YAO (Malawi)


IndexAfricaMalawi → Yao


Featured : Lake Nyasa, Chewa, Yao, Ngoni; ®Nyakyusa


According to Mitchell[1], though he recorded no actual instances, Yao girls would still “quite frequently” be betrothed as infants or small children. The husband may also be a child. Cohabitation would not occur until the girl reaches puberty. Female puberty rites, at which sex education is given, may, in the past, have included ritual defloration (Mair, 1951)[2]. A comparable liaison of sex education and instruction with initiation (during seclusion period) is described for boys (Stannus and Davey, 1913)[3]. Bride and groom are formally instructed at the time of the wedding rituals (Ngwane, 1959)[4]. In Msondo (Nsondo), the Islamic version of the former Chiputu, girls of age ten were given sexual education to prepare her for married life (Msiska, 1995:p72)[5]. During Jando, the Islam substitute for the former Lupanda, boys were said to be “thoroughly enlightened as to sexual relations” (Johnston, 1897:p409, as cited by Msiska, p77). According to the latter, this “included not only sexual techniques, but also instructions to be followed, for example, when a woman is menstruating”.



Additional reading:


§         Bulala, Annie F., "Litiwo, the Yao Rite of Passage in Michesi village in Mangochi District", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba. 1987, 13pp. Ways of conducting litiwo, rituals involved, customs and beliefs associated with it among the Yao of Michesi village in Mangochi district.

§         Butawo, Thokozani O.S., "Rites of Passage - Puberty Rites - Boys' Initiation - Jando among the Yao", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba, 1992, 14pp. A summary of the jando ritual of boys from the start to its end with particular emphasis on songs and their meanings, local terms used and various duties of leaders throughout the jando ceremony.

§         Chatha, Ivy, "Tsimba, a Girl Initiation Ceremony among the Yao of Nsusa village, T.A. Kapeni, Blantyre", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba, n.d., 17pp. Discusses the procedures followed and the instructions given during the tsimba Yao initiation rite.

§         Jakalasi, L. Walter, "Jando: A Yao Initiation Rite as Practised in Tradi tional Authority Maganga in Salima District", research paper, Chancel lor College, Zomba, 1988, 12pp. Discusses the role of jando initiation rites among the Yao, with particular reference to their role in preparing boys to be responsible fathers in future.

§         Kachinga, Rose, "Activities Carried out before, during and after the Nsondo Initiation among the Yao", research paper, Chancellor College, Zomba, 1988, 15pp. An outline and analysis of Yao customs and practices in respect of girls' initiation, known as nsondo.

§         Kataika, Raymond, "Initiation among Yao Boys: Implications for Catholic Yao", Diploma in Theology dissertation, University of Malawi, 1994, 21pp. Discusses the procedures and social function of initiation among the Yao and considers its bearing on Catholic pastoral practice.

§         Kishindo, Monica F., "Changes in Initiation Ceremonies among the Yao as a Result of Modern Attitudes", research paper, Department of Sociol ogy, ChancellorCollege, Zomba, 1969/70, pp. 192-214. An investigation of ways in which Yao initiation rites have changed through expo sure to Western influences.

§         Kubik, Gerhard, "BoysCircumcisionSchool of the Yao, Malawi, South east Africa", Ethnologie, Vol. 1 (1979), pp. 3-19

§         Kubik, Gerhard, "Boys' CircumcisionSchool of the Yao: A Cinematographic Documentation at Chief Makanjila's Village in Malawi', Review of Ethnology, 1967, pp. 1-37.

§         Matupa, Lawson, "Jando Ritual among the Yao of Kanache Village, T.A. Malemia in Zomba District", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba. 1989, 22pp. A discussion of preparatory tasks, procedures and instructions in regard to jando initiation ceremonies.

§         Mpando, D.B.K., "The Jando Initiation Rite among the Yao", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba, 1988, 21pp. Jando, the boys' initiation rite, as it is carried out by the Muslim Yao in Chiendausiku vil lage in Machinga district.

§         Msiska, Augustine W.C., "Towards a Cultural History of Malawi: the Case of Colonialism and Yao Initiation Rights in Southern Malawi, 1891-1961", MA, University of Malawi, 1992, 179pp. Examines the interaction of Yao society with British colonial rule and notes ways in which political and economic changes influenced culture, as evidenced in beliefs, rituals, music and dance, arts and drama, language and religious beliefs. MAL DT 3192 .Y36 MSI

§         Phiri, A. Thomas, "Initiation Rites among the Yao of Manjombe Village in Chiradzulu", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba, 1982, 22pp. Discusses various initiation rites like jando, msondo, litiwo, lupanda, chiputu, ndakula among the Yao of Manjombe village in Chiradzulu.

§         Sungani, Linley, "Chiputu or Simba - Initiation for Young Girls", research paper, ChancellorCollege, Zomba, 1986, 26pp. Attempts to discuss chiputu initiation rite in detail, indicating its procedures and counsel given.

§         Abigail Stamm, Yao initiation (Malawi). Online notes, 29 Sep 2001, http://www.oswego.edu/~stamm/abby/abby-y.htm

§         Forster, Peter G. (2001) AIDS in Malawi: contemporary discourse and cultural continuities, African Studies 60,2:245-61









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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Mitchell, J. C., Marriage among the Machinga Yao of Southern Nyasaland. Ref. by Mair (1953:p88), op.cit.

[2] Mair, L. (1951) A Yao girl’s initiation, Man 51(98):60-3

[3] Stannus, H. S. & Davey, J. B. (1913) The initiation ceremony for boys among the Yao of Nyasaland, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 43:119-23

[4] Ngwane, H. D. (1959) Some aspects of marriage in peri-urban villages: Blanyre-Limbe, Rhodes-Livingstone Instit Commun 17:23-33

[5] Msiska, Au. (1995) The spread of Islam in Malawi and its impact on Yao rites of passage, 1870-1960, Soc Malawi J 48,1:49-86