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Duruma

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The Duruma people are one of the nine Mijikenda (‘nine towns’) tribes of Kenya. They live on the Indian Ocean coast, along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway south to the Tanzania border. The Duruma tribe evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries and is about 183,000 in population. The Duruma acknowledge that they were formed from the fusion of three separate groups, one of which had Shungwaya connections – These were Digo people from Kaya Kwale who came first followed by the refugees’ slaves who fled Mombasa and later joined by kamba immigrants.

The Duruma are very close in language and culture to the Rabai, another of the Mijikenda peoples living west of Mombasa They maintain their ethnic identity and language and their traditional, subsistence-farming life, growing maize and herding cattle. They also produce tobacco, which serves as a cash crop. Some Durama are fishermen while some others are businessmen.

They also traded with the Swahili and Arabs and have retained their trading contacts. The Kaya is a sacred site in the forest, where special gatherings and rites of passage are held. The Duruma and Rabai differ from other Mijikenda by maintaining a dual descent system: both matrilineal and patrilineal. The Duruma are considered to be about 30% Christian.

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