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Digo

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The Digo are a Bantu tribe concentrated on the southern coastal strip of Kenya between Mombasa and the border of Tanzania and are actually grouped together with eight other tribes. Together these tribes make up the Mijikenda, or “nine towns”. They are about 316,000 speakers in Kenya with chidigo being their language. For many years the Digo have been involved in trade with Muslim Arabs. In addition to trading, farming and fishing are two other sources of income for the Digo community.

Their principal crop is “manioc,” a small shrub with thick roots that are eaten like potatoes but they also grow sesame, corn, rice and beans. The Digo tribe formerly lived in large, fortified villages; but today their villages only consist of about 40 huts each with the shape of house indicating the type of a villager living in it. The huts of elders are round, while those of other people are rectangular. In marriages normal bride-price of 4 heads of cattle, 2 goats or sheep, and palm wine had to be paid before a man was incorporated into the brides family. Leadership qualities proofed acceptance to the tribal eldership.

Islam is more widely accepted among the Digo than among any of the other Mijikenda tribes with more than 90% being Muslim. Nevertheless, ties with traditional practices (such as animism and ancestor worship) still have more influence on the Digo community than does Islam. Witchdoctors are also consulted regularly. Most of the Digo people over forty years of age have no real understanding of the Koran. Most of them have only a superficial knowledge of its principles and doctrines.

Although they know no religious significance for wearing the black veil, Digo women wear it to show respect for their husbands. The Digo maintain sacred forests – ‘Kayas’. The forests are ceremonial areas, places of worship and the burial grounds for certain elders. Palm wine is a popular drink produced from the palm tree.

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