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Mijikenda Circumcision, Marriage, Harvest and Prayer for Rain

Interviewer:how was the circumcision conducted during the old days, “your days?”

Mzee Rajab:
Circumcision was a big celebration just like weddings or Edd celebrations in or communities. Children boys from seven or more families within the family or the neighbourhood are identified, the family then puts the heads together to organize for the celebration and the date. Each family will then contribute animals to be slaughtered or grains e.g. rice for the big day.

Interviewer:How old were the boys when they were circumcised?

Mzee Rajab:
 the boys were circumcised between the ages of 4 – 10 years

who circumcised the boys and where exactly does it take place inside the house?

Mzee Rajab:The circumcision took place in a forest like place very early in the morning, 4am and it is done by a traditional professional doctor well known to the community. The traditional doctor is always identified by his way of dressing, and would be carrying a small bag containing his charms and traditional medicine.  Once he has  Circumcised, he would then apply the medicine to the wound to stop blood from oozing out and for the wound to heal soon.

Interviewer: Where wound the boys stay after the circumcision takes place?

Mzee Rajab:during planning and organizing the family agreed upon themselves on where the boys will stay during the healing period, preferably a big house distance from the daily activities and crowded places.  The boys are taken care by the big boys in the family, they are also allowed to play but inside the house with their age mates.

During the healing period the families would contribute and share all the expenses ranging from basic needs, food etc. the boys would be taught many things; one of the teaching  is to  respect and obey  their  elders, to hunt for birds, small animal ,  preparing the tools e.g. Bladder.  Their duties and responsibility at home is to take care of the security.

Interviewer:how long did the boys take to heal?

Mzee Rajab:the boys would take 2 -3 weeks before they heal properly however most of the time it depends with the wound, and individual.

Interviewer:    How often would the traditional doctor visit the circumcise boys?

Mzee Rajab:The traditional doctor would come after every four days to clean
The wound, not unless there is a special case and urgent then he would be called up on to attend.

Interviewer:Mzee Rajab when the boys come out do you has any special ceremony? Do you celebrate their coming out? And if yes how is it celebrated?

Mzee Rajab:to be precise yes the celebration is even much bigger this time, the boys are bought new out fits , kanzus, on the big day, in the morning a maalim/sheikh would be called up on to (zunguwa) pray for the boys well being by reciting the sura’s in the Holy Quraan eg Alfatiha, Falak, Nas, Ahad and Yassin dua’s will also be recited. All these is to prevent the boys from any harm, bad eyes, evil eye , hassad, etc. It would then followed by Matwari and qaswida  praising Allah S.W.  (PBUH) and his Prophet S.A.W (PBUH). DRING THE OCCATION THE FAMILY WOLD ALSO READ HITIMA (PRAY AND REMEMBER THOSE WHO HAVE DIED IN THE FAMILY BY PRAYING TO THEM AND GIVING SADAKA”

During this occasion animals would be slaughtered and food will be in plenty because all the family members are invited the neighbours and friends to the celebration.

The two hours interview ended p with the old man giving a story based on his own experience during the circumcision. Mzee Rajab is approaching approximately 75 years but despite the fact that many, many years have past since the event took place the memory in him is still fresh like it just happened yesterday, the pain he felt was so severe that it is hard to explain, the pain that even with the age he is now, its still difficult to explain.

“Mzee Rajab said; I was circumcised together with my two cousins, we were all Muhala’s family, and age mates of 8 – 9 years. Being a well known family and my father being the area chief, the occasion was celebrated by the entire village. They sang, danced and ate the whole night as per the custom.

In the morning 4am it was still cold and chilly outside, I was the first one to be led out to the bush a distance from home and the celebration.  We reached a point where we no longer hear the noise, very quiet.   in a dramatic move and within a blink of an eye I found myself hold up in fixed position that I cold not even help myself or even move my entire body. The remaining place was my mouth but even with all the noise I made no one heard me due to the distance, it was well calculated by the operators. The man who holds me up to be circumcised was so experienced that within 10 – 15 minutes the operation was over.  I was then left loose and a piece of kanga raped around my neck (kishingo shingo) I was then asked to walked back home.  “a man” Interestingly after the operation you are not thought or guided on how to walk, in fact it just happened automatic “Mzee Rajab demonstrate the walking style and sitting position” (laughter) WIHOUT GUIDANCE AND HELP YOU WILL WALK LEGS APART AND YOU WILL ALSO SIT IN A POSITION NOT TO WOUND YORSELF”  (nakila kijitonesha ni bora zaidi” you  experience the pain of being a man “ true to the saying that experience is the best teacher”



Mzee Rajabu is one of the Mijikeda’s nine tribes at the Coast Province. As said in the circumcision article, the family moved from the South Coast or to be precise Kilindini to settle in the North Coast a place called Junju. Mzee Rajabu is mziwani by tribe and he got married to a mjibana, she too is among the mijikenda tribe from the North Coast.

Child Naming is not a big ceremony however a small ceremony witnessed by a few relatives and children from the neighbourhood.  The naming of the baby is done during the third day the new born baby sweets/ bisi/biscuits is distributed to the children as “Sadaka” The Baby “ana zunguliwa” to wish him/her well being and to be protected from the evil eye and Hasaadi.

Mzee Rajabu continues to say naming of the child in Mijikenda is done in two, three ways;

  1. A child is given a name while still in the womb by a relative; for example the auntie would want the baby to be named her if it would be a female, and if it turns out to be a male he should be called after his husband. (Kutunikiwa) if no objection from other members of the family then the naming would be through.
  2. If it turns out that some of the family members objected and proposed other names; then pieces of papers would be written all the names proposed by the relatives present during the naming ceremony, and then children would be called up on to pick each a piece of paper, the exercise is repeated three times, and the name that would be picked three times would be the name given to the new born child.
  3. The exercise is practiced to avoid gossip, favours’, etc. That can harm the baby.
  4. Another way of naming is if a relative happens to pop up in the house before the 3rd day and name the new born baby it’s accepted.


Marriage in Mijikenda according to Mzee Rajabu Muhala was not an expensive affair as
It is now days.  Those days marriage was arrange by parents, relatives and elders.

  • 1st Step:Parents identify the girl from a family with good history and reputation
  • 2nd Step:The family would then send an investigator, to gather all the information related to the family identified, e.g. their tribe, relatives, clan, etc
  • 3rd Step:The son parents would then send a word to the girl’s parents that they would pay them a visit on the arranged date.
  • 4th Step:The son parents would then pay a visit to the girl’s parents accompanied by relatives and respected elders in the society to propose to the girl (kutafuta jiko) Kuposa


At the bridegroom house the in laws to be would be very busy preparing for the day, proposal day is usually the important part in marriage life. The bridegroom parents would also inform their families and elders in the community to attend the occasion.

Usual the occasion is marked with songs, food prepared for the grooms family and other visitors. The elders would then sit down to talk on the proposal and the things that are mostly talked about are:

  • Kilemba ya baba(money given to old man to appreciate his upbringing of bride groom  a way to say thanks. However  before,  it used to be very little money compare to now days ,  Kilemba ya baba is very expensive and goes up to ksh 20,000/=
  • Maziwa ya mama(this is also money given to the girl’s mother to appreciate her and a small thank you, but this has also gone up maziwa ya mama now days is around ksh. 15,000 – 20,000 Thousand or even more.
  • Mahari:Mahari is the bride grooms  dowry and according to Mzee Rajabu Mahari those days used to be 3 – 4 goats and it’s taken to the bride groom parents. Compare to now days mahari is very expensive affair

Interview Taken on 7TH AUGUST, 2012 at Kongowea – Pemba Ndogo
Interviewer – Fatma Mansoor
Interviewed – Rajab Muhala

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