It is a tired story, that upcountry men end up in the clutches of hot coastal women and forget their village wives.
In fact, so the joke goes, all a coastal woman, particularly of Digo extraction, needs to do is ‘cook for and serve’ the man she is interested in, and the otherwise responsible man and a husband would soon pack a few clothes in a plastic bag and walk into her house, for good.
Fact or fiction?
Titus Mutuku who was born and brought up in Likoni says, “I have a friend from upcountry who was reprimanded by his parents for marrying a semi-literate woman.
But he made it clear that even though his wife had little formal education, she had ‘diplomas’ and ‘degrees’ in areas that matter the most,” says Mutuku, whose brother, a KDF officer, is married to a Digo woman.
Mutuku, 38, speaks highly of the women, saying they are respectful and not demanding like women from ‘bara’ (upcountry). “There is nothing like charms. If a woman makes sure you’re well fed, respects you, gives you a massage and understands when you’re down financially, what else do you need?” poses Mutuku.
In Likoni area alone, there are scores of men who have abandoned their wives and families to live with some of these charming women and those who are single, in what is locally referred as ‘kuwekwa kinyumba’ (to cohabit). “Akikushika na una bibi, hautamwacha. Pia ni rahisi usahau bara kwenu (If you are a married man and she gets you, you’ll abandon your wife and completely forget your upcountry home),” says Mutuku, laughing.
What makes Digo women such seductresses? Mariam Swaleh, 70, a Likoni-based expert in ‘unyagu’ (the art of taking care of a husband which is taught to girls ripe for marriage) says a husband is like a “child the wife must take good care off.”
“Kama mke, lazima uhakikishe kuwa mume unamkaribisha vizuri akitoka kazini, uhakikishe amekula vizuri, halafu pia kitandani umtimizie (as a wife, you must accord your husband a warm welcome after a hard day at work, prepare him an appetising meal and satisfy him in bed),” says Swaleh in a brief summary of ‘unyagu.’
“A woman who doesn’t take care of her husband shouldn’t expect him to meet her needs. Mume akitoshelezwa na mkewe vizuri hawezi toka nje (a man cannot stray if he is well taken care of by his wife),” says Swaleh.
Swaleh says a wife must make sure that the husband is well-shaven and clean at all times. The wife must also ensure that she is ever clean, adding that being dirty is a big turn off to men.
She says ‘unyagu’ isn’t just about taking care of a husband, but also children, in-laws and visitors; and claims that the high rate of divorce in today’s society is caused by women who do not want to submit to their husbands.
“Kama kazi ni kumpikia mumeo chapwa halafu huko nje apate mwanamke wa kumuandalia mchuzi mzito mzito, je wadhani atarudi kwako tena? (If you prepare tasteless food for your husband, you think he will come home if he finds a woman who prepares him some really good dish?),” she poses. Swaleh laughs when I ask her what is so special about the local Digo women.
“Digo women are beautiful. Then they know how to treat a man. How would you feel if your wife approaches you after a hard day at work and takes off your coat and removes your shoes and sets some tea and food before you?” she asks. “I’m not surprised some men with nagging wives choose to sleep with barmaids,” she adds.
Abdalla Onyango from Ugenya who is married to a Digo woman says he has no regrets. “I get everything I need as a man. My wife is respectful, trustworthy and loyal. In fact, I don’t think I would have ended with the kind of woman I have had I confined myself to marrying from my tribe,” says Onyango.
Onyango, who has since converted to Islam (a prerequisite for marrying a Muslim woman), says delicious food prepared by his wife and her exemplary home making skills are everything he could wish for.
Onyango who has been married for 10 years says even though upcountry women pride themselves as hardworking, most are so nagging they could cause a man a heart attack.
He however says it was not an easy decision to marry the love of his life due to pressure from family and friends who warned him of bankruptcy if he married a local woman.
“I now own several houses in Likoni, property I didn’t have before I got married. But as a man, I believe that it is my duty to ensure that my wife is adorned in expensive jewellery and clothing. What’s wrong with me showing a little appreciation for my wife?” poses Onyango, a businessman and real estate agent.
Asked about relocating to his Ugenya countryside after retirement, Onyango’s wife Zakia Bakari says she has no problem with that.
“I’ve always told my husband that we’ll relocate together when that time comes. After all, he knows what is best for our family,” says Zakia, mother of his two children. She adds that the perception that coastal women can hardly relocate upcountry with their husbands is an absolute fallacy and cautions women against making demands that turn off their husbands.
But there are those who believe part of Digo women’s famed seduction is due to their conniving nature.
“Well, you’ll enjoy the delicious meals in peace and everything will be fine until you are slapped with a ‘bill’ that comes in the form of demands to help her mother and family. Eventually you may end up forgetting your parents and your family,” says Joel Mkalla.