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Grand Comore, comorian

Comorian society is of African Bantu matriarchal traditions and Muslim religion, which appeared in the sixteenth century. Matrilinearity manifests itself in the identity of its belonging to a matriclan, in which each individual is born and lives with his mother, aunt or grandmother, in the maternal lineage. It is also the woman who inherits and possesses the heritage mania houli: the house is built by her father or maternal uncle on the family lands, which only the daughter can inherit.

 The Grand Marriage anda, much more prevalent in Grande-Comoros than on the other three islands, Anjouan, Moheli and Mayotte, is an obligatory passage for those who wish to reach the summits of the Comorian social hierarchy. As a matrilocal organization, it is only after marriage that the husband moves to his wife's house; hwenda dahoni translates literally to "go home". He is thus considered as moudjini, a guest in the matriclan.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

The manyahuli is the house and / or land handed down from women to children. It is transmitted only "through the stomach", that is, in a matrilineal fashion. These goods must be transmitted and cannot be sold, excepted in exceptional cases.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

The anda designate the ceremonial exchanges organized for all stages of the life cycle, those of the marriage being the most visible and most expensive. This is the ndola nku, the great wedding. The celebration of ndola nku can be the affair of a lifetime, and the celebrations can stretch at length, ranging from about fifteen days at least to several years, in which case it carries on in stages, depending on means. A debt is social and not financial.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

One of the many stages of the great marriage is that each of the families offers their child’s spouse the vao, a wardrobe for the wedding, but also for daily life. Everything is presented on trays in the eyes of everyone, because it is crucial to expose one’s wealth.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

Each guest must also contribute either money or labor, which pays for all costs. The paid sums are entered on a register with the name of the donor. These donations help the bride and groom but it is also a debt that they will have to repay by contributing in turn to future great weddings.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

The vao or gift trays are transported from the home of the bride's family to the home of the groom's family.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

The accounting of the money donated for the wedding by the community and family is always in everyone’s sight. A family member announces aloud who paid and how much.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

Women sew the jewelry on panels, to be admired by guests. The groom gives these mtawo, or gold and silver jewels, to his wife on the day he joins her at her new home.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

The zifafa designates the astonishing journey through the village between the bride and groom’s two houses. Male members, but more often women of the husband's family, in charge of the jewelry sewn by the women, display it on the panels for all to see before being offered to the wife.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

At the end of this journey, the bridegroom finally enters the bridal house. As part of a matrilocal organization, he moves in his future wife’s house: this is the heart of marriage. Hwenda dahoni literally translates to "go into the house". The husband is thus considered as a mdjéni, a guest in the matriclan, and this until the moment he gives children to his wife and is then considered a mbaba or father.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

As a consequence of divorce, the mother keeps the children and the man leaves the marital home. He goes back to his former house if he has one and eats either at his sister's house, or at one of his wives’ houses if he happens to be polygamous, or in the vala, the shed in which he lived along with other comrades when he was a teenager (it is at this time of their life that young boys leave the family home to gain their independence). Here, the young bride waits for her future husband to enter her house.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

Throughout the ceremonies, men and women are mixed, with the usual rules of politeness and respect. On the other hand, male ceremonies and female ones coexist, such as during the ndola nku, the great wedding.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

Most of the population is rural and lives from farming or fishing. The economic situation makes daily life difficult. The very supportive Comorian diaspora provides a major contribution to daily life and to exceptional expenses of the village by sending money back home.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

Here, man works the land (manyahuli) of his wife, sister or mother. In a subsistence economy these lands guaranteed agricultural resources for the family group. They still represent an important contribution to today’s family staple; they also have a matrimonial dimension by perpetuating the memory of ancestors and grandmothers.

GRAND COMORE - Comorian

Despite a matrilineal and matrilocal system, the Comorian man gives little place to women in the political sphere as well as in the street. Conversely, he isn’t allocated much room in the house, and no space of his own: he has to be outside most of the time. Two worlds cohabit, the mila na ntsi, a body of unwritten traditional customs, and the sharia or Islamic law. Issues of inheritance and transmission remain complicated to manage, but most of the time customary law is respected.

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