At the onset of puberty, the girl child- Mwanamwari- sets on a new journey in her life through formal instruction. In an enclosed and secluded space, a traditional instructor; somo/kungwi, fulfils the role of transferring knowledge and skills acquired throughout generations to the young girl. The kungwi/somo usually identifies her own candidate as the girl grows. The Kungwi could be an aunt or a very close companion of the girl’s mother. Soon after the onset of puberty of the Mwanamwari, the kungwi, who should be a successfully married woman, takes upon herself to instruct her on personal hygiene, especially on how to take care of her body during the days of menstrual flow, self adoration, beauty and acceptance. She is warned to love her body by keeping away from sex before marriage.
[…] The candidate is also instructed on how to take care of her body in a symbolic manner. She is taught to love and to take care of her body. The body is massaged daily. The Kungwi is the masseuse. She puts the girl in suitable different positions and proceeds to aid movements of the limbs and joints. She strokes, pinches and kneads her candidate’s body with a lot of abandon and commitment. By these means, any signs of obesity are removed from the girl’s body.
[…] in Unyago the women revere the beauty of their bodies and by means of their dances seek to develop a body that is perfectly proportioned and graceful in movement, balance and tone. Throughout the seclusion period, the initiate is tested. She has to do exercises and show off her dancing skills and is introduced into the symbolic marital language. Sometimes the initiates compete in an open arena. However, only their kungwi and women relatives are present. Drumming and clapping to the rhythms accompanying well-known women’s songs take place.
[…] More notable is this training of the girls to seek harmony between their mind and body. The girls’ bodies are trained to respond to the expressive power of the mind. Further, the girls are taught languages of the body. The girls are forewarned to treat sexual encounters with their partners as dialogue between bodies.
They are therefore prepared for all types of dancing, especially in the marital chamber. Ability to dance in the marital chamber is foreseen as the symbol of the girl’s victory through her body. . She learns to dance (including the dance on the marital bed) to exercise by rocking and swaying, and to sing. The dancing movements are tests of skill, some relate to domestic chores, others to sex, while others to graceful walking.
The dancing styles also differ. For instance, there is that which should make the girl’s waist very flexible “chakacha” and that which makes her move pleasurable during love making, msondo. Chakacha is danced in an upright position and msondo in a lying position. Generally sexual practices like the bed dance are carefully taught for they are believed to drive the husband wild with lust, while knowledge of herbs, miti, and correct spices, to keep him faithful and sexually active by awakening his desires, when low, are disclosed.
The candidate’s ability to swing the waist, kukata kiuno, can be said to be a ticket to marriage. Whoever acquires the skill faster, gets a suitor sooner. This is because word about her flexibility and agility goes round and soon, her hand in marriage is sought."