Who Are the Nahara?
The word „Nahara“, from Emakuwah Enahara, translates into „fisher“. This epithet reflects their identity. The Nahara live in rural communities right on the coast of Northern Mozambique. Catching fish is their most important occupation. Even those inhabitants who do not work as fishers but whose ancestors were raised near the coast see themselves as Nahara. This self-conception clearly distinguishes them from other Makhuwa living further inland. There are clear ethnic and cultural differences. The Nahara are prouder than other Bantu peoples and quite blunt by African standards. They are extremely conservative and suspicious towards change of any kind. However, they are also dishonest and do not trust each other easily. They tend to keep to themselves and rarely form friendships with outsiders or “incomers“ from other ethnic groups.
The cultural center of the Nahara is located on the Ilha de Moçambique, the island after which the country was named. In addition there are the subcenters of Mossuril, Naca, Nacala-a-Velha, and Memba.
The Ilha was at one time firmly in Arab hands. This century-old Arab influence has certainly contributed to what being Nahara means today. The Nahara are deeply rooted in Islam, although many are unfamiliar with the details of Islamic doctrine. The Muslim identity of the Nahara is so strong that nearly no local Christian churches have yet been able to integrate the Nahara into their congregations. Makhuwa churches do exist in the immediate vicinity of Nahara settlements, but most of these churches have not yet found a way to reach the hearts of the Nahara.
As in other regions of Africa, Islam and animist practices are closely intertwined. While Muslim leaders renounce spiritualism, associated practices still play a significant role in people’s daily lives. Such practices include certain rituals after funerals or before building a house, ancestor worship, and divination. Apart from traditional kings, there are eight different types of diviners, specializing in either healings, protection, as well as wind, rain, and harvest prayers or the cursing of enemies.
Within the Islamic community, there are there are two streams: the „Casacos“ and the „Escudos“.
Education and Society
The areas in which the Makhuwa Nahara live are among those with the lowest educational level in Mozambique. There are some elementary schools, and in a few centers there are even secondary schools. Nonetheless, most men and almost all women are illiterate. The problem is not primarily the lack of educational facilities: in addition to the poor quality of teaching methods, the attitude of the people is the problem. The Nahara see no value in education and thus often fail to take advantage of the educational programs in existence. They prefer a simple lifestyle and do not mind being dependent on others who are more educated and can solve their problems for them.
It thus comes as no surprise that unemployment is extremely high among the Nahara. Traditionally people work as fishers or till their own fields („machamba“ - mostly to plant manioc - yuca). Today some work in trade, and a few are self-taught craftsmen („Mestres“) or guards.
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