LUGURU, ZARAMO, WAZARAMO (Tanzania)  (2,2,2,2,2,2;5,5;D2) 


IndexAfricaTanzania → Luguru


Featured: Swahili, Wanguru, Turu, Kwere, Shambala, Ngindo, Chagga, Bena, Nyamwezi, Luguru, Kaguru, Sukuma, Subiya, Ngulu, Hehe, Barabaig, Nyakyusa, Gogo, Baraguyu;®Kuria, ®Masai

Among the Tanzanian Luguru, boys may be given a demonstration of sexual intercourse using a hen during the ng’hula initiation stage, at age 8 to 9 (Brain, 1980:p377)[1]. Four terms are used for periods up to mwali (maidenhood), the use of which is considered offensive after a next had been appointed (Brain, 1978:pp179)[2]. Although breasts are frequently used for a girl’s growing up, secondary hair growth and menstruation are conversational taboos; menstruation is indicated only in euphemism, and “[s]everal women informants protested their total ignorance of menstruation before it occurred, and their terror they had done something wicked. They all stated “Mwiko kabisa kumwambia kigoli!” (Sw.)- it is absolutely taboo to tell a pre-puberty girl”. After the seclusion of the Mwali rite (held “when a girl reaches puberty”, and to shield her from sexual relations), the girl is instructed at a ceremony called kucheza mkole (the dance at the tree of maturity), by the muhunga, according to Von Waldow (1935)[3] the maternal grandmother, but never the mother. According to Swantz (1965:p45-6)[4] this information included statements such as


“with maturity comes sex, never refuse your husband; use three pieces of cloth to wipe him after intercourse and keep them washed; do not commit adultery; when you menstruate dig the blood into the ground and never climb into the loft for food at that time- send somebody else; only mature women can attend mkole; mothers must not teach their daughters; don’t be stubborn, especially with your husband, stubborn ones die of snakes; do not pass a cross-roads directly”.


The mwali ceremony, also practised by neighbouring Kwere and Kami tribes, is aided by the use of dolls (Harding)[5] maintained by the candidate during her seclusion.


Most wali (sing. Mwali) are engaged before or during seclusion. “Although Muslims and Christians go through the wedding ceremonies of those religions, a wedding, as such, was not part of Luguru custom; the bride went from her début to her husband’s bed” (p182-3), where after the final instructions, the grandmother expects to find coins on the bed corners as a sign of mutual satisfaction.

Thus, “[t]he Zaramo girl at the onset of menstruation is secluded for a lengthy period of time, in order, it is said, to make her submissive, as well as to educate her for her future adult role” (Swantz, paraphrased by Mbilinyi)[6].


Hamdani ([1995])[7] also details the ‘mwali’ initiation rite. On reaching menarche (kuvunja ungo), a girl attains the status of “mwali”, in which during a solitary confinement she


“[…] was thoroughly prepared for her role as a good sexual partner to her future husband, as a good mother to her children and as a woman with her own independence. She was instructed on the importance of cooking good food for the husband as well as cleaning the cooking utensils immediately after cooking. This was actually a message about sexual intercourse. The cooking pot is the symbol of her genital organ while the wooden spoon used in stirring the maize porridge symbolizes the male organ. Cleanliness after and before the sexual act was addressed through this symbolism. […] Elderly women took off their clothes and performed a ‘mock’ physical demonstration of sexual intercourse. All sorts of provocative sexual songs were sung and there was much celebration. Elderly women started to shave the girl’s pubic hair. This was a somewhat painful experience because on this day only ashes from burnt up charcoal were protecting her body”.



Additional refs:


  • Mluanda, M. (1971) The Luguru traditional moral schools, Rev Ethnol 3,8:57-62











Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Brain, J. L. (1980) Boys’ initiation rites among the Luguru of Eastern Tanzania, Anthropos 75:369-82

[2] Brain, J. L. (1980) Symbolic rebirth: the mwali rite among the Luguru of Eastern Tanzania, Africa48,2:177-88

[3] Von Waldow, A. (1935) The Mwali Custom of the Zaramo. Cited by Brain

[4] Swantz, L. W. (1965) The Zaramo of Tanzania. Dar es Salaam: Nordic Project Tanganyika, mimeographed

[5] Harding, J. R. (1961) ‘Mwali’ Dolls of the Wazaramo, Man 61:72-3 [ill.]

[6] Mbilinyi, M. J. (1972) The “New Woman” and Traditional Norms in Tanzania, J Modern African Studies 10,1:57-72, at p66

[7] Hamdani, S. ([August 1995]) Female Adolescent Rites and the Reproductive Health of Young Women in Morogoro, Tanzania. Takemi Program in International Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Working Paper []