Tanzania Arts and Culture

Tanzania Arts and Culture

It comes from the colonial territories of British East Africa; in its current political and territorial configuration (it is a federal republic) Tanzania was born in 1964 from the union of Tanganyika, a former British colony that had achieved independence in 1961, and the archipelago of Zanzibar, including the island of the same name and that of Pemba, former English protectorate, independent since 1963; the continental section amounts to approx. 99% of the total area. The name of the republic was fashioned to express this fusion with the reference to the former Tanganyika and Azania, the set of coastal and island lands, a historic regional unit already known to the Greeks, on which the most lively and populated part is centered. of the country. It is here, in fact, on this strip bathed by the Indian Ocean, that the cultural mediation between the African world and the outside world has always taken place, starting from the most remote times (already those of ancient Egypt); but it is above all to the Arabs, navigators and merchants (however, many Persians also arrived here), who owe the most incisive cultural contributions, although the Arab presence manifested itself as a heavy subjection in a commercial and slave function. In recent times, finally, there was German colonization, also very hard, which was followed, until independence, by the British. This multiplicity of experiences, on a social fabric that has remained essentially African, has certainly affected the recent evolution of the country, which, under the charismatic guidance of one of the most sensitive and prepared African leaders who emerged from the great anti-colonial struggle, Julius Nyerere, tried to reconcile the needs of economic development in the modern sense with respect for Africanism. Still at the beginning of the 2000s, however, Tanzania suffers from many problems: the human development index places it towards the bottom of the world ranking, a small elite holds an immense share of power and wealth, to the detriment of the majority of the population.. The start of development must therefore pass through the solution of problems of integration and of social and ethnic equilibrium internally, and of balancing and cooperation externally.

CULTURE

The village, which stands in the center of the agricultural and pastoral exploitation areas, always isolated by a fence of hedges and a palisade, is a dominant form of the settlement; its structure is linked to social organization and economic activity. In general it consists of circular huts with a conical roof, which can be a single dwelling of a family group, which however is often equipped with two or more buildings in relation also to the polygamous structure. Since a large part of the populations of Tanzania is at the same time made up of farmers and ranchers (breeding is also found among the Bantu populations who borrowed it mainly from the Masai), the village often has a cattle enclosure (kraal). The most typical structure of the pastoral village is found precisely at the Masai, with the kraal (boma) obtained in the inner part of the village (manyatta) and surrounded by huts, which are low, with a barrel structure and with the entrance, narrow, in an eccentric position with respect to the building, consisting of a frame of sticks covered with mud and dung. Characteristic of the Wanyamwesi (but also found among other tribes) is the hut (tembe) placed on a slope, with terraced roofs, and inside divided into compartments. Even next to this type of village there is never a lack of kraal. The most popular dish is ugali, a kind of cornmeal polenta accompanied by sauces, meat or vegetables. Other popular foods are high quality rice sometimes flavored with coconut milk and matoke (cooked bananas). Many Tanzanians start their day with uji, a light porridge made from beans, millet or other flour. There are three UNESCO cultural heritage sites: the stone city of Zanzibar (2000), a typical commercial port where African, European, Indian and Arab architectural styles blend; the rock carvings of Kondoa (2006), not far from the Rift Valley; the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara (1981). These are two large East African ports located on two small islands near the coast. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, Kilwa merchants traded in gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arab pottery, Persian rugs and Chinese porcelain, thus managing much of the Indian Ocean trade. In 2004 the site was inscribed among the endangered sites.

 

ART

The statuary, of modest quality, consists mostly of the so-called “carved poles” genre representing ancestors and tomb figures; examples can be found among various groups of eastern Bantu. Interesting are the terracotta figurines that were used by the Wanyamwezi as didactic material for the initiatory school, and the large statues believed to possess therapeutic virtues produced by the washambala. Finally, the handicraft products of the Masai are worth mentioning. As for painting, it is certainly worth mentioning the self-taught painter ES Tingatinga, who starting from the 1960s began to paint to follow the demands of the Western market. According to thefreegeography, his paintings are usually square: the subjects are brightly colored animals on a monochrome background. This style was later followed by other painters.

Tanzania Arts and Culture