Mayotte culture and social values

A Brief Overview of the Social Structure and Culture of Mayotte

The name “Mayotte” is derived from the Swahili word Mahore de Mayotte. The name “mahore” appears in the French adjective mahorai. The identity of Mahaa is based on Comorian, Malagasy, French, and Creole cultural characteristics. In France, Mayotte has a regiment of foreign troops and a naval detachment. Local volunteers can receive vocational training through a program called Adaptive Military Service.  The Comorian culture is endemic to Mayotte, the fourth island of the archipelago. Mayotte also has its own cultural characteristics.

Basic Introduction to Mayotte

Tourism in Mayotte
by Azamara


Mayotte, with an area of 374 square kilometers, is the easternmost island of Comoros off the southwest coast of southern Africa and the oldest geological island. The coral reefs that surround it create one of the largest lagoons in the world. Mayotte is made up of several small islands, including the island of Petite Terre, where the airport is located, and the island of Grande-Terre, the main island.


The population increased from 5,000 in 1975 to 131,000 in 1997, with half of the population under the age of 20. Dzaoudzi has a population of 32,000 inhabitants. In 1841, the island had 3,000 inhabitants. Twenty years later, that changed to 12,000 people. These people were mainly Mahorais, African slaves and bailiffs, Malagasy, and Komores from other islands of the archipelago. There were dozens of Creoles, several Indian traders and European planters, and a handful of Arabs.

Language Links

Maore speaks Shimaole, a Comorian language similar to Shinzuani spoken on the neighboring island. Shibushi, also known as Malagasy, is spoken by at least one-third of the population. This is similar to the Sakalava language spoken in Madagascar. These two languages are mainly influenced by the loan. French is the language of public services, education, and exchange, but 60% of the population does not speak it. Most children go to Quran schools to learn Quran textbooks.

Mayotte History, Ethnic relations, Use of Space, and Identity

Oldest Mosque in Mayotte
Tsingoni’s mosque – Known for being the oldest in activity in France– by Ornella Lamberti -Wikipedia

Mayotte was settled in around the 8th century. Later on, it was organized into kingdoms.  Moreover, it was often threatened by the island of Nzwani. Which follows the incursion into Madagascar and the violent seizure of power by a series of occupations. In 1841, Mayotte came under the rule of the French. Originally a sugar colony and at the time the capital of the archipelago, Mayotte lost this distinction when the capital was moved to Moroni (Grande Comore) in 1958. When Comoros became independent in 1975, Mayotte chose to remain in France to benefit from the Fund of French development.

National identity

There is a common desire to remain French to maintain social equality and benefit from financial support. However, the Mahorai feel they share a common Comorian culture with some characteristics of Madagascar and are united by Islamic practices. This explains the reluctance to give up individual status under local (Islamic) law. Their French identity as an overseas community is somewhat volatile. The island’s status in the French Republic is considered temporary and will be revised in 2010.

Ethnic Relations

Maoreis Madagascar, familiar with the other Comoro Islands, especially Ndzuani and the northeastern population, is part of the low-living neighboring island. As immigrants continued to trickle in from Ngazidja, men began to marry women in Mahoran to gain French citizenship and access to France. Poor peasants in Nzwani have arrived illegally. Despite this migration pressure, violent social reactions are rare. The French, known as Wazung (singular: Muzung), make up a considerable percentage of the population. They mainly work for the city government and retain their authority. Different lifestyles, higher economic standards, and a lack of understanding of the local language reinforced their separation from Mahorani.

Mayotte Urban planning

A typical two-bedroom house is built with bumps ( a mixture of earth and straw), coconut leaves, or raffia. The Social Housing Program, implemented in 1975, encouraged the construction of houses in rammed earth bricks and brightly painted concrete. 60% of the population lived in log houses and 75% had electricity. There are more TVs than refrigerators. Singles’ houses (Banga) are built and inhabited by themselves and decorated with murals painted by young people.
The 16th-century mosque and the royal mausoleum of Tangoni, the sultan’s capital, have been restored. The fireplaces of a 19th-century sugar factory have also been preserved, which recall the colonial era.

Food culture and economy of Mayotte

Food for the general public is similar throughout the Comoros Islands, with rice becoming the staple of the daily diet, along with cassava and vegetables, other tubers, infants, fresh fish, and ground milk. Products imported from France and South Africa are the most popular in Mayotte, which has several supermarkets. Mayotte follows traditional Comoros customs. Furthermore, Rice, tofu, and meat are eaten during the festival meal.

Basic Economy

Agricultural landscape of Mayotte, containing most of the typical crops: coconut trees, bananas, breadfruit, papaya tree, mango trees and manioc.
Agricultural landscape of Mayotte-by Frédéric Ducarme -Wikipedia

The agriculture and food sector has declined (from 50% to 12% of household activity), favoring the financial sector (management, construction, public works, and businesses). The flow of public capital is the driving force of the economy.
All unregistered land must be in the public domain. This is the case when many personal and family domains are linked. As in the case of Comoros, public notoriety and Islamic property certificates often replace modern taxable property registrations. Local governments carry out cadastral measurements on the island. Due to its remote location, tourism has not yet developed.


Agriculture and fishing, including livestock, are the main industries. The industry involved in preparing plants and spices for export is also important to the economy.  Mayotte imports mainly food and construction materials from France. Some of the major exports to France are coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, and ylang-ylang. Ylang-ylang is known to be a kind of perfume extract.

The main basis of the social structure and socio-cultural distinction of the Mahorese people is the level of education and wealth of the population. The French, as well as local elected officials (including many Creole descendants of plantation owners), traders, and secretaries made up the well-to-do classes. The elderly families of the village enjoy the respect of their compatriots and faithful (Imam and head of the Brotherhood). Indian merchants had a network of relationships that relied heavily on family ties as well as business.

Social structure and culture of the people of Mayotte

The mahoran is worn in European and Comorian fashions, combining in different ways work clothes, Muslim clothes (Kans) and embroidered hats (Cofia). .. The veil is part of a well-dressed woman, wearing dresses and locally wrapped clothing. Foreign-style youth. Speaking French has contradictory implications depending on the context. It is a sign of education in the administrative world, but it is unpleasant at the village level, and “behaving like a muzzle” is considered a sign of a bad attitude.

Social Issues and Control

Mayotte social issues
by BBC

French police and the Constitutional Corps assist European judges in the evaluation of criminal justice and constitute the Court of Appeals of the Islamic Court (cadis). Violations called “indignation and rebellion” are on the rise, as are car theft, underground work, and sexual violence.

The power of Islamic judges is exercised in civil affairs, from personal interpretations of local law to the transfer of goods and property. Services in states have largely replaced social control at the village level. The individualization of social relationships and the pressure of consumption are manifestations of changing moral values. The burden on a family structure makes social adaptation difficult.  In recent years, development initiatives have impacted health, education, roads, communications, and infrastructure construction. The number of Wazung staff has increased.

Relative gender roles

The matriarchy of Mayotte has been the subject of much criticism because of the activities of women within the inner circles of the Mahoraise People’s Party, of which the politicians take advantage. As in Comoros, men have an important and normative role. Women are an active group in families and social networks. The combination of matrilineal residence and polygamy produced the same effect as in Comoros. Women have some physical and psychological security, but their relationship is completely unstable. With age, women acquire a position of family power comparable to that of men.

Community, society, and family

A wonderful Arsi wedding is a party. These events, although shorter in Ngazidja, reveal how the Maore people wanted to maintain their ancient social values ​​and assert their social standing in a way unique to their local culture. These ceremonies also offer opportunities for entertainment (music and dance) and socialization. Separation and remarriage are common. Like other Comoros, a family gives a house to a woman during her first marriage. Natural parents have a large number of units in the country.

Socialization and Inheritance

Mayotte culture and social values
by Culture Mahoraise

Inheritance is not just matrilineal like Ngazidja. Family land was given to children in whole or after division, and part of the land was given to girls in need. The house and jewelry were handed over to the girl. Reconciliation is bilateral, but like in Comoros, the family lives in the mother’s house, so there is a strong maternal bond. Mahoran prides himself on having a deep parental bond and remarried people encourage and maintain it by visiting relatives in other villages. Family care routines are the same as in the Comoros, where children are valued, but maternal and child health services are of better quality and more accessible in Mayotte.

Parenthood and education

Western education promotes individualism and Comorian education supports collective obedience and physical fitness. Therefore, children are torn between two languages and two cultural systems. Despite notable improvements in school and preschool facilities, half of the students fail to enroll in high school, find careers, and lose French.

About 10,000 young people join sports clubs, mostly boys. The girl is protected. Abortion is legal, but pregnancies outside marriage are still considered shameful. If the father agrees to marry early, the mother will be happy to have a child.  Ritual behavior is based on respect for the elderly and Comoros practice in the official language, but Western education applies in middle and high schools if it provides conflicting surrogate values.

Religious Beliefs

Shafi’i Sunni Islam is the main religion and, for some of the population, is the sect that owns the Mahorani spirit known as Patros and Malagasy as a tramba. Islam is practiced in mosques. Spiritual worship takes place in the sacred place (Jiara): where the house used to be, the ruins of an old mosque, and the tomb of the Sheikh. There, the spirits of the earth and ancestors are awakened and partial Islamization rituals take place.

Medicine and Health

Mayotte has seen rapid growth in maternal and child health and care services at several local clinics and two hospitals. Traditional physician ownership and intervention rituals continue to be preferred for dealing with personal or relationship problems that can lead to illness. Rapid social changes affect adolescent girls, especially of school age.

Arts: Graphics, Literature, Performance

The State-funded Mahoran Cultural Action Center supports artistic activities and encourages a fusion of French urban and local culture. A series of oral documents were collected by the Department of Culture and partly transcribed. This led to young Mayotte fiction writers beginning to write in French. While traditional pottery declined, paintings done by young Wazung and Mahores artists began to appear. It should be noted that, the indigenous Language Theater (Comorian or Malagasy in Mayotte) takes place in the village with a mix of humor and social criticism (parenting, marriage, polygamy). Contemporary music blends Comorian and Madagascar styles with Creole and European genres.


Mayotte social structure
by Mayotte la 1ère

In Mayotte, sports, music, and dance are the most popular activities sponsored by associations. As a result, local television broadcasts special events such as Deva and Wadaha. Deva is a Muslim prayer sung and danced with the head and hands of a girl dressed in a golden dress and flowers. The baseball dance, Haha Wada, is an exercise in ingenuity and temptation, leading to a rousing musical rhythm.

Mayotte is a French municipality with a unicameral legislative council of 19 chairs and an administrative body based in the French Ministry. Its members are elected by a three-year popularity poll. Mayotte elects a French senator. Administrative power is exercised by the governor representing the French government. It should be noted that Maole, a popular political party that is a historical advocate of the connection between citizens and France, is opposed by political groups organized by a generation of young religious leaders. The proposal to integrate Mahor into France dominates the political agenda.

The national coat of arms, adopted in 1982, shows the crescent moon symbolizing Islam and the two flowers of Irangiran, the island’s main agricultural product, on a blue, white, and red background, representing the French flag rising. The border represents a coral reef. The two seahorses recall the shape of the island, with the motto “We are vigilant”.

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