MAKONDE Information

Location: Tanzania, Mozambique
Population: n/a
Language: Makonde (Bantu)
Neighbors: Mwera, Makua, Mabia
Types of Art: The Makonde are known as master carvers throughout East Africa, and their statuary can be found being sold in tourist markets and in museums alike.
History: The Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique are separarted by the Rovuma River and are culturally distinct. Immigration from Mozambique to Tanzania has resulted in a blurring of ethnic identities and a sharing of certain ideas. Because of the relative isolation of their homeland, the first contacts with Europeans did not occur until 1910, and then they were very sporadic. The coastal location of the Makonde, however, indicates that they were involved with Swahili slave traders for centuries. Recently, enclaves of Makonde have developed on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam and of Kambia in Kenya, although they seem to limit their interaction with outsiders, preferring to identify with their own cultural traditions.
Economy: In the traditional homelands of the Makonde the primary source of food comes from slash and burn farming. Crops include maize, sorghum, and cassava. This is often supplemented by hunting. Carving for the tourist trade has become a major industry for Makonde artists along the coast and near the cities.
Political Systems: Individual settlements recognize a headman who has inherited his position matrilineally, based on his family's position of power within the community. There is no ruler of all the Makonde peoples, as each village maintains a certain degree of independence.
Religion: The Makonde have retained their traditional religion despite centuries of influence by Islamic traders. Their practices center around the celebration and remembrance of the ancestors.
Credit: McIntyre, L. Lee and Christopher D. Roy. 'Art and Life in Africa Online.' 1998: The Art and Life in Africa Project,