The Wanyakyusa Tribe
The Wanyakyusa tribe is settled part in the South of Tanzania and part in Malawi, between the two countries and along Lake Nyasa. Mbeya is the Tanzanian region in which it is centered.
The people of this tribe combine features that can be found in other tribes, but there is also something very peculiar.
First of all, they speak Nyakyusa, a bantu language. Secondly, they are quite numerous.
They are near to one million, only in Tz.
They are fine cultivators: bananas primarily, with plantations miles wide, but also corn, beans, sorghum and millet. They also keep cattle. These and other activities brought them much wealth. Everything quite regular, so far.
What is less ordinary is the social organization of the tribe. Things are based on AGE-SELF system and on boys. When they reach the age of 11/13 years, they establish the age village and till the land, while the younger brothers occupy themselves with herding.
During this period they sleep in the age village, but eat what their mother cooks.
When the boy marries, he stops to cultivate his father’s land and all the other actions. It’s the moment in which the father leaves him the leadership in a ceremony called ‘coming out’ or ‘UBUSOKA’.
The matter of marriage isn’t that simple, though. The Wanyakyusa practice polygamy and the structure of the family little community is quite complicated. They have two main houses: the bigger one belongs to the junior wife because she is responsible in most of the family matters. The smaller one belongs to the senior wife.
It’s a sort of relaxing corner for her long time service to the family.
The houses are built using bamboos and they are very much decorated. Like in cultivation, also the building of the houses is an activity that involves the whole community.
The Wanyakyusa beliefs are linked to fertility and the mother earth and they are very simpe: if you need to be punished, it will happen here and now.
Another tribe, another world. Naturally, these customs are more related to the past than to the modern way of life of this tribe. Nonetheless, they keep alive their traditions, at least as a personal history that they don’t want to disappear.
The colorful review of the Tanzanian tribes continues. See you on the next episode.