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People / Tanzania

Zaramo People

Zaramo People

Location: East-Central Tanzania

Population: 200,000

Arts: The arts of Tanzania as a whole are poorly understood, and styles tend to overlap to a great degree. Additionally, the "crude," though appealing, carving methods used on much of Tanzanian works make identification a challenge. The Zaramo undoubtedly are responsible for many wonderful works, but the one form that can be traced with any certainty to the Zaramo is that of the "Mwana Hiti," a stylized, doll-like creation with split hairdo and, often, seeds for eyes. They are produced for protection and fertility, but their origin is nebulous. The Mwana Hiti image can be found on a wide variety of objects. There are other groups, like their neighbors the Kwere, who craft similar figures. A wide variety of carvings have been attributed to the Zaramo, from marionettes to zoomorphic stools and chairs to small masks resembling those of the Lega, but unlike many African carvings from more heavily-studied areas, there is almost always a question of an exact attribution. Of all the groups in Tanzania, only the widely-scattered Makonde have established a following among collectors and scholars sufficient to produce a documentable style.

History: The Zaramo number around 200,000 and their ancestors can be traced back at least 1000 years. While some of the Zaramo have been Islamicized, primarily as a result of slave raids in the 18th Century, many have held onto their original beliefs. The traditional Zaramo believe in a supreme being, Mulungu, who they associate with rainfall. Their ritual life revolves around the appeasement of Mulungu, and the invocation of family spirits, usually through the intervention of the ubiquitous "diviner." The Zaramo choose leaders for each of their small communities, based on their maternal lineage and/or ownership of land. While most of their leaders are men, they do have women leaders. Due to ecomomic hardships, which are endemic to much of Sub-Saharan Africa, many Zaramo have migrated to the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam.

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Zigua People

Zigua People

Location: Northeast Coastal Tanzania

Population: Less than 200,000

Arts: Zigua art, like most art from Tanzania, is poorly understood. Though they surely have a vibrant tradition of ritual carvings, many of their pieces are undoubtedly misidentified. There is so much overlap in styles from east to west in Tanzania that further research is vital, given the sheer volume of pieces now emerging from the country. Even the form most identified with the Zigua, the so-called "mummy" figures thought to be protective in nature, have been attributed to numerous other culture, mostly the Pare. These small carvings have a curious, quizzical face and a body virtually "shrink-wrapped" by soaking the cloth wrappings in secret liquids. There are masks and divining objects linked to them also, but again, they are all subject to a range of interpretations and origins.

History: The Zigua are thought to have fled east to their current homelands to avoid the slave trade. They are now credited with the establishment of Goshaland, which was granted autonomy in the 19th century. Of Bantu origin, the Zigua, like all Bantu peoples, can trace their origin back thousands of years. The Bantu have since spread throughout Africa to account for two-thirds of its current population.

 




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Pare People

Pare People


Location:North-Central Tanzania

Population: Unknown

Arts and History: The artworks of the Pare are almost completely undefined, though recently there have appeared on the market small statues tightly bound with cloth, resembling mummies, with the classic minimalist Tanzanian facial features. The area in which the Pare live, just south of Mt Kilimanjaro, is one of most spectacular areas on earth. In fact, one of the small mountain ranges in the region is named for the Pare. Despite this, the Pare are extremely small and heavily integrated with larger cultures like the Chaga and Shambala, so their arts, what there are of them, look much like those of their neighbors. The existence of the Pare in the Kilamanjaro area can be documented back at least 600 years, which is unusual in a country where many groups are fairly recent migrants. Many of the Pare live in the village of Chome. The land on which they live is extremely fertile and they make much of their living off of growing coffee and other crops. Income from tourists visiting this magificent area is also vital to their survival. The historical intermingling of Tanzanian cultures has made the identification of their artworks a daunting task, as the social rituals and carving styles vary little from region to region. This difficulty in attribution does not, however, diminish the haunting beauty of Tanzanian sculpture, and it's popularity continues to grow among serious collectors.

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