The Mijikenda Community is a community that is found in most parts of the Coastal region of Kenya. In Swahili, ‘Mijikenda’ loosely translates to ‘nine homesteads’. So the Mijikenda is basically a community that is made up of nine tribes. They include the Digo, Giriama, Rabai, Chonyi, Duruma, Jibana, Kambe, Kauma, and Ribe. The Digo and Giriama are the most common tribes of the Mijikenda and oftentimes you’ll find yourself referring to the Mijikenda as the Giriama.
The Mijikenda live in clans which are also divided into age-sets. The clans are family groups which share a common patriarchal ancestor. Traditionally, each clan had their own sacred place (Kaya) where prayers, sacrifices and other religious rituals were carried out.
Just like many other Kenyan communities, the Mijikenda Community has also been influenced by modern religions and most of them identify themselves as either Christians or Muslims. Some, however, still practice their traditional religious practices to date.
Their main economic activities are farming and fishing. The coconut palm is their main cash crop and its products (coconut fruits, oil, and leaves) are widely used in the Coast; the coconut fruit is used in preparing most Swahili dishes and the popular traditional palm wine called mnazi. The leaves are used in making brooms, mats, baskets, and roofs of traditional huts.
Historically, the Mijikenda interacted with the Arab, Portuguese and Persian traders who invaded the Coast and it is their intermarriages with the Arabs that gave birth to the now widely celebrated Swahili language and culture.
There is so much to learn about this community that it can’t be exhausted in one article. I will be sharing something about the Mijikenda community every week and in the end, I hope you will learn however much there is to learn about this lovely community that beautifies the Coast.