Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Zanaki culture: wives and mistresses

In Zanaki Culture, polygamous marriages was the norm, rather than the exception. My grandfather, Chief Nyerere Burito (circa 1860 – 1942) had 22 wives. On average. traditional leaders had more wives than other members of the community.
Chief Nyerere Burito, centre, with one of his wives, left. Right is one of Chief Nyerere's guards.
What was common to both the rulers and the ruled was the existence of a semi-official system of mistresses whose presence was known even to the wives. The practice exists among some elders to the present. Chief Nyerere had 4 of these mistresses.

I have attempted to estimate the number of uncles, aunts, and cousins from my grandfather's 22 wives and I have come up with a figure above 6,500.

Tradition is not always easy to follow. Chief Nyerere's predecessor, Chief Edward Wanzagi, had only 11 wives. Chief Wanzagi's son and current chief, Japhet Wanzagi, has only one wife.

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