Thursday, April 7, 2011


Marriage and Family in the Dedza District of Nyasaland

  • Thursday, April 7, 2011
  • Samuel Albert
  • Author: Lucy P. Mair
    Source: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.81, No. 1/2 (1951), pp. 103-119
    Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and


    The Dedza District of Nyasaland has a population of 140,000. Within it seven Native Authorities are recognised, two Ngoni, three Cewa and two Yao. As will readily be imagined, members of the three tribes are not neatly sorted out into the appropriate Native Authority areas. The Ngoni are inextricably intermingled with the Cewa, with whom they intermarried from the time of their arrival as conquering invaders in the latter's territory; for practical purposes they are distinguishable from them today only by the fact that they follow the rule of patrilineal succession. In Dedza District a Ngoni village is one in which a considerable proportion of the men claim to be Ngoni; some can still make good the claim on the ground that they were born before the Ngoni left Domwe, in Portuguese East Africa, at the turn of the century. The Cewa were invaded also by the Yao, and the present boundaries of Yao and Cewa are those laid down when the territories of " Principal Headmen" were defined in 1924. There are groups of Yao villages unider Cewa chiefs and vice versa. Within a mile or two of the court-house of the Cewa N. A. Kaphuka there are a group of Yao and a group of Bisa villages, both established before the days of effective British occupation. Today there is some immigration into Dedza of Ngoni from the densely populated neighbouring District of Ncheu; some of these obtain land from Cewa chiefs. One might expect the result to be a bewildering variety of family structures and marriage laws. In fact, however, in this district of mixed population a more or less homogeneous custom appears to have evolved.