Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures

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Representations: Legends and Epics: East Africa
(1,364 words)

Islam is widespread in East Africa, especially on the coast and on adjacent islands, where it is the dominant religion. Before the coming of Islam, however, the people of East Africa had their own system of values and beliefs, in which women played prominent roles. The Zaramo of Tanzania, for example, revered Nyalutanga, a mythological creature, said to be the mother of all the people in the world. She symbolized the reproductive life force and gave people plants and explained their use as food (Swantz 1985, 26).

When Islam came, beginning in the tenth century, with traders from t…

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Mbele, Joseph L., “Representations: Legends and Epics: East Africa”, in: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, General Editor Suad Joseph. Consulted online on 03 March 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1872-5309_ewic_EWICCOM_0627c>
First published online: 2009

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