Nyamwezi and Sukuma - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Local forms of marriage fall into two main classes, marriage with bride-wealth and marriage without bride-wealth. In bride-wealth marriage, a husband customarily acquires full rights over the children his wife bears. He should receive bride-wealth for his daughters and provide it for his sons, and his children should inherit from him. He also has customary rights to compensation for his wife's adultery. Adultery is still an offense if no bride-wealth has been given, but compensation is not customarily paid. Rights over children of non-bride-wealth unions are mainly vested in maternal kin, unless the father makes redemption payments for them. These payments are larger for a daughter than for a son. The verb kukwa is used for these payments and also for paying bride-wealth. Bride-wealth marriage is more common in prosperous areas and times. The verb kutola is commonly used for both forms of marriage. A man "marries," and a woman "is married." Residence at marriage varies but is increasingly neolocal. Patrivirilocal residence is most common when bride-wealth is paid, but sons often move away eventually. Bride-service with initial uxorilocal residence is reported to have existed formerly among the Sukuma. Polygyny is a common male ambition, but polygynous marriages are relatively unstable. Many men have been polygynous, but, with the main exception of chiefs in the past, older men are less polygynous than those in their forties. More generally, divorce is frequent. Women's first marriages in which bride-wealth has been paid are the most stable.

Domestic Unit. Before the 1970s, homesteads sometimes contained a dozen or more people, although most were smaller. They commonly consisted of a man and his wife or wives, their resident children, and perhaps the spouse and the children of one or more of the resident children. Other close relatives of the head of the homestead might also be present. Homesteads were the largest units in which members of one sex regularly ate together. They contained one or more households that were distinct food-producing and child-rearing units. The household was the basic economic unit and the husband-wife relation was its key element. This has been reinforced in new compact village where each 0.4-hectare plot is assigned to a familia (modern Swahili) based on a couple and their children. Neighboring households collaborate in a wide range of activities.

Inheritance. Questions of inheritance are usually resolved within the families concerned. Customarily only sons of bride-wealth marriages, or redeemed sons, inherit the main forms of wealth. Such heirs should look after the needs of daughters. Sometimes one son looks after an inheritance for all his siblings. Unredeemed children are in a weak position; they may fail to inherit either from their father or from their mother's kin, whose own children may take precedence. Socialization.

Socialization takes place largely within the family and village. Ceremonies within a few days of birth symbolize a baby's future as a male or female member of society. Girls especially learn their gender roles quite early, through participation in household tasks. Boys help in herding and other work but have more free time than do girls during their teens. There are no formal age groups or ceremonies of initiation into adulthood. Primary schooling is now compulsory, but parents sometimes keep children from school if their labor is required. Training in citizenship is part of the school curriculum.


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