Birth, marriage and death in the Mukubal ethnic group

Birth, marriage and death in the Mukubal ethnic group
Birth, marriage and death in the Mukubal ethnic group

Africa-Press – Angola. First of all, in the recent past the late grande soba of Namibe, José Bunhy, the parties must communicate their intention to marry to the maternal and paternal families. For this intention to come to fruition, the applicant must own at least three heads of cattle and one of sheep.

The first two, designated “onthuinya” or “oyo nthuinya” and “namatuka”, are given to the bride’s father. Onthuinya, an adult ox, is for the father’s consumption and symbolizes all the parent’s commitment to raising and educating the girl. The second (namatuka), a calf, is used to, after being sold, pay for the porch of the young woman to be married.The third animal, “yokowina”, is given to the bride’s maternal family.

The then leader of the traditional authority clarified that “this is the only way for the groom to be recognized by the family of the woman he is going to marry”. the fulfillment of all this ritual so that the future couple can have harmony at home and their children are recognized by the bride’s family. It is (our) tradition and it must be followed to the letter”, stressed José Bunhy.

His successor, the current chief chief of the county seat of Moçâmedes, Bakulakô Tumanissa, also of the Mukubal ethnic group but originally from Makala Kapunda Matenda, on the outskirts of the same city, points out that in addition to three animals, as a general rule, more two. All because with the girl’s father still alive, the suitor must give four heads of cattle, of which two males and a boy to the progenitor, and the fourth to the family of the bride’s mother.

The fifth animal, the ram, is added to the feast on the part of the bridegroom, at the time of his wife’s search for home. As the girl is fatherless, it is up to her partner to give only three heads. This only happens in the first marriage in the life of the betrothed, explained the soba, revealing that in the event of a delay in the delivery of the animals, a tolerance of just one month is granted. And without the delivery of the animals, the children generated from this relationship, although supported by the father, in fact do not yet belong to him. “The lad must manage until he succeeds”.

The traditional authority has stated peremptorily that in their tradition, the mukubal marries at the age of 15 or 16, in the case of the girl, and the man at 20 or 21. “Even a girl can be sought at the age of ten and the man aged 20 or 21. This tradition continues to this day and it never stops.

As for the request for engagement, the father of the gentleman is in charge of the task of going to the bride’s family saying that he has a son who is in need of a lady. “We don’t get married for nothing, no. There’s the right person you go to so you can make the request for your son. Even without your consent to the future wife, he must obey, because it’s the order of the ancestors and the young man must comply with his father’s ordinance, because it is up to him to know the royal family with whom he must make a pact. This continues to this day “, underlined the grande soba, although he recognizes that, in the 21st century, “intrusive ”, infected by the winds of globalization, which has often violated the precepts left by our ancestors.

Ukoi Versus Inheritance

If someone is found with someone else’s wife (adultery), the offender must compensate the real husband, that is, the husband, by paying the fine (translation of ukoi, in the native Kuvale language) for breach of trust. This penalty consists of the payment of up to three heads of cattle to the legitimate husband. And in cases where a man cheats on someone else’s wife with the aim of keeping her, the fine is paid separately, and the legitimate husband is allowed to charge the cheater 15, 16 or 20 head of cattle, because he will give up his ” beloved wife”, because of the dishonor suffered, said the chief Bakulakô Tumanissa.

The obligation to give the required amount of cattle is indisputable. “In any case, the offender must unravel the matter for the fine imposed, in order to put an end to the humiliating provocation”, emphasized Bakulakô Tumanissa, “since flogging is prohibited”. The traditional authority added that it is not obligatory for the husband to cede to his wife because of adultery, as long as the adulterer complies with the compensation to end the conflict.

Soba Tumanissa told that, by chance, with the death of the parent and by the way the great cattle breeder, considered the highest wealth in the Mukubal ethnicity, in the customary regime, the inheritance is more for the nephews , considered the direct family, although it is accepted that other assets left by the father are shared by the children. “Everything else is handed over to the family, which are the nephews. It’s a nephew who will take care of your children and can’t be left without anything”, stressed the great soba, to later clarify that the orphans are controlled, that is, they stay under the custody of the deceased father’s heir and never of the mother’s relatives. The soba recalled that In the past, the widow stayed more than a year in the ex-husband’s family in the custody of the heir, enjoying part of the assets left by the deceased and only after that was handed over to her own family.

Funeral Ritual

“Without cattle, death cannot take place”, commented the chief Bakulakô Tumanissa, revealing that on these occasions 10, 15, 30 or more cattle are commonly sacrificed, preferably males of the livestock left by the deceased. “I have already witnessed a case in which 50 heads were slaughtered”.

The great soba said that there is not a mukubal without a head of cattle. “The mukubal, at any rate, must own cattle. And anyone who thinks that with the death of all those cattle, there is plenty of meat to fatten the kitchen, is wrong. The slaughtered cattle are thrown to the dogs, as a presupposition of the fulfillment of ancestral law”.

And if this tradition is not complied with, all the animals end up dying, explained the traditional authority, adding that when sweeping the ashes, on the day of the family sitting, a single sheep is slaughtered, to end with the death. At that time, an ox is also sacrificed for people to eat. The cows are only used for breeding, with the exception of the adult cow, already tired, which can be used for food. But only two can be killed at most.

In the tomb of a mukubal who was “well-to-do” there is a very curious symbology. shape of a cross, skulls with the horns of animals sacrificed to exalt the dead, symbolizing that man, while alive, sweated a lot to be able to gather his wealth in cattle.

“When the breeder dies, some of his animals are also killed. This represents the sweat of his work and the grave has to be beautiful, to display and show off to those who don’t know how to work. It also shows that ‘look at the businessman who worked hard to flaunt this great wealth’”.

And when someone from the same community dies, but who is not a Mukubal, he is buried in another place, said the chief Tumanissa, revealing that “not all those who roam around are of the Mukubal ethnicity, despite having the same approach in terms of use, they are differentiated in customary practices”.

Women’s Central Role

In another investigative note, the late José Bunhy (victim of a road accident), an expert connoisseur of the culture of the Mukubal people, from which he was originally from, said in his lifetime that in his area of ​​origin, as guardians of the family, women, in the context of traditional, they are the first to get up to milk the cows before grazing, to feed their children and to tend the small fields. With all these tasks, they are also the last ones to go to bed.

For a diet considered healthy, it is with the milk extracted from the cows that the “mahinhy” is produced, a mixture of corn porridge with sour milk, which is the main food of the Mukuba families. José Bunhy said that the woman of this ethnic group can also be owner of a sambu (herd corral), considered the wealth of the family, but the same sambu must be under the guardianship of her husband, brother or son.

According to tradition, he explained, women should limit themselves to raising birds, namely chickens. Today, the mukubal woman is also engaged in subsistence agriculture, but continues to carry out all domestic activities, while the man is only occupied with herding. She added that the mukubal woman is the person who takes care of others from childhood to adulthood. “She is our mother and this way of being is universal for any woman”, said the chief José Bunhy.

The Famous Mupeque Oil

The gift of preparing mupeque oil is another virtue of this woman. The sale of this oil constitutes a source of income for families. The product is extracted from a typical plant from Namibe. The use of mupeque oil for hair and skin treatment is increasing in large Angolan cities, which is why it has become common to see mukuba women walking through the streets of these cities in search of customers.

It is yet another way they have found to increase family income, on which they are the main foundation. The “omulela woyo mpeke”, in the Kuvale language, is an oil extracted from the fruits of a bush, the mupeque. All the work of extracting and treating the oil is done by adult women.

They collect the fruits, which, when ripe, resemble the loengos, both in their dark red color and in their shape, and crush them on a stone to separate the skin and pulp from the pits, which, after being cleaned, are taken to the fire. The extracted oil is strained and returned to the fire to refine, resulting in a dark product with a burning smell, which is used to treat the hair and, in some cases, the skin.

“This is our only source of income”, says Maria Vitória. A 47-year-old mother of four, she lives in the Munhino town hall, in the municipality of Bibala, and usually goes to Luanda to sell mupeque oil.

When she doesn’t have the money to travel to the country’s capital, Maria Vitória sells the product in Moçâmedes, where the Jornal de Angola report found her. With her youngest son on her back, protected by an animal skin, which also serves as a cloak, she walks through the main streets of the city with the basket on her head.

In addition to mupeque oil, it sells roots of plants considered medicinal, maungo (edible larva, known as catato in other regions of the country), mortars and local handicrafts, such as wooden cutlery, javelins with their arrows and other items, many of which are produced by men of the same ethnicity.

“I produce mupeque oil myself and sell it in Luanda or even here in Namibe. With this I live and buy notebooks, books, gowns and other items for the children who are now studying,” said Maria Vitória she is also able to buy basic necessities and pay for the round trip tickets from Namibe to Luanda.

The prices of mupeque oil bottles depend on these and vary depending on the level of demand. A 75-centiliter bottle costs, on average, 1,500.00 kwanzas, a 50-centiliter bottle, a thousand kwanzas, and a 30-centiliter bottle sells for 500.00. In addition to hair treatment, mupeque oil has many other applications in the customs of the mukubais. It is used to lubricate adornments, in massages, in the anointing of the skin and even in funeral rituals.

Anita Nana, 44, says she is a frequent customer of Maria Vitória and highlights the importance of mupeque oil for hair treatment. “I’ve always used mupeque oil to keep my hair fine and skin smooth,” she said. She adds that many women prefer mupeque oil to lab-made beauty products of dubious quality.

Due to the great demand in the big cities, cases of product adulteration are starting to be registered. Women posing as mukubais add vegetable oil and cheap perfume to real mupeque oil.

Female Beauty

It is very common to see in Mukuba women adornments made with bronze rings wrapped around the arms and/or legs, displaying the feminine beauty in addition to the natural one, and mating with colored beads around the neck. Its charm is redoubled by the body that exposes the sacred natural breasts.

“Bracelets are to give this woman more beauty, to make her more beautiful”, praised the chief Tumanissa, for whom the use of this accessory is a legacy of the Portuguese settler, from whom they bought. In recent years it has been cast in the Bibala region, by the hands, mostly of men of the same ethnicity. “More than that, the use of these rings by Mukubai women has no other meaning”, reinforced the soba.

“The cult of the ox is what rules the life of the kuvale”

Anthropologist and sociologist Gaspar Madeira points out that in the Kuvale group, as in all others, there had to be something to control marriage, birth and child rearing until they were adults. “Of course, in the Kuvale group, within their culture, the most important thing is the ox. It is he who really rules, the cult to him is what rules the life of the kuvale”, he noted.

The sociologist was more assertive when mentioning that, if there is a possible connection between a boy from one group and a girl from another, there must be an agreement between the families, “hence I think that there will have to be a counterpart for the group of the girl who takes a woman from his bosom and handing her over to the boy who belongs to the other group.” For the academic, “this is what effectively controls, regulates and orders the good positioning of the groups. And it will always have to be that way.”

Combining the useful with the pleasant, the source emphasizes the sayings of the first two “prominent” figures of local African orality, the sobas, and makes it known that in the Kuvale tradition, before the woman lives with the man, the man’s family has to deliver the alambamento (dowry), converted into four heads of cattle, each with its own meaning. They are animals differentiated between castrated oxen and bulls, but all are for the bride’s mother. After this delivery, she goes to the boy’s house, where first one or several nights pass, but both don’t touch and neither does anyone speak to the other. “It must be a big sacrifice”, (laughs). After that, the marriage (uhô lúkupu, in the native language) is consummated with the legality of the sexual act.

Another curious fact told by Gaspar Madeira is that the couple does not speak in public until their first child arrives. “She doesn’t talk to her husband and he can’t pronounce his wife’s name until she gives birth to her first child.” And there’s more: the woman can only pronounce the name of her husband, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, after he dies. life calls her husband by another nickname. “These are customary rules, which we have to respect”, she pointed out.

Reference Marriages

Gaspar Madeira added that among the Mukubais there is a preference to marry the son of the mother’s sister or the daughter of the father’s sister. “I mean, they are preferential marriages. And when you ask why, they say it’s not to spread the cattle. The cattle ‘have to stay where we know they are,’ as they say.”

“So, in very broad terms, this is how the Kuvale practice, live their lives and will live for some time to come. And we must have all respect for that, it is in respect that things can evolve. we respect someone, there is no possibility of contact”, argued the sociologist.

The knowledge that the sociologist and anthropologist Gaspar Madeira has of the Mukubal peoples, and beyond, is based on field research and written sources by specialists, whom he considers true masters, as is the case of the priest and ethnographer Carlos Estermann, who dedicated his life to the study of the peoples of southern Angola, in addition to his religious function, and the anthropologist Ruy Duarte de Carvalho, who, having come to Moçâmedes when he was ten years old, integrated himself very well into the lives of the natives, which was facilitated because his father works on a cattle ranch. Accompanying his father on his visits to the communities, Ruy Duarte de Carvalho met mukubais his age and became friends with several of them. Later, when he came back over 30 years old, Another researcher referenced by Gaspar Madeira is Samuel Aço, also deceased.

Gaspar Madeira states that the Mukubal ethnic group is a subgroup of the Herero group, which emigrated from the Great Lakes to the current territory of Angola between the 15th and 16th centuries, traversing the territory of present-day Namibia. In the interior of our country they found an ecosystem that allowed them to raise animals, especially cattle. “And here they stayed until national independence, which they helped to conquer”.

“We cannot make a social and cultural history of this space in Angola forgetting the Kuvale. Anyone who comes here to lead politically and economically, and everything else, has to know what the Kuvale group is and its population structure, taking into account the other groups and its history within this province”, underlined the sociologist and anthropologist, for whom this knowledge “would avoid the repetition of blunders made by the Portuguese colonist, when he cut the transhumance routes through which they took the cattle, inserting barbed wire and establishing farms and farms, thus cutting off all the circuits in the way they treat cattle.”

The scholar assured that the Mukubais are an “important, very proud, with great value and that we have to respect” ethnicity. .

Gaspar Madeira reaffirmed how great the Mukubal descent is, whose younger generations already have contingents of qualified cadres “to take their hats off”.

“Now we have mukubais who have degrees in law, others are veterinarians, others are merchants and some military. due to the relationship with what they learned from their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., etc.”, he stressed.

The anthropologist listed some critical situations that historically shook the Mukubal ethnic group: the Cocombola war, the persecution of the Kuvale, as well as the phase in which they were deported to São Tomé and Príncipe, but then “they regrouped, rebuilt all their cattle and they have once again become a valid, important and proud ethnicity, which we must all respect”.

Hildeberto Gaspar Madeira pointed out that all these situations were described in detail by Ruy Duarte de Carvalho and also by Father Carlos Estermann.

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