Unique Traditional Marriage Customs of Ngoni Tribe in East central Africa


Ngoni(Nguni) is ethnic group found mostly in East central Africa in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The Ngoni are a small group of the Zulu of Kwa Zulu natal in South Africa.


It is believed that the Ngoni were once existed as part of the feared Zulu empire found in the southeast coastlands of South Africa, who speaks the same languages and share nearly the same aspects of culture including been brutal in war.

The Ngoni viewed marriage as way of continuity for their society, social penetration, ethnic cohesion and perseveration of distinct culture as well as a wealth distribution system where each family was able to provide adequately for itself. 

The Ngoni has numerous practices which connect or leads to marriage, like kuchotsa mafuta (where a young woman had sex with an older man to open her up before marriage) or kupambawira(where the family of a girl gives her away as payment for some debt). Virginity is valued by Ngoni in as much it will bring praise and more cattle to the father of the bride.

Marriage customs/rites among the Ngoni
Marriage is between two mature people of the opposite sex; the Ngoni people do not practice same sex marriage. They are only married out when they are matured, the age of marriage was attained when a girl reached maturity (experienced her first period) and when a boy had his first nocturnal emission. Afterwards, Several rites were then performed to transcend the child to adulthood. 

When a man finds a woman he will like to marry, he tells his mother or an elderly woman in his family, who then relate the issue to his father. The man’s family will send out an investigating team to look into girl’s family. The Ngoni is an Exogamous society, therefore, it’s an abomination to marry anybody related to them.

Hence, if the outcome of the search is okay (the girl may come from an honorable family or not related by blood). Words are sent to the girl’s family notifying them of an intending suitor. The notification will be made to the bride-to-be mother who would in turn inform the whole family of a pending suitor.

Marriage among the Ngoni begins with payment of the lobola, (bride price). The Ngoni ethnic group are herding communities, their livelihood including the bride price during marriages, revolved around cattle. Therefore, the lobola (bride price) was paid in terms of livestock.
The Ngoni are also a classified type of communities, ranked among have and have not. The bride price is dependent on the status of the girl’s father. If they were socially higher in the ladder, then more would be expected of the suitor.

The two family appoints a negotiator who serves as an agent of the family, their job is to protect the interest of the family that they represent during the bride price negotiation. The marriage negotiation carried out by the agents of the two families usually last about a week, when the bride price is agreed upon and paid, the ceremony would be conducted.

The wedding ceremonies with the Ngoni is marked with colourful attires, dance and music. The bride is presented to her husband; they will dance together insight of all and perform the marriage rites together. Gift items will be given to the new bride to start up her new family.

Prayers are offered to the gods and blessing showered on the new couple before the bride will be transferred to her new family. The marriage rites of the Ngoni takes about 2 weeks to conclude.

Important fact about Ngoni marriage
1.Divorce was never considered possible for the woman but, the man had the option of divorcing his wife, so far he has a good reason for doing so.
2. Like many African communities, Ngoni are polygamous. The husband is allowed to marry more than one wife with a wide range of excuses varying from bareness of his wife, desiring peace of mind or as punishment to the existing wife(s) and sometimes as a way of prestige.

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