Brief History Of The Sena People – Culture, Economy And Religion

The Sena people are clusters of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, and the Nyanja-Chewa people of Malawi, and Mozambique living along the Zambezi River Valley.

They speak Sena language which is still part of the Niger-Congo language group and has mixed cultures of the Shona and Nyanja-Chewa. They can be found in the Lower Shire area in Chikwawa and in the Nsanje area.

During the 19th century, the Sena people were mostly farmers, hunters, herdsmen, and fishermen. Among their major crops are; mango, cotton, maize. They have the biggest sugar factory in Chikwawa, Southern Malawi. They rear cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats which they sell or consume.

The Sena tribe performs great in terms of art and craft. Well known for their famous stool-making, mats, and masks.

In this tribe, they believe that when a married man dies, the wife can either marry one of the deceased husband’s brothers or marry outside. Their initiation ceremony – the Sena Chinamwali; is similar to that of the Chewa, Tumbuka, Ngoni, and other ethnic groups.

Brief History Of The Sena People - Culture, Economy And Religion
Sena man playing instrument (image:

It is during the initiation ceremony that the young girls coming up in age are being given their bag of tricks to choose depending on the cultural influence of her family, or from the family of the man that would marry her.

After the initiation, the girls are taken to a camp outside the village and be trained on their sexuality which includes how to please the man to marry them.
Traditionally, Sena women don’t cover their breasts. Culturally, it’s not right for a Sena man nor woman to expose their legs. The Sena people although were mainly traditionalists. They have
Mbona as their god.

They also acknowledge ancestral worships but have given in most, to Christianity since the Portuguese traders and missionaries that came to Mozambique brought along Christianity with them. They also operate a polygamous system although a Sena man can still marry one wife.

The arrival of Vasco Da Gama in Mozambique in the year 1498, other Portuguese having known of the gold wealth in Sofala – a commercial town in Mozambique, grew interests in colonizing the district. They built farm estates and had African laborers which the Sena people were among those that worked for them.