarge)

stats (n=92)

***

I discontinued this survey after Ancestry’s update in September 2018. Because in my opinion Ancestry’s new version of their ethnicity estimates regrettably has been a downgrade in regards to their African breakdown, overall speaking (see also this blogseries). Which is why I think these “old” results may still be useful and are not obsolete yet. I originally singled out two main implications for Afro-Diasporans or rather propositions which I will briefly revisit in this blog post. Also in order to tie up some loose ends.

  1. Congolese & Angolan ancestry more likely than Cameroonian ancestry?
  2. Southwestern Bantu ancestry much more likely than Southeastern Bantu ancestry?

Then again my intention is not only to look backwards but also forwards! In particular I believe that this dataset may provide a helpful baseline to compare with 23andme’s newly updated African breakdown (see this overview). As well as functioning as a benchmark for Ancestry’s upcoming update, which hopefully this time will lead to improvement!

Over all I would say that my African survey findings are pretty much reinforcing the main message I have been trying to get across from day 1: the labeling of ancestral categories in DNA testing is often not be taken too literally. However this does not mean you cannot derive a great deal of informational value from your socalled ethnicity estimates! Proper interpretation is a precondition. And it has been my experience that being aware of the DNA results of native Africans certainly helps in this regard. Even more so when also taking into account your African DNA matches, relevant historical context, (advanced) genetic genealogy and other means of follow-up research.

***(click to enlarge)

compil CSA3

A selection of some of the new results I have added into my survey. Extending the country range. And finally now also able to showcase Angolan breakdowns. Take notice that one of them has “Cameroon/Congo” as primary region while the other shows so-called “Southeastern Bantu” in first place!

***

“Cameroon/Congo” = moreso Angola/Congo for Diasporans?

***

Map 1 (click to enlarge)

Cameroon Congo (2013-2018)

Based on the AncestryDNA results of Central & Southern Africans, collected during 2013-2018.  Clearly showing that “Cameroon/Congo” can be descriptive of DNA found across Central Africa, incl. also Angola! And in fact even also Southern Africa. Especially Zimbabwe but also Madagascar! See this sheet for underlying data.

***

For a much more detailed discussion about this topic see this blog post I published back in 2017:

Basically my reasoning at that time was based mostly on historical plausibility. And in particular slave trade statistics for which I provided several charts. Highlighting the greater importance of Central Africa (modernday Angola & Congo) in Trans Atlantic Slave Trade across the Americas. Also including Mexico and Brazil therefore. These two countries combined probably account for atleast 100 million Afro-descendants, when defined loosely (also counting those with “only” around 5% African admixture). Furthermore it was demonstrated how Cameroon according to several researchers was only a minor source (<10%) in the slave trading circuit of the Bight of Biafra, which mostly victimized Igbo people.

I pointed out that the genetic importance of Cameroon in DNA testing for Diasporans may have been overstated because of a relative abundance of Cameroonian samples to be matched with (both in haplogroup testing such as African Ancestry and in autosomal testing such as AncestryDNA). And in fact also in my own survey this time Cameroonian samples have been second-most numerous. The country name labeling used by AncestryDNA may have contributed to confusion as well. Regrettably it was maintained in Ancestry’s newly updated category: “Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu”. In stark contrast Angola is usually not featured as prominently in DNA testing or DNA studies.1 But this does not invalidate its ancestral significance!

In 2017 my survey group was still quite minimal and restricted in range. Which is why it was perhaps a bit speculative to make assumptions about which level “Cameroon/Congo” might reach among DNA testers from other Central & Southern African countries. My current survey findings are now based on a more robust sample size. And very importantly also 9 Angolan results have been included. So I suppose this issue has now mostly been remedied. As shown in map 1 and the screenshot compilation above it was indeed as foreseen that “Cameroon/Congo” can be descriptive of DNA found across Central Africa, incl. also Angola! In other words a high “Cameroon/Congo” score is perfectly compatible with having Angolan lineage as Angolans themselves – when tested on Ancestry –  also receive high “Cameroon/Congo” scores, especially those from northern Angola.

Lest I be misconstrued of course genuine ancestral connections between Cameroon and the Afro-Diaspora do exist! However most likely not to the same wide extent as suggested by AncestryDNA’s ethnicity estimates. As always my advise would be to seek additional clues to validate any possible ancestral ties with either Angola, Congo or Cameroon. Or any other part of Central & Southern Africa of course. Aside from other types of follow-up research ask your self the following questions:

  1. What is the relevant historical context? Are your earliest ancestral locations within the Americas associated with high levels of slave trade with either Central Africa or Bight of Biafra? What do the records say about most frequent ethnic groups being brought over to those locations, etc. etc.?
  2. Do you have any African matches from Central or Southern Africa? And if so,  is the shared amount of DNA big (>10cM) or small (<7cM)? Are these matches also shared with your close family members? How do these matches fit in your overall African DNA matching patterns? See also this page a for a new service I have started to analyze your African DNA matches on Ancestry.

South-western Bantu ancestry much more likely than Southeastern Bantu ancestry?

Map 2 (click to enlarge)

Southeastern Bantu (2013-2018)

Based on my survey findings using AncestryDNA results of Central & Southern Africans, collected during 2013-2018. It can be verified that “Southeastern Bantu” is indeed also reported with significant amounts in Angola. Albeit to a lesser degree than in Southeast African countries. Take note that I have not included the “Southeastern Bantu” frequencies found in Northeast Africa. As this is out of scope and irrelevant for the discussion. See this sheet for underlying data.

***

This second proposition of mine was again mostly based on historical plausibility and slave trade patterns which I analyzed in more detail in the very last section of this page:

In addition I mentioned the inclusion of Namibian samples within Ancestry’s Reference Panel. Furthermore I featured my preliminary survey results among the Afro-Diaspora. Which then already (in 2017) showed Brazil and Mexico as having the highest group average for “Southeastern Bantu”. In alignment with their historically known ancestral connection with Angola. This was confirmed even more so during my final summary of Afro-Diasporan survey results in 2018 (see this blog post)

In the meanwhile my Central & Southern African survey group has become more robust in sample size and also in range. Now including also results from Angola and Mozambique! Regrettably none from Namibia or Botswana though. This allows me to state with more certainty that indeed “Southeastern Bantu” can also be descriptive of DNA found in Angola, among other places. See also map 2 and the previous screenshot compilation. In other words a substantial “Southeastern Bantu” score is perfectly compatible with having Angolan lineage as Angolans themselves – when tested on Ancestry –  may also receive substantial “Southeastern Bantu” scores, ~21% on average.

Lest I be misconstrued of course genuine ancestral connections between Southeast Africa and the Afro-Diaspora do exist! However most likely not to the same wide extent as suggested by AncestryDNA’s ethnicity estimates. As always my advise would be to seek additional clues to validate any possible ancestral ties with either Angola, Madagascar or Mozambique. Or any other part of Central & Southern Africa of course. Aside from other types of follow-up research ask your self the following questions:

  1. What is the relevant historical context? Are your earliest ancestral locations within the Americas associated with high levels of slave trade with either Central Africa or Southeast Africa? What do the records say about most frequent ethnic groups being brought over to those locations, etc. etc.?
  2. Do you have any African matches from Central or Southern Africa? And if so,  is the shared amount of DNA big (>10cM) or small (<7cM)? Are these matches also shared with your close family members? How do these matches fit in your overall African DNA matching patterns? See also this page a for a new service I have started to analyze your African DNA matches on Ancestry.

23andme better equipped to distinguish Southeast African lineage?

This issue of socalled “Southeastern Bantu” scores was causing a great deal of confusion. It mislead many people into thinking their imagined Southeast African lineage or even Northeast African lineage could be more significant than historically justified. While due to a lack of exposure or awareness the much more plausible Angola connection was often overlooked. It is very insightful to compare with the newly updated African breakdown on 23andme. For which I have started a new survey among not only Africans but also various parts of the Afro-Diaspora. It is ongoing but you can see a preliminary overview by following the links below:

I will blog about my Afro-Diasporan findings in greater detail as well eventually. But it is already quite telling how generally speaking on 23andme “Southern East African” scores are much less common and very subdued. Reaching a peak sofar among Brazilians with a group average of around 7% but for African Americans for example it is only 1%. While Northeast African scores are virtually absent for Trans-Atlantic Afro-Diasporans. This is surprisingly well in line with historical records. And frankly therefore also much more reliable in my opinion.

Even when similarly labeled ancestral categories on different DNA tests will not be perfect equivalents or measuring the same thing. Clearly Ancestry and 23andme are not using the same Reference Populations for example. While there may also be some algorithm differences.  Either way the “Southeastern Bantu” region on Ancestry could indeed be informative (with correct interpretation). But it was also clearly overstating things in many cases.2 A redesign of this region was certainly in need therefore. But not by simply creating a very bland and super generic “Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu” region! Epitomizing the loss of focus in AncestryDNA’s updated African breakdown.3

Suggestions for improvement

____________________

create a clear distinction between Bight of Biafra origins and proper Central African roots. Given prevailing slave trade patterns this is a crucial issue for Afro-Diasporans!”

Angolan & Mozambican samples (preferably from relevant and currently undersampled populations such as the Mbundu and the Makua) might be used to solidify any Bantu orientated region. But given sufficient genetic differentiation I suppose an extremely useful distinction between western and southeastern Bantu origins may also be realized.”

____________________

The quotes above are taken from my previous blog post from June 2018:

Unfortunately hardly any of these suggestions were taken up by Ancestry when they did their last update in September 2018… However it seems that a new update may be upcoming already (see this link). Although I am not sure if this will also affect the African breakdown. Either way Ancestry has announced they aim to expand their African Reference Panel (see this blog post). So I might as well give it another shot 😉 I still stand by my statement back then that “Obviously adding samples from Mozambique and Angola will provide a much better picture“. While separating the Cameroonian samples might create a more solidly Central African region (as on 23andme).

I like to underline though that my African AncestryDNA survey (2013-2018) did produce several potentially insightful findings. Not only for improving the interpretation of the results of Afro-Diasporans. But also for Africans themselves it may lead to better understanding of the understudied migration history within the African continent. Both relatively recent (last 500 years or so) and more ancient. I have had many stimulating discussions with Africans who did a DNA test over the years. Unlike what some people might assume many Africans themselves also take a great interest in these matters.

Obviously AncestryDNA’s regional breakdown (2013-2018) was rather basic and had several flaws. What I personally found very fascinating however was that the relative balance of “Cameroon/Congo” versus “Southeastern Bantu” seemed to be (very roughly) correlating with ethno-linguistic background in some cases. Making it possible to explore in a sketchy way the genetic impact of such highly significant events as the Mfecane (1800’s) throughout Southern Africa. And also the migratory flows of perhaps around 1400’s/1500’s from modernday DRC Congo into Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Possibly set in motion by the expansion of the Luba/Lunda states or preceding ones? In this light the outcome of my Zimbabwean survey group (n=9) having a higher “Cameroon/Congo” group average than for “Southeastern Bantu” is quite intriguing.

I also found the distinction in group averages for “Southeastern Bantu” among South African Bantu speakers (87%) versus South African Coloureds (52%) illuminating. Helpful for understanding the more complex African lineage for South African Coloureds. Not only in regards to their greater Khoi-San heritage but also including ancestral connections with Mozambique and Madagascar. The same goes for my Indian Ocean Islander survey participants. Quite impressive how Ancestry indeed picked up on their predominantly Central & Southern African lineage. But at the same time their relatively subdued group averages for “Southeastern Bantu” and “Cameroon/Congo” do suggest also that a minor West African component might be present. Which would be in line with historical evidence we have of the Indian Ocean and Atlantic slave trade circuits overlapping at times!

___________________________________________________________________________

Notes

1) It used to be the case that Angola was rather invisible on the radar in DNA testing. However this has very recently changed for the better when 23andme changed the labeling of their “Congolese” region into “Angolan & Congolese”! Which seems more appropriate given the ancestral significance of both countries for the Afro-Diaspora. Better late than never I suppose 😉

Obviously the country name labeling does remain problematic because in fact this “Angolan & Congolese” region extends far beyond those two countries. As it acts much more as a proxy for generic Bantu lineage. Quite similar in that way to Ancestry’s “Cameroon & Congo”.  So perhaps a more neutral “Central & Southern African” might be more fitting. Although compromises always need to be made with these type of things.  See also this map based on my 23andme survey findings which still has the initial “Congolese” labeling.

Map 3 (click to enlarge)

Congolese

 

2) To be fair Ancestry’s African breakdown during 2013-2018 was far better in my opinion than 23andme’s African breakdown during that same period (before their update in 2019). Unlike any of its commercial competitors AncestryDNA was able to distinguish no less than 5 different West African regions. In addition it also did a reasonable job at separating West African DNA from Central/Southern African DNA (“Cameroon/Congo” and “Southeastern Bantu”). Which is essential for getting a full scope perspective on the origins of the Afro-Diaspora.

Before 23andme’s update in 2019 Central and Southern Africans, as well as their Afro-descendants in the Diaspora were described as predominantly “West African” on 23andme. As if applying some kind of monolithic blanket term for Niger-Congo speaking origins! Furthermore 23andme’s former “Central & South African” category was a HUGE misnomer as it only measured  minuscule Pygmy or Khoi-San affinity. See also:

3)As shown in the map below the newly updated region “Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu” on Ancestry covers an enormous area, including more than 20 countries. A step backwards in achieving finer regional resolution for Afro-Diasporans! This region is confusingly also reported in high amounts (~30% on average) for southeastern Nigerians (see this overview). The pre-update “Cameroon/Congo” was also frequently reported for southeastern Nigerians. A few times even with considerable amounts, but on average only 8.5% for my entire Nigerian survey group (n=77) and for my Igbo survey group (n=24) on average 12%.  See:

Map 4 (click to enlarge)

CamCongo

12 thoughts on “Final summary: Central & Southern African AncestryDNA results 2013-2018

  1. This is a interesting article, Cameroon congo was my third or second highest on the old ancestry dna results. I think it was like 16% or something like that. After the update, it inflated to about 30%. Where as on 23andme, Angola and congolese was only 6.9%. So i don’t know what happened. My SEB never was impressive at all and was in the normal range for AA’s, like 5% or something. That got snatched completely away after the update, and my south eastern African results is like 0.3% on 23andme. But I oddly have a southeastern african haplogroup, which according to 23andme isn’t all that common of a result. I think with me, maybe it was too distant to be able to pic up percentage wise in those categories, but the haplogroup ended up just being the only evidence for genuine South eastern African lineage.

    Also i was wondering, have you done a article on the recent 23andme update? They did some sort of Ancestry in Americas update with some people and i ended up being one of them that got some Caribbean results. They had it in the “evidence of ancestry” scale and i was put on the side slightly closer to the stronger one, like 60% and i don’t know what to make of it tbh.. I don’t know of any Caribbean ancestry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I think the “Angola and Congolese ” category on 23andme is clearly a conservative estimate for most people. I imagine for many there will be considerable additional Central African lineage hiding onder the “broadly” categories. So it’s not perfect but as I rate 23andme’s accuracy higher than Ancestry’s I do believe that at least you can be fairly confident that your Central African lineage will not be much less than what’s reported. So you will have a much more solid base to go by instead of the heavily inflated “Cameroon, Congo and South Bantu” on Ancestry right now. Follow-up research, in particular African DNA matches, can be used to corroborate things.

      Rare haplogroups can be very useful to pick up on one particular family line. However this could indeed still only represent a very minimal share of your over all ancestry. I have seen AA’s for example with a Native American haplogroup. Even when their Native American admixture was around 1%. So this just means that that person had one single Native American maternal ancestor from perhaps the mid 1700’s whose blood line was diluted over the generations. But because of a direct maternal line the haplogroup was preserved.

      I have blogged about 23andme’s update in February, but only in regards to my African survey findings. I intend to blog much more about 23andme though haha. Also in regards to their Recent Ancestral Location (RAL) feature. Which in itself i find a very useful update. Sort of catching up with Ancestry’s “migrations” I suppose. I am guessing the USA will be done soon as well. And African Americans might get assigned to more specific places within the USA eventually.

      About Jamaica or any other West Indian places showing up unexpectedly as recent ancestral location. I have also heard about several AA’s with a Caribbean RAL, who were likewise not aware of any Caribbean family within the last 3 generations or so. I wish 23andme would provide more clarification on how such ancestral connections can be explained. Basically it is a measure of the match strength between you and Caribbeans in their reference database. However such matches are not a one way street of course! Generally speaking several ancestral scenario’s may be valid when looking into Caribbean matches for African Americans:

      1) Shared African Lineage, whereby one ancestor ended up in the Caribbean and his or her relative ended up in North America
      2) Shared European lineage, whereby one European ancestor left offspring in both the Caribbean and in North America
      3) Caribbean ancestry to be traced back to inter-colonial slave trade
      4) Caribbean ancestry to be traced back to voluntary migrations from late 1800’s/ early 1900’s onwards
      5) African Americans migrating to or passing through the Caribbean (both during Slavery and afterwards) and leaving offspring there.

      For a great book on Inter-Colonial slave trade, based on the most recent research, I can highly recommend:

      Gregory E. O’Malley, Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807

      Like

  2. “Cameroon/Congo” = moreso Angola/Congo for Diasporans?

    It’d seem that when you average out the Angola and Congolese results (75% “Cameroon/Congo”), that it’s actually less predictative than Cameroonian as opposed to “moreso,” though still close in any regard. Though, it would be interesting to see if you just included northern Angolans how that would change. Still, it probably wouldn’t be enough of a difference to argue that it is “moreso” predicative of BaKongo ancestry than a sample taken from any of the people’s in Cameroon.

    I think the way to look at it is that the region is centered on both the original/earliest Bantu peoples in Cameroon (of which there are many), and then also the Congo/Angola border and particularly the various BaKongo peoples, which would make sense since the capital (M’banza-Kongo) was almost right at the present day border of the two.

    Like

    • It’s true that the “Cameroon/Congo” group average is highest among Cameroonians and Congolese. This is to be expected as after all AncestryDNA’s Reference Panel makes use of samples from those countries to determine anyone’s “Cameroon/Congo” score. The Angolan group average is indeed somewhat lower. But most likely among northern Angolans (in particular Bakongo) it might attain a similar level with greater sample size.

      However this is not what my main argument revolves around. Which is rather historical plausibility and slave trade patterns for the entire Afro-Diaspora! Even if let’s say Angolans would score around 40% “Cameroon/Congo” in stead of 65%. Then still for any given Brazilian or Mexican the odds of any “Cameroon/Congo” reported for them being traced to either Angolan or Cameroonian ancestors will be stacked in favour of the former. This is simply because of overwhelming documented presence of Angolans in those countries. As mentioned in this blog post these two countries combined could have over 100 million of Afro-Descendants, when defined as persons with a minimum of 5% African ancestry.

      And in fact not only in those two countries but in many other parts of the Afro-Diaspora as well the ancestral significance of Angola versus Cameroon might be greater. In the blog post I referred to I have posted several tables from the slavevoyages database which highlight the greater importance of Central Africa (modernday Angola & Congo) in Trans Atlantic Slave Trade across the Americas, when compared to the Bight of Biafra. On top of that according to historians the share of actual Cameroonians in this Bight of Biafra trade might have been less than 10%.

      Like I pointed out in my blog of course these general statements are not meant to imply that one could not have any significant ancestral connection with Cameroon! This will be true especially for destinations within the Americas which are known to have an above average slave trade with Bight of Biafra. So for the US in particular Virginia, but also for Jamaicans and other West Indians. Then again I am arguing for performing proper follow-up research to validate any possible Cameroonian connection.

      Instead of just simply going by the country name labeling. I know not everyone does that but it happens more often than you think. People taking their results literally without questioning. Instead of taking into account the disclaimers/additional info as well as the relevant historical context. I’m not saying this to put anyone on the spot. As I understand many people are just looking for quick answers. However this does result in people being seriously mislead about their true lineage, despite all the best of intentions. Which I personally find very sad to see.

      As I said in this blogpost the genetic importance of Cameroon in DNA testing for Diasporans may have been overstated because of a relative abundance of Cameroonian samples to be matched with. While up till recently Angola was not so much in the spotlights so to speak. I have heard several Brazilians telling me that they were surprised about their primary “Cameroon/Congo” scores. But they would now happily explore further connections with Cameroon. Even when of course they are aware of the enormous ancestral ties between Brazil and Angola.

      In the last couple of years the American company of African Ancestry (which tests for haplogroups and also has a relative abundance of Cameroonian samples) has started branching out to Brazil. And frankly I find it quite disturbing to learn how their flawed methodology (see this link) is impacting even knowledgeable Brazilians.

      Another documentary participant, Zulu Araujo, who heads a cultural center in Bahia, learned he descends from the mostly Muslim Tikar people in Cameroon.

      “That was a surprise. I thought that like many in Bahia I must be Yoruba. I’ve had to change the identity I carried in my head for 62 years,” said Araujo, an expert in race relations.”

      “To celebrate his new identity, he has had himself rebaptized Tikar in an Afro-Brazilian ceremony, he said.

      See this link for full article:

      https://phys.org/news/2015-07-afro-brazilians-dna-pre-slavery.html

      Like

  3. Oh, and interestingly, I was never much confused by the term “Southeastern Bantu” simply because my point of reference has always been West Africa. West African – it’s historical empires, it’s people, it’s cultures – has been featured very centrally and popularly in African American lore. I think we as a people tend to think and thus know much less anything south/southeast of Nigeria, though that is changing with the growing popularity of DNA tests. An African American would probably very quickly be able to name you a West African people like the Igbo, Yoruba, Ashanti, etc…but if you asked them to name you a Bantu people (let alone ask them to name what country the people reside in), you’d very likely get many fewer if any answers at all.

    So, basically, everything south/southeast of the Cameroon/Nigeria border was “Southeastern Bantu” from my view. I can now see how it could be really confusing for people whose perspective of “Africa” is central Africa, which I imagine how most people in the world must center Africa.

    Anyway, I hope Ancestry takes 23&Me’s example in their next updates.

    Oh, BTW, of my three confirmed Bantu matches (one from Zambia, two from Cameroon) using the current Ancestry update, the two Cameroonian matches score 100% “Cameroon, Congo, & Southern Bantu peoples” and the Zambia match scores 88% Cameroon, Congo, & Southern Bantu peoples and 12% “Eastern Africa.”

    Like

    • my point of reference has always been West Africa. West African – it’s historical empires, it’s people, it’s cultures – has been featured very centrally and popularly in African American lore

      Yes this will be true for many. Myself included, I do love all of Africa but you cannot get more West African than Cape Verde, at the very least geographically speaking 😉 However what I have noticed in my interactions with African Americans is that they are often also quite fascinated by Eastern Africa, incl. also Northeast Africa. For various reasons I should add. One thing I always found a bit puzzling for example is why the language Swahili was chosen to feature so prominently in the Kwanzaa celebration. See also this article:

      https://www.theroot.com/speaking-swahili-for-kwanzaa-1790882095

      Anyways from my experience the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region did confuse many people as they were not aware that also Angola could be an implied ancestral possibility. For example by watching Youtube reveal videos of Eastern or South Africans showing their Ancestry results with predominant “Southeastern Bantu” scores it made people assume they could also have East African or South African ancestry. Or in other cases it may have caused them to overestimate their potential Malagasy connection.

      Like

      • You are not the only one puzzled by the choosing of East Africa as the basis for Kwanzaa. It is not well known, but the East African connection Maulana Karenga (born Ron Everett) chose for Kwanzaa was simply because he’d studied Arabic and Swahili in university. lol It’s as simple as that.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks again for a great article. You know, I wish someone does a DNA test company based on the major ethnic groups that were brought to the Americas: Mbundu, Yoruba, Mende, Kongo, Akan or Fon. That will be much easier. Focusing on the current countries doesn’t help much, with the way ethnicities are separated between countries. People usually identified with the known countries like Nigeria while they could have more ancestry from Benin.

    “my point of reference has always been West Africa. West African – it’s historical empires, it’s people, it’s cultures – has been featured very centrally and popularly in African American lore“

    It’s funny you said that because I was talking about that with some people. The answer has always been West Africa when we wondered where blacks came from. I think it’s been only few decades that they showed interest in Central Africa and how Bakongo people might have influence on African American culture too. I did some search and even in Brazil and Cuba, the contribution of Bantu slaves is usually looked down compared to Yoruba slaves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment! I completely agree about the need to have historically relevant African samples in DNA testing! It was actually one of my main suggestions for improvement of AncestryDNA’s ethnicity estimates last year.

      Interesting what you mention about the relative lack of attention towards Central African ancestry among the Diaspora. It is indeed only recently that this neglect is starting to get corrected. I have read about “Congo” apparently being somewhat of a slur for a hillbilly type even. Atleast in Haiti and also Jamaica if i recall correctly, during the 1800’s (during and right after slavery). As apparently it was associated with the later cohorts of enslaved Central Africans arriving there. Who had therefore not fully adjusted yet when compared when locally born and already creolized segments of the population.

      On the other hand there has also always been widespread appreciation of the Kongo legacy. As witnessed by the various so-called King of Kongo traditions across the Diaspora, incl. not only Brazil but also actually the USA at one time, among formerly Dutch speaking Afro-descendants in NYC. Very fascinating book about this which i have been intending to read for a while now:

      The Pinkster King and the King of Congo: The Forgotten History of America’s Dutch-Owned Slaves

      On Facebook there is a very useful group now as well to explore these connections:

      Kingdom of Kongo North, South America and Caribbean Diaspora

      Like

      • I think the kind of prejudice you see in the diaspora as it relates to Central Africa is that save for the Kingdom of Kongo, the societies tended to be significantly less developed and less frequent than the population density and longer history that allowed for the more storied West African empires. West African had Benin and Ifa and Ghana and Mali and Songhai and Ashanti and etc. Aside from Kongo, you had maybe Luba, Lunda and Great Zimbabwe as the major ones and that was about it for the Bantu. A lot of this seems to be that the Bantu are much more recent and were still migrating south by the time the Dutch reach South Africa; West Africa was older and “established” by comparison.

        Like

        • Yes I think this plays a great role in people’s perceptions and probably also preferred/wished-for African lineage! Personally I find this rather regrettable as this focus on African ethnic groups with historically established empires/kingdoms takes away from the cultural richness to be found across the continent. Including also people who historically lived in smaller/decentralized political units.

          Many people tend to have a higher interest in Yoruba lineage for example than Igbo lineage. Even when the latter might be historically much more plausible. For Cape Verdeans a similar issue involves the relative lack of interest in the smaller sized ethnic groups of Guiné Bissau; while the ancestral impact of the Mandinga and Fula people tends to be much more publicized and therefore also greatly present in people’s imagination.

          Luckily this is gradually changing as awareness of Africa’s diversity is steadily on the increase. Historically well-defined African kingdoms/empires are of course of great interest. But I do find that ironically there is an element of lingering euro-centric perspective when overfocusing on this part of African history. Although perhaps painful and confronting I do also think that people should inform themselves more about the participation of many elite groups within these better known kingdoms/empires in Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (or also Trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean).

          Like

  5. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a more Euro-centric view of things. I think humans are just naturally kind of attracted to greater organization/power; it focuses things. I think it’s easier to focus on the Kingdom of Benin, then say one of the various Bantu tribes, each who had their own chiefs and such.

    Like you said, though, and fortunately, things are changing. I think these DNA tests are a game-changer. Just as a personal anecdote, I, too, probably would have focused much more naturally on the Yoruba than anyone else had I not found all of these new Igbo cousins of mine. I am now much more interested in them than the Yoruba because of the personal connection. And the same goes for the other side of my family. I honestly had no idea or thought of to their origins before I took the test. Now, I’ve found various connections to scattered Bantu groups that I’ve become absolutely fascinated with (Bassa, Banen, Shona, Nsenga, Balondo, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s