google-site-verification: googlea104b15742cb888b.html

User Login

27

January
2017
mwakakogwa1

Festival: MWAKA KOGWA, Zanzibar

Settling Scores with Banana Stems!

The ushering in of a New Year in many parts of the world is often marked with great fanfare and festivities as the people look forward with excitement and great expectations that the coming year will be a lot better than the previous one. These festivals usually feature music, dancing, colorful processions of brightly adorned people and floats, and spectacular firework displays lighting up the nights. The first of January is not necessarily New Year day everywhere in the world. Different cultures and peoples celebrate New Year on days that fall within different months of the widely used and recognized Gregorian calendar. This is what the Festival MWAKA KOGWA of Zanzibar is all about.

Mwaka Kogwa: Get ready for the beating of your life!

Mwaka_Kogwa_Mwaka_Kogwa-21

Between July and August, is a feisty festival of Shirazi heritage that commemorates Nayrouz – the Persian New Year in Zanzibar. Historically, the Shirazis were the first set of non-Africans to settle in Zanzibar and over time aspects of their culture have been absorbed and given localized names by the native Swahilis. One of such is the Mwaka Kogwa.

Usually lasting about four days, Mwaka Kogwa festival is celebrated in most parts of Zanzibar. However, the most enthusiastic and elaborate displays of the ancient ceremony takes place in Makunduchi, a little town on the southeastern tip of Unguja (Zanzibar Island). From all over Tanzania, people flock in to see this unique celebration where the people whip each other with banana stems

Settling Feuds

Several rituals are held to ease out the old year while ushering in the new one, however the highlight and the most exciting event occurs on the first day the festival. At about 11:00hours, the action starts in Kae Kuu, a large open space in the center of town. Wielding banana stems, which have long replaced the cudgels and sticks which were used in the ancient times, a pair of brothers from the northern end will engage a southern pair in physical combat, thrashing each other.

Mwako-Kogwa-festiva6

No referees are involved in the contest, while the rules are loose and flexible. For one to be declared winner, his opponent must raise both hands in surrender. Usually, supporters of both side get involved in the contest, as it is believed that it affords everyone the chance to exorcise and purge themselves of the misgivings and acrimonies toward each other of the outgoing year. This they believe helps to usher in the New Year on a clean and fresh slate.

During the ‘combat’ which involves only the male, the women who are all nicely attired in their beautiful dresses move about the fields singing in the local dialect and taunting the men. They say things like: “If you do not buy me a piece of cloth, you don’t get to make love to me.” Although the men usually never respond, it has changed in recent times when they riposte with: “We don’t want you anymore. We prefer the city women who are available everywhere we put our foot.”

 

mwakakogwa3

As the context draws to an end with almost all the contestants tiring out, a small pyramid shaped thatch hut is built at the eastern end of Kae Kuu. A local magician enters in and the hut is set ablaze. As the fire grows, the magician rushes out unscathed into a nearby bush, while the people extinguish the flames. This signifies that if fire breaks out in anyone’s house in the New Year, there will be no loss of life.

mwaka-kogwa-5

Banquet, Music, Dancing all Night Long…

With the day activities done, the folks go home to prepare a feast and a banquet is held in the open with everyone participating, strangers included. At evening time, Koba ground becomes the gathering spot as everyone arrives all beautifully dressed. Dancing goes on late into the night with music ranging from traditional songs to disco, while others carry the fun down to the nearby beach… Now that is something to look forward to when you touchdown in Zanzibar!

Mwaka_Kogwa_Mwaka_Kogwa-02
Niyi David

Niyi David

Creative Writer
'Niyi David explores the beautiful and enthralling continent of Africa with Afro Tourism® capturing colorful memories of places, cultures and events in words and images.
Niyi David
Niyi David
Niyi David

Latest posts by Niyi David (see all)

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone
africa Africanfood Afro Tourism City Icon East Africa Festivals holidays Island Memories recipe wednesday South Africa Southern Africa top destination travel stories West Africa

Recent Posts

Archives

MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
2627282930  
       
1234567
22232425262728
293031    
       
     12
3456789
       
  12345
       
  12345
2728     
       
      1
2345678
3031     
   1234
567891011
       
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
282930    
       
     12
3456789
10111213141516
31      
   1234
       
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
       
    123
45678910
11121314151617
       
  12345
6789101112
20212223242526
27282930   
       
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
    123
45678910
18192021222324
252627282930 
       
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   
       
15161718192021
22232425262728
29      
       
    123
45678910
18192021222324
       
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
28293031   
       
      1
2345678
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
262728293031 
       
 123456
21222324252627
282930    
       
     12
3456789
10111213141516
24252627282930
31      
  12345
13141516171819
2728293031  
       
891011121314
2930     
       
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
       
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   
       
      1
2345678
9101112131415
23242526272829
3031     
      1
9101112131415
16171819202122
232425262728 
       
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
262728293031 
       
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
       
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
       
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031