YAOS, or AJAWA, a Bantu-Negroid people of east-central Africa, whose home is the country around the upper reaches of YA'QUBf Y ARK AND the Rovuma river, and the north of Portuguese East Africa. They are an enterprising and intelligent race, and have spread into British territory south of Lake Nyasa and throughout the Shire districts. They are the tallest and strongest of the natives in the Mozambique country, have negroid features and faces which are noticeable for their roundness, and, for Africans, have light skins. They have long been popular among Europeans as carriers and servants. They earned, however, a bad name as slave-traders, and gave much trouble to the British authorities in Nyasaland until 1896, when they were reduced to submission. They do not tattoo except for tribal marks on their foreheads. The women wear disks of ivory or burnished lead in the sides of their nostrils, and some, probably of Anyanja origin, disfigure the lip with the pelele or tip-ring. The Yaos have elaborate ceremonies of initiation for the youth of both sexes. They bury their dead in a contracted position, the grave being roofed with logs and earth sprinkled over; in the case of a rich man, some of his property is buried with him and the rest is inherited by his eldest sister's son.
See Miss A. Werner, The Natives of British Central Africa (1906) ; Sir H. H. Johnston, British Central Africa (1897); H. L. Duff, Nyasaland under the Foreign Office (1903). For the Yao language see BANTU LANGUAGES.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)