ATH 346-01

Dawlat Zinjibar (Zanzibar)

  • Mwaka Kogwa: calendrical rite/ritual of passage
  • Uses Islamic calendar (based on 28-day moon cycles, 355 days)
  • Eids celebrated in every part of year, dates shift 10 days earlier each year
  • No leap year as in solar calendars
  • Iran, Afghan, Kazakh etc. use solar
  • Nawruz (Persian new year, Mar.21, seasonal passage)
  • Zanz. solar calendar “borrowed” from Persia?
  • Shirazi: sailors, brought calendar from Persia
  • E. Africa & Persian new years not concurrent
  • when new year moves too far from Mar 21, calendar was adjusted by Persian astronomers
  • E. Africa: possibly no astronomers to make adjustments for drift
  • possible start date: 959AD, calculated by date retrogression to assign on Mar21
  • festival mainly concentrated near Zanzibar island and coastal area
    • Washing/ceremonial cleansing to start new year
    • teachers paid for children’s lessons during Mwaka
    • teacher seen as community’s responsibility, regardless if children in school
  • children go around village to raise funds for the school – “swords, shields, pens”
  • likely spread from N to S along coast of Africa
  • Tani bin-Ali (before 1840?)
  • Mwaka has 5 “organizer” families, 4 are shrine-keepers (ex: take care of rain spirits, etc)
  • divination practiced with Muslim overtones
  • “Medicine of the Year”
    • to remove “witches,” malign spirits, etc
  • week before, shrine-keepers all meet and plan public aspects of Mwaka festival

Day of festival

  • at sunrise, bathe in the sea (most traditional)
  • Children’s “Siletu, siletu” poem, asking alms for teacher
  • public celebration at KaipuMwakani is “place of new year”
    • cleared agricultural field after harvest
  • Njiti tree – oldest tree in village, part of festival
    • legend says people climbed this tree to see smoke from unknown neighboring village
    • war only permitted once per year, Mwaka created as part of truce system
    • re-enacts the battles between N and S
    • men use banana-branch combat between villages
    • women participate, mocking the men (may be extremely vulgar)
    • cultural norms essentially suspended during transitional time
  • others praying at shrines during field festivals
  • Muslim devil living in spriti shrine/mini-mosque
  • participants repair and renew damaged, old portions of shrines for new year
  • police clear path to 5th shrine, where woman is descendant of Shahah; “queen of Mwaka”
  • beginning 1952 – official gov’t guests come to Mwaka and give regards to queen
  • 5th group of families build hut in West of village
    • volunteers say prayers inside while others build hut
    • all participants circle hut 7 times, then set it on fire
    • people inside leave negative influences inside hut to burn
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