Further Reading (continuation)

Relationships

The Makhuwa Nahara are a matrilineal society - descent is traced through the mothers. The typical western nuclear family does not exist. Rather, polygamous family structures are the societal norm. The central family entity is made up of a mother and her children. When a man „marries“, he builds a mud hut. When he decides to leave, the wife may keep the hut. Because women choose to stay abstinent for two years after giving birth but the same period of abstinence would be unthinkable for a man living in this over-sexualized society, many men take more wives. Relationship constellations ensue in which the man moves back and forth between the homes of his multiple families.

As fathers are consequently not seen as reliably present members of one family, another man becomes the important paternal figure: the uncle (on the mother’s side). He is consulted in every important decision. Many men by the way have closer relationships with their male friends than with their wives.

The meaning of friendship in Makhuwa culture is different from our western understanding of friendship. Having friends is much more significant as friendships constitute a person’s (material) support system. Instead of stressing the emotional value of friends and finding those with similar leisure interests, the question to ask is: what is the material benefit of this relationship?

History and Recent Developments

The War of Independence and the civil war and mass dislocations (up to 1992) that followed have upset the country's ethnographic landscape. The Nahara now no longer live in isolation from other ethnic groups. Many people of other ethnicities have settled on Nahara territory. For example, many Mainland Makhuwa and Mozambicans from other provinces now reside in the district of Memba.

From the time of the civil war and up to now the Nahara have tended to side with the opposition. This is one reason the government could not be persuaded to designate Nahara territory as a focus for development.

As is true for many other people groups, the 21st century is bringing change to the Nahara with a force that is threatening to erode traditional ways of life. At the end of the 1930s, construction of the harbor in nearby Nacala began. Since then the Nacala region has transformed into an economic center. Although Nacala itself is not Nahara territory, some Nahara have left their fishing villages to seek their fortunes in Nacala or the provincial capital Nampula.

Currently another large-scale project is underway. A coalfield was discovered in the province of Tete, and a new port is now under construction in Nacala-a-Velha, a Nahara area, from where the coal will be exported in the future. The result has been a massive influx of foreign business people along with the opening of supermarkets, also in Nacala. At the moment, most fishing villages are unaffected by these events. No one knows, however, what the impact of these developments will be in the years ahead. Most families already own a cell phone - and merchants returning from the cities may introduce Nahara villagers to various new technologies.



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