Africa for Kids — Celebrate Mwaka Kogwa


In class we celebrate Mwaka Kogwa, a joyous, several day long Zanzibari festival that marks the arrival of Nairuz, the new year on the Shiraz (Persian, now Iranian) calendar. The most extensive Mwaka Kogwa festivities take place in Makunduchi, on the southeastern coast of Zanzibar, but wherever you celebrate Mwaka Kogwa, Mwaka Kogwa just wouldn’t be Mwaka Kogwa without several important observances:

In Makunduchi, two brothers from the southern part of the area fight two brothers from the north. Tradition dictates that if people have a chance to fight at the beginning of the year they’ll vent their frustrations and live the rest of the year in peace. The weapon of choice? Banana stems!

While the fighting is going on, women sing songs in Kikae, a local Swahili dialect, about love and living in the village. Men reply in unison, taunting the women in a back and forth exchange.

When the fight is almost done a local magician goes inside a nearby small coconut thatch hut, sets the hut ablaze, runs outside and flails himself onto a nearby bush. Everyone around then puts out of the fire. This represents the notion that if someone’s house does catch on fire throughout the year, everyone will survive.

The “sheha” (paramount chief) sits in a small, sparse hut near a huge magical rock that is supposed to be able to keep people from falling into a well during the celebration.

Everyone eats at a big open banquet. Later that evening, everyone dresses up in his or her Mwaka Kogwa best and dances all night long.

PLEASE NOTE: The lesson and embedded video are NOT “How to celebrate Mwaka Kogwa” tutorials. The goal of this lesson is to provide the tools for you to treat your very youngest students to their first introduction to the festival and to inspire you to get up and enjoy our version of it together. Ideally the lesson will be the first step on your and your students’ road to further Zanzibari exploration.

Mwaka Kogwa 2010

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