Ethnic Makua woman from Cabo Delgado in Mozambique

Ethnic Makua woman from Cabo Delgado in Mozambique

Ethnic Makua woman from Cabo Delgado in Mozambique sitting down in front of her house with her traditional Makua white musiro facial "mask" of beautification. Photographed in Mozambique in 2008.

The Makua or Makhua also known as Makhuwa-Meetto, Macua, Emeto, Amakhua, Makhuwa-Shirima, Medo, Wamakua etc are Bantu-speaking African and the largest ethnic group in Mozambique, and also have a large population across the border in the Masasi District of Mtwara Region in southern Tanzania. The Makua or Macua are well known for holding tight to their traditional African worship and their unique white "musiro" facial mask.

The Makhuas live in an extensive area that covers the northern parts of Mozambique and includes the Cabo Delgado, Niassa, Zambézia and Nampula provinces. This area stretces from the Rovuma river in the North to the Licungo river in the South (in the vicinity of the Zambezi river) and from the Indian Ocean in the East to the Lugenda river in the West. As far as the Maúa district is concerned, it forms part of Northern Niassa and covers an area of approximately 10 000km2 .
There is no uniformity amongst the few sources available when it comes to the population numbers of the Makhuas. According to Africa South of the Sahara 2001 (789, 805), the population of Mozambique in 2000 was 17 242 240. The biggest ethno-linguistic group is the Makhua-Lomwe group which comprises about 40 percent of the total population. Moseley & Asher (1924: 296) estimate the Makhua-Lomwe speakers to be in the vicinity of 7,653,000. Dalby (1998: 386) is of opinion that there are about 3,500,000 of these that speak Makhua ( as opposed to Lomwe speakers). The Pittman & Grimes Ethnologue of 2000 estimates that there are approximately 900 000 Makhua Xirima speakers. This is definitely an over estimation. There are probably not more than 300 000 Makhua Xirima speakers.
Other Makua people were known to be residing in South Africa in a Durban city called Bluff. However, due to the Group Areas Act, they were forcibly removed from Bluff and settled in Bayview, Chatsworth, Durban in 1960. Although the majority of the Amakua people in South Africa were settled in Bayview, some live in Wentworth, Marianhill, Marianridge, Umlazi, Newlands East and West, Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Makua people in South Africa are mostly Muslims.

The Makua/emakhua is a Niger-Congo or Bantu language is predominantly spoken among the people, alongside Afrikaans and Zulu (in South Africa), Portuguese in Mozambique, some Swahili by the elders of the community but still spoken by many on the Tanzania-Mozambican border, and English in South Africa and Tanzania. According to Newitt (1995: 62 – 63) the distinctive Makhua dialects originated from one Makhua language that was spoken about a thousand years ago. “The Makua language is now spoken in dialects sufficiently distinct to suggest that a thousand years may have passed since the break-up of the original Makua speaking group”. There are no clear answers as to the etymology of the word “Makhua” . Hypotheses vary from “savages” (thus a non Makhua term ascribed to them from the outside) to “person who yell” (okhuwa/okhuwela means to yell or shout for joy) to “those who come from Goa” (thus “MaKoa”). According to Prata (1960: 3) the most plausible solution is found in the word “nikhuwa” which probably comes from nikuwa and which means “an extensive desolate marshland” or even “jungle”.
The history of the Makhua Xirima and its language family can be described as follows (2000

BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah

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