The Tribe of Mijikenda And Their Culture

The Tribe of Mijikenda And Their Culture

Mijikenda is a Bantu tribe spread along Kenyan coast and with nine sub-tribes speaking related dialect. It was also called Nyika tribe before meaning people of the bush. ‘Miji’ homesteads, ‘kenda’ nine. This simply means nine tribes originating from same ancestors but speaking different dialects of their language. The nine tribes include the Giriama, Digo, Kauma, Duruma, Jibana, Chonyi, Kambe, Rabai and Ribe with Giriama and Digo being the most famous.

The Mijikenda tribe is known to have originated from southern Somalia following continous attacks by the Oromo and Cushite tribes. This forced them to settle around the ridges in the Kenyan coast where they could easily defend themselves. They have with time interacted with the coastal traders including the porguguese, the Arabs and Persian people leading to intermarriages. This gave birth to the different diarects that made the mijikenda language. Their language has is a mix of Swahili and the Arabs.


Medicine Man performing his rituals

Traditionally the Mijikenda tribe has its strengths in clans and age recognitions. A clan has its groups of families connected to one ancestor. Each clan lived in a separate cleared area in ridges surrounded by thick trees. Each person was given a role and respected according to their age. For clan members to graduate from one age level to another, there were ceremonial rituals conducted.

Each clan also had its own place of worship that was sacred for prayer, sacrifices and religious occasions. The sacred places were called Kayas. It was taboo to clear trees around the kayas and even vegetation around them. The old men belonging to the tribes were known to posses powers and believed they had the powers to make rains.

giriama local dancer

A Giriama Dancer ready with musical drums to entertain guests

Most Mijikenda people are either Christians or Muslims. They have transformed their culture to modern practices making it to slowly disappear. There are however some who still practice the their traditional customs mixing it with Christianity or Islamic religions. The Digo people are more of Muslim than any other Mijikenda tribe.

Mijikenda’s main activity is Agriculture with most of them farming coconut trees as cash crop. The coconut palm is known for its oil extractions and wine. Their leaves are used for roofing purposes, Weaving baskets mats brooms and other products. They also farm cashew nuts, mangos, oranges pawpaw. They also food crops like sorghum, beans, millet and maize where conditions allow. Fishing in the Indian ocean is also a big activity among the Mijikendas supplying fish to most coastal hotels and as well as the residents.


Palm wine

Local tourists sampling palm wine

Wali (rice cooked with coconut milk) is a staple food popularly known to dominate the Diigo tribe who are considered as one of the best cooks in among the Kenyan tribes. They also eat sea food as part of their lifestyle.

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