Niam-Niam redirects here. Niam-Niam can also refer to a Mancala game with a 2×8 and stores.''

The Azande (plural, "Zande" in singular) are a tribe of north central Africa. Their number is estimated by various sources at between 1 and 4 million.

They live primarily in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in southwestern Sudan, and in the southeastern Central African Republic. The Congolese Azande live in Orientale Province, specifically along the Uele River; and the Central African Azande live in the districts of Rafaï, Zémio, and Obo.


The Azande speak Zande, which they call Pazande in their language. (Their language is also called Zandi, Azande, Sande, Kizande, Badjange). Zande is an Adamawa-Ubangi language.


The Zande population is spread over three countries, namely Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic - the effect of colonial borders. In most cases, people use the estimate in Sudan to determine the total Zande population, an approach that does not show correct estimates.


The Azande are mainly small-scale farmers. Crops include maize, rice, groundnuts (also known as peanuts), sesame, cassava and sweet potatoes. Fruits grown in the area include mangos, oranges, bananas, pineapples, and also sugar cane. Zande land is also full of oil palms and sesame.

From 1998 to 2001, Zande agriculture was boosted since World Vision was buying agricultural produce. The Azande managed to supply as much maize, soya beans, sesame, sorghum and groundnuts as possible to feed the whole population of Southern Sudan sacks were marked Yambio or feed Sudan within Sudan.


Azande have changed dramatically over the past years. In the 1970s, the only domestic animals the Zandes raised were chickens; by the early 1980s, the number of domestic animals had increased

History and traditional beliefs

Most Azande traditionally practiced an animist religion but this has been supplanted to large extent by Christianity. Their traditional beliefs revolve mostly around magic, oracles and witchcraft. Witchcraft is believed to be an inherited substance in the belly which lives a fairly autonomous life performing bad magic on the person's enemies. Witches can sometimes be unaware of their powers and can accidentally strike people to whom the witch wishes no evil. Because witchcraft is believed to always be present, there are several rituals connected to protection and cancelling of witchcraft that are performed almost daily (Evans-Pritchard 1979).

Oracles are a way of determining from where the suspected witchcraft is coming and they were for a long time the ultimate legal authority, the one setting the action as how to respond to the threats.


E. E. Evans-Pritchard and other anthropologists have paid special attention to Zande stories about Tule, also known as Ture. Tule (TOO-lay), which means "spider" in Zande, is sometimes portrayed as a trickster, similar to Anansi or Br'er Rabbit.

The Name

The word Azande means the people who possess much land, and refers to their history as conquering warriors.

There are many variant spellings of Azande, including: Zande, Zandeh, A-Zandeh, Sandeh, etc.

The name Niam-Niam (or Nyam-Nyam) was frequently used by foreigners to refer to the Azande in the 19th and early 20th century. This name is probably of Dinka origin, and means great eaters in that language (as well as being an onomatopoeia), supposedly referring to cannibalistic propensities. This name for the Azande was in use by other tribes in Sudan, and later adopted by westerners. Naturally, today the name Niam-Niam is considered pejorative.

Another tribe called the Niam-Naims were a tribe from ancient legend, said to have short tails.



  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1979) ‘Witchcraft Explains Unfortunate Events’ in William A. Lessa and Evon Z. Vogt (eds.) Reader in Comparative Religion. An anthropological approach. Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 362-366
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1967) The Zande Trickster. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E.1937 Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. Oxford University Press. 1976 abridged edition: ISBN 0-19-874029-8

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