Nyamwezi and Sukuma - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. The main kin groups in the area were those vested with political office. Since independence, their importance has diminished, although they still provide valuable personal networks for their members. The groups were mainly based on descent from former chiefs and other officeholders. Officeholders were also a focus for sets of relatives who clustered around them. Some Sukuma classify themselves into "clans" defined in terms of their members' chiefdom of origin. For most people, kinship is important mainly for interpersonal relations. A person's kin are widely dispersed, and villages are not typically kinship units. The main structural elements of the kinship system are oppositions between male and female, senior and junior, and proximal and alternate generations. One notable feature of behavior between kin is the division between those with whom one is familiar or jokes, and those whom one "respects" or avoids. This runs partly along generation lines and is at its strongest between affines. Sexual difference is also a factor. Thus, brothers-inlaw joke with each other, and there is avoidance between a man and his daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. Known kin should not marry. A main determinant of people's status vis-àvis their kin is the form of their parents' marriage (see "Marriage").

Kinship Terminology. Some features of the kinship system are reflected in the Iroquoian kinship terminology used by the Nyamwezi, which distinguishes kin from affines, mother's kin from father's kin in proximal generations, cross cousins from siblings and ortho-cousins, and proximal from alternate generations. Parental and great-grandparental generations are merged, as are those of grandparents and great-great-grandparents. Similar patterns are followed in the terms for junior generations. Some puzzling Crow features (father's sister's son = father) have been reported for the traditional Sukuma terminology.


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