The Makua of Mozambique consider marriage as a divine institution leading to the fulfillment of the Supreme Being’s plan for man. Researchers who have delved into the history of this community say it explains why the Makua people place a lot of premium on the birth of a girl child.
Once a girl is born, the mother is obliged to ensure that she stays chaste until marriage. A girl who gets pregnant before marriage is considered an outcast.
But for the advent of Western influence and modernity, the Makua do not marry outside their tribe. It is considered taboo, according to researcher Kweku Dee. In the Makua tradition, men do not pay bride price before they marry a woman because it is believed that by doing so, a price tag has been placed on the woman.
Also, beauty is not a metric in choosing a woman as a life partner in the Makua customs. What a man and his family look out for is the character of the woman, her family history and her background. Once he is satisfied, he informs his family who in turn weigh his financial capabilities to take care of a family.
Once the head of the family or father approves their son is eligible for marriage, they inform friends and family of his intention to settle down. The father makes contact with the girl’s family and a date is set to formalize the union.
The groom-to-be is escorted by his family and friends to his in-laws’ home to initiate the process of settling down with the woman. This intention is communicated in proverbs by an elderly person following the delegation. Once the message is decoded by the girl’s family, they serve them food and invite the bride-to-be.
The father asks his daughter whether she is interested in the groom. If she agrees to the marriage, a bride price is taken. If she rejects the groom, the man is given a place to sleep and is expected to return home the next day.
The Makua are the largest ethnic group in Mozambique and are part of the Bantu-speaking tribes of Central Africa. Oral tradition traces their migration to the first five centuries AD. Researchers say they first settled in the Northern part of Mozambique where the lands were good for farming and close to the water bodies.
The Makua joined forces on the basis of trade and protection against raids during the Arab invasion. They formed alliances called confederations to strengthen their defenses and shocks against external aggression.
Interactions with the Arabs in the years ahead however improved the agricultural technology of the Makua as well as their economic growth as they controlled the ivory trade. When the Portuguese arrived in Mozambique in the 15th century, they were not able to dominate the Makua tribe because of this defense mechanism they put in place.