The existing literature on women of the Swahili Coast has focused largely on their involvement in activities labeled as non-Islamic by both male peers and scholars. However, Islam plays an important role in these women’s lives and they often bring Islamic knowledge to bear on their participation in seemingly secular activities. In this study I address women’s role as sex instructors with a specific focus on instructing a bride in contemporary Swahili weddings. Contextualizing participant observation within the existing literature on Swahili puberty rituals, sex instruction, weddings, and language ideologies, I find that the ritual involves a discursive performance of Islamic knowledge and thereby offers women who act as instructors a form of religious authority. This provides an important counterpoint to decontextualized representations of Swahili Islam as excluding women from positions of authority.
BoshaIbrahimTaathira Za Kiarabu Katika Kiswahili Pamoja Na Kamusi Thulathiya (Kiswahili - Kiarabu - Kiingereza) [The Influence of Arabic Language on Kiswahili with a Trilingual Dictionary]1993Dar es SalaamDar es Salaam University Press
OchsElinorGoodwinCharlesDurantiAlessandro‘Indexing Gender’Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language1992Cambridge and New YorkCambridge University Press142
RussellJoanMawJoanParkinDavid‘Women’s Narration: Performance and the Marking of Verbal Aspect’Swahili Language and Society: Papers from the Workshop held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in April 19821984WienAfro-Pub89106
According to Sheryl McCurdy (2006) elite Manyema women from Central Africa brought the unyago ceremony to Zanzibar and the Swahili coast in the late nineteenth century. However this claim contradicts Laura Fair’s evidence (1996) that the ceremony already existed in Zanzibar in the 1850s.