Know the Makua people.

By kgatelopelemakua, 19 December, 2012


How far can you trace your backround?

Before I embark on writing about a few areas of Makua traditions I must confess outright that I shall be unable to narrate conclusively all Makua traditions since such an experience would require years of extensive research and given my non-existence financial resources, I shall concern myself with only a few important Makua traditions before the arrival of the white man.


WHO ARE THE MAKUA (Makuwa, Makhuwa, Makhua, Makoa or Macua)

Makua is known as the language where Sotho (Setswana, Sepedi, Seshoeshoe) emanated.

The Makua themselves claim that they migrated to this country from the then Portuguese East Africa now Mozambique before the Arabs had set foot into this country. The Makua people in Northen Mozambique are about 800000, , In Tanzania are about 360000, In Zimbabwe are about 25000, In Malawi are about 20000, In Kenya are about 10000. The Makua are Bantu originating from Congo and the majority resides in Masasi District and a few people can be found at Mnanje and Nanguruwe areas of Newala District in Mtwara region and Tunduru District in Ruvuma region in southern Tanzania. The Makua people in Mozambique are in clans such as: Makua-Meetto, Makua-Koti, Makua-Shirima, Makua-Saka, Makua-Moniga, Makua-Lomwe, Makua-Maindo. There are also small groups of Makua in South Africa about 30000 and they go in clans that include Makua-Segashwane the well known clan, Makua-Tshumangwako, Makua-Ledimo, Makua-Segafa, Makua-Swaedi, and most they got the same great grand fathers known in most of these clans as Maridiboko, Ntsebeng and Mnoto. And they name their kids after their great grand fathers and mothers. The Makua in South Africa the majority of them are spread around Limpopo province in Ga-Sekhukhune, Ga-Masha, Ga-Mampuru, Mamone, Janefuse, Phokwaone, Ga-madiba, Hlogotlou, Mounterslus, Mogaung, Motse-Phiri, Falbank and Tafelkopo and few are around Mpumalanga Province in Mashishing or Lydenburg, Waterfallboven, Bushbuckrigde or Mapulaneng, Whiteriver, Tubatse, Setageng, Mashadadoorp, Dulstroom, Witbank or Emalahleni, Middelburg, Belfast, Stofburg, Secunda and Hendrina. In Gauteng Province you can find few of them in Mamelodi, Soshanguve, Mabopane, Tembisa, Springs and Dayveton. The Makua people are independent people who often don’t centralize authority even though they may have chiefs they don’t regard them as the centre of authority and don’t regard them as chiefs but experts of law and order, initiations, medicine and farming.

The Makua who resides out of the continent of African are mainly found and are the natives of Hawaii. There’s Makua Cave, Makua Beach and Makua Valley in this island.          



The Makua people are animists, meaning that they regard nature, the planet, and the universe as one and part and parcel of God and thus they treat all of  these as one and the source of life. Most Makua are animists, with some Christians (whether Roman Catholics or Protestants) or Sunni Muslims. Animism (from Latin anima "soul, life") is the religious worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. Specifically, animism is used in the anthropology of religion as a term for the religion of indigenous tribal peoples, especially prior to the development of civilization and organized religion. Although each tribe is unique in its specific mythologies and rituals, the term animism is often used to describe the most common, foundational thread of indigenous tribes peoples' spiritual or supernatural perspectives.

Every clan in Makua had a shrine where they worshipped God. These shrines were normally under "Msoro" tree and not at any other place. The place was normally kept clean and the Msoro tree was normally wrapped up with a piece of a new "Nakoto" cloth made from the bark of a "Mpakala" tree to warn the would be worshippers that the place is holy.

Every morning worshippers gathered at the "Msoro" tree to say their morning prayers and ask God their God for his protection during the day. After the prayers they went away to continue with their daily activities.

At sun-set in the evening they visited the shrine (Msoro) to thank God for protection afforded them during the day and asked Him for his protection afforded them during the day and they asked Him for his protection during oncoming night and bide their goodnight to him

Children were not allowed to come to these shrines. However, there were special or important situations when each Makua had to offer special offerings to God, especially before the planting or harvesting season. Other major occasions or situations where offerings were given to God after the outbreak of epidemic and prolonged periods of drought. On each of such occasion many varied sacrifices were brought to the "Msoro" tree and placed at the disposal of God. Those who brought the sacrifices at the place of worship were important or distinguished men like "Mwene" (Chief) the best hunters or famous farmers and warriors. These people had to squat at the shrine and call their "Mluku" (God) by the customary names intended to give honour to him. The problem facing the villagers was normally mentioned and God was asked to help or avert problems. Makua people believed that God was the creator of the world and mankind and that there was nothing above Him. God was normally called by several customary names in Makua tribe.

They would refer to him as "the only who pays every person according to his merit, the saviour of mankind and guardian and protector." They normally made up names designed to give Him honour. Makua people maintain strongly that they trust in God-"the invisible one" and dispute bitterly claim that before the arrival of the Arabs and the white man Makuas were pagans and worshipped trees and idols. They claim that such claims saved the interest of the foreigners and contributed to the massacre of the Makua system of worshipping which ultimately erased makua culture.



In Makua tribe circumcision is mandatory. When a boy attain the age of 12 years his parents make arrangements for his circumcision. The local chief commonly known as the Mwene or Rabadia normally summons his top advisor and a date is normally set for the circumcision ceremony. It is the Mwene's responsibility to appoint two people who are specialised in circumcision work. When all arrangement are ready the parents have a final assignment to accomplish. They have to build a hut to accommodate the children. The hut is normally built on the eve of the circumcision ceremony. On this day all parents and their relative and friends get into a festive mood and ngomas (tam-tams) will played throughout the night. The boy to be circumcised must shave his hair and in the evening all boys to be circumcised must be sent to the Mwene who prays to God and our ancestor to protect the children and avert all shortcomings while they are away from their parents. When the Mwene's, prayers are over the children are never allowed to get back to their homes. They normally housed or grouped in one selected room. From here each boys will be under the close eye of his NAMKU - a person charged with the task of taking care of the boy while away from his parents. It is the NAMKU's task to take the boy to the circumcision ground commonly known as MANAVA. The situation abruptly became serious. The circumcision ground is actually set near the M'MERA (hut) the ultimate residence of the children. As a rule the boys must have a heavy meal with a cock before their departure but are warned never to eat its skin or break a bone. When the meals are over the boys are immediately put under a strict guard and every NAMKU gets hold of his boy. At this stage the boys are advised to go and ease up themselves before being ushered to the circumcision ground.

I t is the chief of the clan (MWENE) who normally leads the people including the boys to be circumcised to the circumcision place. The boys are actually deceived that when they arrive there will enjoy or eat honey. The Makua circumcision exercise is normally brutal and cruel. What takes place is that the boy is striped of his loin cloth and is forced to lie on the ground when the (ngaliba) pulls up the skin of the penis and chops off the skin with a sharp knife and the wound is dressed with either local medicine of flavine. From here the boy is forced to drink cold water and placed to rest in the hut specially built for them.

It takes almost three weeks for the wound to heal and it is the responsibility of the NAMKU to take care of the boy. After a week in the bush where they are not allowed to meet with women the boys start intensive training on Makua traditions. Songs are normally sung and the boys are normally instructed to behave as grown-up and discard their old way of life.

If for any reason a Makua is not circumcised, he can not expect to marry a wife among the Makua. No Makua girl will take any man who is not circumcised.

The boys will stay away from their mothers for at least a month after which they are sent back to their homes.

Makua do not circumcise girls but after the age 12 the young girls are initiated and are taken away to their chiputu or thupa-ntlo places. Two elders are chosen to train the girls Makua traditions. The girls normally stay away from their parents for two weeks.



When a girl reaches or attain the puberty stage she must undergo training for her future life. When her mother or aunt gets information from their daughter they fix the MATENGUSI date and invites relative who normally take part, in training the girl, an exercise which takes the whole day. The girl is warned never to have an affair with a man and is asked to protect her virginity if she is to get a husband.

No Makua girl will take a man in marriage before attaining the puberty stage. It is the responsibility of the mother to instruct and guide her daughter so that she may not fall a victim to the traps set by men. If a girl become pregnant before she is traditionally married, she is treated as an outcast and her presence is a bad omen. Her mother in turn, is looked upon as an irresponsible. For this reason special precautions were normally taken. As soon a girl attain the puberty stage and after the Matengusi education, she is taken to a specially room, until she gates a sweetheart. From then onwards she is ready for marriage.



When a young man thinks he is ready to take a wife he makes his intentions known to his parents. If his parents are no longer living he contact his uncle or his nearest relatives who will want to know how much money he has. If he is financially resourceful ( and provided he is of age ) his father will approve the plan. Friends and relative will be informed of the sons noble plan to own a family. He instruct them with the duty of looking for a young girl of untarnished character. Beauty is not the deciding factor but good character family history and background are important. If a girl is found who appeals to the suitor marriage arrangements get into motion. The mans uncle is normally responsible for establishing contact with the girl parents. As a rule a date is set on which the parties will meet. On the appointed day, the man must go to his in-laws to be accompanied with his uncle and few friends loaded with a good amount of money conversation will range from the days activities to the of the foreigner. After the conversation one of the elders accompanying the husband -to- starts talking in proverbs and as soon as very person has understood to the purpose of the mission, the hostess serves food for the guest.

After the meal is over, the man calls his daughter who will appear putting an air of indifference. All eyes are now focused in her the girls father will ask her daughter whether she is prepared to take the man as her husband. If she accept and confirm that she loves the man, then her father mentions the dowry price but if she turns down the offer the matter ends there. The husband to be will spend the night at his laws and may go back to his home the next day.

The dowry must be paid in full by the husband to be uncle's before they depart for home. From here on the young couple are considered as husband and wife.



Makua people regards marriage as a sacred noble plan to rear a family in line with God's wishes. In Makua the birth of a baby girl carries special task and responsibilities. It is the duty of the mother to instruct and guide her daughter to avoid manoeuvres of men. A girl who become pregnant before her traditional marriage is treated as an outcast and her presence as eyesore. Likewise, her mother is looked upon as an irresponsible sex-maniac. To avoid such short-coming special precaution are taken and adhered to until the girl gets married in accordance with Makua tradition. Before the massacre of makua tradition no makua girl was allowed to marry a non -makua man; likewise no makua boy was allowed to cross Makua boarders and take in marriage a non-Makua girl. Makua people paid no dowry to marry a girl. They regard a dowry as commercialising marriage. What counted was hard work in the farms and a



Makua people fear death and there is not death which is not believed to connected with witchcraft. As soon as a person becomes critically ill relatives and friends of the sick person try to get the best herbalists in the area. The medicine-men will normally work hard and do everything in their power to cure the sick person. Some of the medicine-men demand instant payment before they start their treatment but other medicine-men refrain from taking anything as treatment fees until the patient gets cured. This is done as a gesture of public relations and such medicine-men are trusted and respected. If the patient is seriously ill/he/she is a rule confined in a special hut commonly known as "Ichishako". Only trusted close relative are allowed to enter or come near "Ichishako" for security reason. Tight measure now start to be enforced to prospective visitor to the intensive careunitIchishako.

If the sick-person is a chief (Mwene) only "Mamwene" are allowed to do nursing. But if the patient is a commoner his wife or her husband may do nursing. A this stage words starts to spread about the sick person and Mwene or his representative alerts the villagers and Mwene about the sick person's. No one is allowed to sound a drum or "Machoma" (dance) of any kind. All rejoicing activities come to a halt. Defaulters may find themselves paying chicken as a fine.

If efforts to save the patient's life appear futile trusted close relatives arrange a meeting to deliberate on the patient's fate. They will normally decide to invite an "Ihako" specialist, whose main duty is normally to tell the relatives of the sick person why the person is sick. It is from here that the witchcraft belief crops-up.

The "Ihako" specialist after thanking his God for bringing to him customer; asks his God to help him open his eyes and finally identify the enemy who is about to kill his beloved patient. The he enter his hut and comes out with a mirror and piece of a dirty cloth and starts uttering words in a low voice and after a few minutes(say three minutes) the specialist will announce who has bewitched the sick person. Normally, it is the old-aged who fall victim. From there on the relative of the sick person start their harassment's of the person of the old person who has been responsible of the sick man's ailment. If the suspected witch is from another clan serious misunderstanding may erupt leading to indiscriminate massacre of the suspected culprits.

Makua people waste a lot of time on witchcraft squabbles and it is during this time that sick-people die unattended!

Once a person is pronounced dead arrangements are swiftly made to inform Mwene. The elder of the clan goes to reveal the incident with a chicken in hand (normally a black hen or a black cock) depending whether the dead is a woman or a man) Black fowls are chosen to signify calamity. After normal greetings to Mwene and account concerning the sad demise of the dead person, Mwene will accept the fowl and hand it over to "Ahano" (Ahano is Mwen's wife) and will accompany the head of the clan to the hut where the dead person has been put. The hut will normally be full of wailing women. As a rule no man is supposed to drop a tear!

On arrival Mwene will command instant silence from wailing women and on hearing Mwene's commands instant silence reigns. Everybody now listen to Mwene's official statement on burial arrangements as previously briefed by the head of the clan. No dead person is buried at in Makua traditions. On the third day after burying the dead, relatives and friends of the dead person must have a shave their hair. It is on this particular day that Mwene announce "Nihukunowishinga" and is the day when the bereaved, especially women, are allowed to take short strolls near their homes. They will put on only black materials and all joyful activities are banned. On the appointed day of "Nihukunowishinga" the place is normally filled with all people of all walks of life - friends, relatives and well wishers. Food must be prepared and served to the people who have come to bide their farewell to their beloved brother or sister who has lost his life.

Again, the main speaker here will be Mwene who stand to speak after all the guest have had their meal. Mwene will start speaking by comforting the bereaved and thanking them for the co-

operation and love displayed during this hard time. He will narrate a full account of the circumstances leading to the sad demise of the person. It is on this day the bereaved are allowed to smear their bodies with local perfumes and are free to resume their normal life and activities. This marks the end of mourning the dead.



The Makua regards death as unwanted, accidental and an called for event and caused by bad spirits or man. They believe that God never created us as his beloved sons and daughter only to kill us in the end. They also believe that there are strong forces or spirits which are more powerful than God Himself and that is why we loose our lives and die. There is no death in Makua which is not connected with witchcraft or bad spirits.



The pregnancy is six months old the couples parents must meet to prepare Ikahi briefings. A day will normally be fixed and the parents will inform friends and relatives who must attend and participate. Ikahi briefings are mandatory to a couple who expect to rear their first child. Defaulters are seriously reprimanded and deplored. Ikahi is a woman only business. Men are not allowed to attend the briefings, likewise a woman who has never conceived may not attend the briefings.

The only man allowed to attend Ikahi is the husband of the pregnant woman. As rule, the man must sit side by side with his wife. They will normally dress in black material and all of them must be half naked. The women will surround the couple dancing around. The briefings are accompanied with songs. They get briefings on how to protect the pregnancy and follow certain ethics until delivery day-In makua version the exercise is known-"WiinanelaIwei". The expectant girl is warned never to have an affair with any other man except her husband. The man will also warned likewise. It is on Ikahi day that the expectant girl is given a calabash known as Ikahi with which to drink her water with and no other person is allowed to touch Ikahi. The expectant mother on receiving Ikahi is instructed to remain mute until delivery day. She is not allowed to see anybody. Only her husband and very close relatives are permitted to see or speak with her. The principal lectures on Ikahi briefings are normally old women conversant with makua tradition. These elderly women will warn the expectant girl that delivery is a painful blood-spilling exercise. Courage and endurance are necessary prerequisite on delivery day. The expectant mother is warned that if she contravenes any of the briefings , she will be doing so at her own peril.

Our traditional mid-wives also give their briefings to the expectant mother. Ikahi and Ntara briefing therefore meant to prepare the expectant mother on her first delivery. The so-called civilised ideas continue to denounce Ikahi and Ntara with claim that the whole affair is primitive.

Every village in Makua had "specialists" or medicine-men whose main job was to administer oaths. When disputes of conflicts reached a stage where they could not be solved the people locked into such dispute and after careful analysis of the situation at hand and on seeing that it an solvable Mwene would order that the people concerned be sent to the people administrator of oaths commonly known as "MWAAVI"

After consultation with the administrator of oaths, a day will be fixed when Mwaavi is to be taken. The whole local population of the village will be informed.

The Mwaavi administrator will instruct the plaintiff and the defendant about a number of things that they have to fulfil before taking Mwaavi.

On the appointed day those supposed to take the oath (Mwaavi) are expected to report to mwaavi administrator before sunrise and will be ready waiting for them. People will flocked to capacity eagerly for the administration of Mwaavi. The people waiting to take Mwaavi or the oath must come accompanied with their relatives. The oaths specialist will hand over a pot to all of the people assembled to witness the oath taking. He will further order that all them our water into the pot which must be half full. . The pot will be put on the fire until the water boils. After uttering few words in a low voice he will put few object into the boiling pot and immediately order the plaintiff to soak his hand in the boiling pot. If his claims were merely lies or baseless he will be hurt if he was fighting for his right and that he is not a cheater the boiling water won't hurt him.

Alternatively the oaths administrator depending on the severity of the conflict may order the plaintiff and defendant to drink medicine specially prepared for Mwaavi. After drinking the medicine they will shake hands and proceed to their homes. Any of them who has told lies will die instantly before taking a step.

Makua claim that courts of law may at times error in the dispensation of justice but cases or conflicts settled by Mwaavi are impartial.



Makua value and uphold principles of communal work practically. There are many areas in which they do their work communally. Communal project or self-help schemes were done even before and still known until today as "Ichiyao".

Any makua wanting a project done which can't be successfully accomplished by a family will instruct his wife to prepare the local brew "Utheka". What is normally done is that the family wishing there project done will inform their neighbours of the project and the day when "Ichiyao" will take place. On the appointed day people will flock to the house where "Utheka" is brewed and the head of the family will show them the site where the job is to be done . It could be tilling the land or building a new house for the family. "Ichiyao" normally start at 7.00 a.m and the people will labour until they complete the assignment. After doing the job to the satisfaction of the family the people now return for a drinking spree. As rule they must have enough drinks. Those who cannot afford to prepare the local brew may prepare food commonly known as "Ishima" and is known "IchiyaoyoShima". In this way many project were successfully accomplished. There rare instance where Makua families prepare and distil the local gin "Nipa" for ichiyao projects.. Such were some of the methods adapted in doing self-help scheme.





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