Your guide to Mozambique traditions, music and culture

Mozambique is filled with a rich culture and diverse way of life. Many customs in Mozambique are rooted in the culture of local groups, passed down by the generations. Let’s have a look as some of their traditions and customs which make Mozambique so unique.

The Makonde

The Makonde are a well-known tribe in Mozambique, known for their fearlessness and initiation rituals. They live mainly in the Cabo Delgado Province and are renowned for their “mapico” masks which are used during initiation rituals, as well as their mahogany, ebony and ivory carvings which depict their rich cultural heritage.

They tattoo their bodies and sharpen their teeth purely for aesthetic purposes. As well as carving Mapiko masks, the Makonde are also known for their wood sculptures. These often include a number of figures for stories about the generations. This type of sculpture is known as “family trees”.

Dancing ceremonies

Local dance ceremonies in Mozambique include the hunting dance of the Chopi, where the dancers dress in lion skins, the ‘hopping’ dance of the Makua men who move around on tall stilts and the tofu dance of Mozambique Island and the northern coast. In Tete, a common dance is nyanga, where the dancer sings and plays the panpipes (also called the nyanga). Another dance of the region is the Nyau Gule Wamkulu Dance.

Cultural differences between groups

When it comes to cultural differences, there is one main distinction between groups. In southern Mozambique, groups such as the Thonga are patrilineal, where families trace their descent through the male line.

But in northern areas of the country, many groups are matrilineal. This means males trace their ancestry back through their mother. In these groups, it is common for husbands to live near their wife’s family.

Music

Music is very important to the Niassa people who live in the sparsely populated north-western region.

They use wind instruments, made from dry and hollowed calabashes, which produce a similar sound to a trumpet. Musicians in a band play instruments of different sizes.

Religions in Mozambique

Mozambique has a wide mix of religions. Around a third of Mozambicans are Christian, with Roman Catholicism the major denomination. Around a quarter are Muslims, mainly in the northern regions.

Nearly half the population practices traditional animist beliefs, where the spirits of ancestors can affect the lives of the living. Many groups also believe in an all-powerful God, as well as spirits. Therefore, it is not unusual for traditional beliefs to be incorporated into Christianity.

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