Even now, internecine warfare breaks out between village clusters presided over by different chiefs. Some of the tribes are matrilineal and trace their ancestry through the mother while others are traditional patrilineal societies. The Makua are the largest tribe in Mozambique and many of the Swahili speaking people of the coast are also of Makuan descent.
Most of these tribal cultures are fairly traditional, despite the conversion to Islam and Christianity and the influence of Christian missionaries. The farming communities still use primitive techniques, like slashing and burning forests to clear room for farms.
The majority of Mozambique’s farmers are women who do it all, from preparing the fields, sowing, caring for and finally harvesting the crops. The women are also expected to run the house and prepare the food and are still subject to the dictates of the men folk. Cattle continue to be symbols of status and wealth and are often given as a price to marry the girl by the boy's family in a practise called Lobola. These days actual cattle has been replaced with a particular amount of money.
Male initiation rites are common practice amongst the tribes. The Makonde specialise in the use of "mapico" masks for the Mapico dance, one of their most important dances. Another cultural characteristic is the tattooing of the body and the sharpening of teeth, for aesthetic rather than practical purposes. The Makua women paint their faces with "muciro", a white extract from the root of a native plant to make beautiful styliszed masks.
Fortunately, the traditions, stories and arts of Mozambique’s ethnic groups have survived colonial rule. Since Mozambique gained independence, its crafts and its artistes, sculptors, painters and writers are becoming known worldwide. Music is a very important aspect of the cultural tradition of the people of Mozambique.
The musicians usually use wind instruments made from dry and hollowed calabashes, which produce a sound similar to that of a trumpet. Groups of musicians play together with calabashes of different sizes that produce a range of sounds.
The Makonde are renowned for their woodwork, particularly the traditional and contemporary carved figures and the lupembe (wind instruments) they make from mahogany wood. The Makua women weave baskets, mats and other articles out of straw and creating sculptures out of black ebony and clay.