Introduction to Cultures of Tanzania
One of the Image of Africa’s missions is to document the authentic traditions and important cultural events that are still taking place in the remote settlements of Tanzania.
After Tanzania gained independence in 1961, freshly appointed president Julius Nyerere had to find a way to transform the economic and cultural identity of the country. That was when his concept of Ujamaa came along (in Swahili Ujamaa means ‘brotherhood’ or ‘extended family’). To maximize the economic development of the country, he first needed to unite the numerous ethnic groups by integrating Swahili language as the one and only language of the nation. Free compulsory education had become a part of the unification project. Any tribal conflicts had to be eliminated and by all means avoided to achieve a self-sustainable and peaceful nation. However, all this had been done at the expense of the indigenous cultural traditions and identities.
There are more than 120 different ethnic groups living together within the borders of one country. For those interested in the African cultures, and in the cultures of Tanzania in particular, it is important to look beyond the adopted westernized global culture, and to get deep in the remote to witness the authenticity of still existing cultural traditions, which are very complex and diverse varying from one ethnic group to another.
We strongly believe that authentic cultures can be experienced through the ceremonies and rituals. It is one of the few ways to observe, participate and be involved in the life of the indigenous people.
The desire for exploration has led us to discover the cultures through attending various closed and private events. The access to such events became possible for us due to developing bonds with the communities that we visit without destroying the culture, but on the contrary, showing them that their traditions are valuable and important. Our goal here is to encourage people to cherish and hold on to their traditions.
Below I start a series of articles describing my experience among the indigenous people, my thoughts and reflections.
Photo by The Image of Africa