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close this bookTraditional Sex Education in Tanzania (WAZAZI, 1991, 82 p.)
close this folderChapter two THE ETHNIC COMMUNITIES
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe Chagga
View the documentThe Fipa
View the documentThe Gogo
View the documentThe Makonde
View the documentThe Makonde Malaba
View the documentThe Masai
View the documentThe Nyakyusa
View the documentThe Nyaturu
View the documentThe Sukuma
View the documentThe Zanzibaris
View the documentThe Zaramo

The Makonde

Both branches of the Makonde now living in Tanzania came originally from Mozambique. One branch is concentrated in Newala in southestern Tanzania, sharing the territory with the Makuwa and the Yao. The other, known as the Makonde Malaba (see page 26), lives in southeastern Tanzania, on the coastal plain bordering the Indian Ocean.

The focus group was held in the village of Luchinga in the Newala division of the Mtwara region in southeast Tanzania. There were 16 participants - nine men and seven women, aged 20 to 60. They met 17 times, each session lasting 90 minutes or more.

Social organization. The Makonde built their houses around an open square, in the middle of which was a conical structure called a chitala, a public meeting place.

The Makonde were matrilineal. Brothers headed their sisters’ families; a husband worked on his own farm and his mother-in-law’s.

The community was divided professionally into farmers, hunters, ironworkers, medicine men, fighters, builders, and dancers.

The elders were respected for their experience and wisdom and as ritual leaders. Adult men were farmers, hunters, and defenders of the community. Boys were taught the skills that would make them good husbands, good farmers, and courageous soldiers. Girls were taught how to be good wives and mothers.

The Makonde had no slave class. Those who could not support their families in times of famine were considered “poor clans.” Economic organization. Newala is a high, arid plateau good only for subsistence farming and hunting. Because rainfall was often erratic, food shortages were common. Water was so precious that women secretly buried huge pots of reserves under their huts. Households gained respect through self-sufficiency in the production of food and essential domestic tools.

The Makonde assigned jobs by sex. Men’s jobs were ironwork, sculpture, heavy farm work, hunting, house building, fighting, burial, and initiation of boys. Women’s responsibilities were light farm chores; making pottery, baskets, and mats; drawing water; preparing food; and bringing up children.

Political organization. Political life was simple. The mother’s brother headed the household. Traditional leaders, mtimaliki, were in charge of activities requiring clan coordination. Wakrunga supervised clans. Jumbe coordinated on a higher level.

Sex life. Sex education was conducted similarly among both branches of the Makonde. In Newala, the process was much the same for both boys’ and girls’ initiations - a six-month period of instruction (likumbi) for boys, which included a physical rite of circumcision; a somewhat longer period (chiputu) for girls, not involving circumcision.

For both sexes, the initiation period was one of seclusion from the community. Through riddles, poems, songs, stories, dances, and games, the boys were taught the meaning of human life, the role of sexuality, the responsibilities of adulthood and fatherhood, and tribal customs and sanctions, along with warfare. The core teachings were summarized in songs, poems, and sayings called midimu, which the boys were required to memorize. The boys entered the period as annemba - an ignorant lot. On graduation, they became aniyaluka - grown-ups.

Girls were taught that a successful wife and mother needed to be not only hard-working and respectful, but expert at lovemaking and performing seductive dances. They learned about sex and sexual technique through frank talk, songs, dances, and stories; girls, like boys, were expected to memorize the initiation midimu. But premarital sexual experience was frowned on. Virginity on a girl’s wedding night won praise for her family.



· sexual satisfaction

· perpetuation of the clan

· expansion of kinship/affinity network

Acceptable sexual activities

Before puberty

· fondling/touching mother’s breasts

monitored by family and

· kissing

close relatives

· sucking mother’s nipples

· causing penis/clitoris to become erect

· playing father/mother games

At puberty

· interest in opposite sex

monitored by family and

· forming same-sex peer groups

those in charge of initiation

· sex-related stories and dances

At marriage

· fondling

monitored by family

· masturbation

and clan

· sexual intercourse

· sex-related stories and dances

· polygamy

Unacceptable sexual activities

Before puberty

· overindulgence in masturbation

monitored by family and

· interest in watching animals mate

close relatives

· public masturbation

· sexual intercourse

· prostitution

At puberty

· masturbation

monitored by clan and those

· sexual intercourse

in charge of initiation rites

· courthship, intimate lovemaking

· sodomy

· child abuse

· bestiality

· rape

· incest

At marriage

· adultery

monitored by family, clan

· prostitution

· sodomy and lesbianism

· rape

· abortion

· incest



· family and public approval

· material rewards


· social disapproval

· reprimands, fines

· strokes, denial of privileges, death

· ostracism and repeat initiation, divorce

The ideal marriage


· sexually energetic, stimulating, initiation graduate

· healthy and fertile

· fatherly and hardworking, provides shelter, food, fish, household security

· affectionate to wife and children

· has good relations with in-laws and community


· sexually appealing, expert in sexual techniques

· healthy, able to bear healthy children

· hard-working, good cook, takes motherly care of household

· affectionate to husband, children, loyal to her family, good to husband’s relatives

Family size

· large

Sex status

· males superior to females


· young people become successful fathers/mothers


· positive

Mode of education

· informal/nonformal

Attitude toward change

· hostile