The use of the name “Mwangi” doesn’t do justice to the folk who inhabit the Mwangi Expanse – from the primitive Zenj of the deep jungles to the Bonuwat boatmen of the western coasts, from the sophisticated Mauxi of Thuvia to the Bekyar flesh-merchants of Desolation Cape, all of these peoples are lumped by ethnographers into a single group. – Pathfinder Chronicles, Volume 7
Physical Description and Physical Outlook
Although the Mwangi as a whole look mostly the same, small physical differences can be found between the major tribes.
The Zenj are shorter than average humans, with slender, muscular frames, and wiry black hair. They favor simple animal hides or garments made from plant fibers. The Bonuwat are of average human height with more swarthy or dusky skin tones and a propensity for straight hair, although equally dark in coloration as their Zenj cousins. The Bonuwat have wide mouths and generous smiles and favor colorful and exotic garb featuring vests and baggy pantaloons such as is often found among far-ranging mariners. The Mauxi are tall, patrician folk with grayer skin tones – prone to an ashen appearance – and straight hair like the Bonuwat. The Bekyar are exceedingly tall – many topping 7 feet – with skin tones ranging from dark brown to coal black. They wear their wiry hair long but often straighten it into elaborate coifs.
The Mwangi peoples are the heirs of an ancient civilization that trived in central Garund countless generations ago, of which little is nown and even less is understood. Signs of this civilization are found in the few still-extant ruins of elaborate temples and fortress complexes that lie beneath concealing layers of clinging ivy, vines, and other jungle growth found principally in the forested interior of the Mwangi Expanse as well as in the forlorn mountaintops of the Shattered Range. What caused the abandonment of these ancietn communities is a mystery even to the Mwangi themselves, but they all recognize some inner pull that resonates within them wheneer they stumbel across such remains.
The Mwangi respond in different ways to these ancient ruins but nearly all Mwangi avoid them, save for a few witchdoctors and the insane, who seek to draw power or inspiration from them. The remaining Mwangi are actively discomfited by them, and typically consider the places taboo, so much so that it is rumored that escaping these ruins is what caused the Mauxi to first migrate north across the Barrier Wall. The Bekyar are known to actively fear the ruins, speaking of the “dark wings” that sometimes descentd from them on moonless nights. The oldest of these ruined cities is Mzali, south of the Screaming Jungle, where a mummified boy-prince called Wakena rules a vast cult dedicated to reclaiming the lost glories of the past.
The disparate Mwangi peoples are comprised of several different – although related – ethnic groups that stretch from the northern land of Thuvia to the western Mwangi coast, through the central jungles of the Mwangi Expanse to the tip of Garund’s farthest southern reaches. The Mwangi were mostly unknown to the rest of Golarion until recent colonization and trade began. This exploration resulted in a general lack of distinction between different Mwangi tribes among the northern peoples, although there are hints that they were once much more prevalent throughout Garund.
Various little-understood Mwangi groups dominate the population of much of central Garund. Four major subgroups comprise the Mwangi: the Bekyars, the Bonuwat, the Mauxi, and the Zenj. While sharing some blood ties, these groups are in many ways different enough from each other to qualify as their own distinct ethnicities.
The most common Mwangi are the Zenj people who inhabit the jungle-and savannah-covered interior of the Mwangi Expanse. The Zenj are comprised of hundreds of tribes that exist in small permanent villages along the rivers, subsisting on fishing and hunting or as nomadic encampments of herders that follow their grazing beasts across the grasslands and rolling hills of the Expanse. Many of these tribes are interrelated and form trade and marital alliances. Most as a rule require their chieftains to take a spouse from another tribe in order to cement such alliances.
The jungle-dwelling Zenj tend to be patriarchal, with village headmen presiding in council over the fishermen, craftsmen, and hunter-warriors of the village, while the women spend most of their time caring for the young, tending home and hearth, and gathering edible plants and materials for craftwork from the surrounding jungles. The headman is often assisted by a spiritual adviser who is either a shaman of the native totem spirits or a witchdoctor propitiating the spiritworld and the walking dead thought to inhabit it. Only rarely does a village have both, although powerful alliances between villages have often led to short-lived paramountcies where a single charismatic chieftain could forge several villages into one. In such cases, both shamans and witchdoctors might be present, although they inevitably participate in heated rivalries that can lead to bullying, character assassination, and even murder.
The Zenj of the rolling savannahs differ from their jungle-dwelling cousins in that they are typically ruled by a matriarch who oversees and distributes the tribe’s food and resources while the women maintain the encampment with the children and elderly and the men alternately hunt or tend to the tribe’s herds of cattle or goats. The herdsmen tribes almost always have a shaman – often female – supporting the chieftain. Only rarely are withdoctors found among their number, as such figures find the concealment of the jungle more conductive to their dark practices and hidden ways. Although often on friendly terms, the jungle-dwelling and herdsmen tribes of the Zenj generally never form marital alliances, finding the ways and traditions of the other too strange and discomfiting to adopt.
The Bonuwat are a seafaring boatpeople who dwell along the Mwangi Coast and comprise the majority of the Mwangi encountered by the outside world frequenting such ports as Bloodcove as well the Shackles and the Sodden Lands. They are excellent fishermen and sailors and have possessed an extensive trading network along the Mwangi Coast since long before the first northerners began to arrive. They are thought to have crossed bloodlines with some foreign seafaring people in the distant past, although who these people were is unknown.
The Mauxi are a mysterious strain of the Mwangi seemingly more distantly related than the other subgroups. They are generally withdrawn and taciturn, having embraced the ways of decadent Thuvia, and some even found their way into the controlling caste of that land. They deny any connection to the other Mwangi peoples and speak the Osirian tongue but keep Polyglot in practice as a sort of private cant among themselves. Some of the younger Mauxi hearken back to their tribal ancestry and emulate the dress of the other Mwangi groups in a sort of effete style. They are prone to using Polyglot more frequently to accent their perceived exotic air.
Least known of the Mwangi are the Bekyar, who inhabit Desolation Cape of southern Garund all the way up to the coast of Sargava. This group consists largely of slavers and flesh merchants who pray on their fellow Mwangi and just about anyone else they can catch.
The Mwangi who dwell among folk from other lands typically conform to the religions predominantly held by the people there, such as Nethys in Thuvia. Exceptions to this include the Bonuwat – who predominantly venerate both Gozreh and Desna in a unique janiform incarnation they call Shimye-Magalla – and the barbaric Bekyar, who generally follow the tenets of demon lords such as Angazhan, Dagon, or Zura. In addition, the Mwangi who live exclusive of the influence of other races (primarily the Zenj) still venerate their ancient traditions of totemism.
Language and Naming
That they are lumped together stems as much from the relative ignorance of the more “civilized” northern peoples who have conducted most of Golarion’s ethnographies as that they share a common tongue called Polyglot – a pidgin formed from hundreds of tribal languages and dialects. Only the Mauxi tribe uses another language, Osirion, to distinct them from the other tribes.
Names among the Mwangi are quite varied, often adopting the forms of the race that surround them. Mauxi names follow Thuvian naming conventions with only minor variations. The Bonuwat likewise use names borrowed from the many trading peoples they come into contact with through intermarriage, although many keep a traditional Mwangi surname. Only the Zenj and Bekyar truly keep their own naming conventions. Zenj names are usually short and clipped, with hard consonants and many glottal stops and clicks that cannot be easily transcribed in written languages. The Bekyar have their own forms that use many sibilants followed by hard consonants.
Male: Bekyar – Narisko, Kamishah, Seckor, Suuktidi, Yekskya Bonuwat – Baobo, Banibani, Mitabu, Pateba, Teruawa Zenj – Ba’utan, Had!zong, Ku’unda, TerTun’ada
Female: Bekyar – Babashk, Kamashi, Shivkah, Sinkitah, Soki Bonuwat – Butana, Karibati, Marisama, Shimshem, Simbala Zenj – Ha!ba’la, K’ntisi, Me’mesa, Shikaba, !Xaba
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting