Cultural Overview

The main economic activity has traditionally been labor-intensive, wet-rice cultivation in inundated fields reclaimed from coastal mangrove swamps. Earthen dikes are built to keep salt water from invading the fields, especially at high tide. There is also an upland variety of rice which is cultivated in cleared forested areas where other secondary subsistence crops such as peanuts are also grown. Over the last few decades, cashew production has blossomed; cashews are either traded for imported rice or sold for cash. Money sent home by emigrants working in Senegal, France, and Portugal also contributes to the household economy. Cows, goats, pigs, and chickens are also raised, though they are only killed on ritual occasions.

The Manjako "lands" (ngesaak) have been referred to as "kingdoms"; each has a "king" who, however, is probably more of a ritual priest than a political authority. Political power is held collectively by the headmen (basemcu) of residential courts (isem), whose succession is matrilineal. Residence is patrilocal, with men continuing to live where they are born, in the courts of their fathers, and women moving in with their husbands upon marriage. When a headman dies, his brother (of the same mother) or his sister's son succeeds him, moving to his court. Just as with residential court headmen, but on a smaller scale, whenever a man dies, his wives, children, and much of his property are, in principle, "inherited" by his younger brother or his sister's son.

Manjako kinship terms show a matrilineal pattern. All men in one's father's immediate matriline (father's siblings, father's sisters' sons, etc.) are one's "fathers." Even a father's sister is called asininji-ngac, "my female father." All members of one's matriline are one's "mothers" (the generation above ego, including anininji-ninc, "my male mother"), one's siblings (the same generation as ego), or one's children (the generation below ego).

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