TANZANIAN LITERATUREBY CHARLES AMAN. WTanzanian literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the Swahili langu...
Folktale which is a people’s popular narrative handed down orally from past generations.They express the mind of the peopl...
young man then cut open the stomach with a sharp knife and sure enough all the peoplewere released. They thanked him and n...
this is applicable up the moment because the country offer freedom of worship to itspeople.KEREWE SOCIETYGabriel Ruhumbika...
saying have the meaning to girls who are in the age of being betrothed, that by keepingthemselves adultery and acts of tha...
in anything that men can do within their society, but to girl it is a shameful state toremain uncircumcised because it has...
On the way, my companion Felix, a local investigative journalist, points out other placesof interest: the modest headquart...
Kipanya in mwananchi News paper, an artist who uses cartoon drawings to portray thehappening in the society around us.Sing...
Contemporary Tanzanian Literature social and cultural life
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Contemporary Tanzanian Literature social and cultural life

  1. 1. TANZANIAN LITERATUREBY CHARLES AMAN. WTanzanian literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the Swahili languageparticularly by Swahili people of the East African coast and the neighboring islands. Itmay also refer to literature written by people who write in Swahili language. It is anoffshoot of the Bantu culture. One of the main characteristics of the Swahili literature isthe relative heterogeneity of the Swahili language. One can find works written in Kiamu,Kimvita, Kipemba, Kiunguja, Kimrima, and Kimtangata, which are considered varietiesof SwahiliAs it is known that Tanzanian literature expressed using Swahili language that is theoutshoot of Bantu languages so many cultures in Tanzania that is Bantu speaking groupscan represent the literature of Tanzana, such tribes are like Sukuma tribe, Kurya tribe,Kara tribe, Haya, Jita and many others that are within 120 ethnic groups in Tanzania.RELIGIONS AND SUPERSTITIONTanzania has been a place of people of many culture and religion from many countries.Tanzania Religion has its roots in earlier times. Almost one-third of the Tanzanian peopleare Muslims. Another one third are Christians and the remaining one third followreligions of different kind. Some rural people in Tanzania are believers of animisticreligion. Religion in Tanzania is multifaceted. The Muslims in Tanzania are descendantsof Aga Khans spiritual leadership. There are sprouts of Jainism, Hinduism, RomanCatholicism, too. Though the constitution offers freedom of religion, in reality, there aresome shortcomings observed. Zanzibar in Tanzania has got more hold of Muslims.Almost 99 percent of the population there are Muslims.WASUKUMAAccording to Immaculate Mirambo(1990)The Basukuma are the largest of Tanzania’s120 ethnic groups, representing about 20% of the Tanzanian population. The Basukumaoriginated from the Balongo tribe who lived on the Western side of Lake Victoria. Thearea is now known as Geita District. The Basukuma are the bantu speaking people,covering four administrative districts, that is Mwanza, Kwimba, Maswa and Shinyanga,plus the country west of Smith Sound.Among the Sukuma, oral narratives fall into two main categories, real and imaginarynarratives. Real narratives tell us something that actually happened example, thenarratives dealing with different diseases, drought that culminated in famine, floods, warand its miseries. Real and fictional narrativescommunicateS messages to man, man’s environment and behavior. These narratives arereal for they actually happened. The second category is the imaginative narrative(fiction). These are creative, and deal with imaginary things.
  2. 2. Folktale which is a people’s popular narrative handed down orally from past generations.They express the mind of the people. Themes in folktales are mainly on cultural issuesand man’s behavior. Most of the folktales are animal stories. For example, TheBasukuma are very superstitious, and most will seek aid from the Bafumu, Balaguzi andBasomboji that is medicine men, diviners. and sooth sayers. Example, many societies inTanzania now days still believe in superstition in any case if a person is faced by aproblem whether economic, social, and even political problems, the first step that aperson will take is to consult diviners or which doctors. The outcome of it is like thecases that hear of killing of albinos or any other thing that is harmful to the society,killing of old women/men with red eyes.The Basukuma have many stories based on their beliefs on death and sufferings. Theybelieve that fate is determined by shing’wengwe and shishieg’we, that is ogres andspirits. The ogres are usually shown as being half human, half demon, or as terriblemonsters. Also legends spread from generation to generation. They talk of fame orsuperior qualities that certain individuals are endowed with.Trickster stories based on animals like hare, spider, chameleon and squirrel are commonin Sukumaland. Sukuma myths reflect religion, superstition and traditional beliefs. Themyths retell early history, the creation of the world,This ogre story tells us that some problems take a long time, even years to be solved. Italso shows the Sukuma belief that death is not the ultimate end to a human being.ShingwengweLong time ago, people met a huge Ogre [lishingwengwe or lyoba].Whenever the villagers met this huge ogre they would yell interror [Ngwana]. This cry would cause the villagers to assemble with their bowsand arrows ready to confront it. One day the ogre appeared and started swallowing allthe people. Fortunately one expectant mother escaped. Later on she delivered a babyboy. As the boy grew, the mother narrated to him the ogre story, how the village wasdevoured, including his father. The boy decided to search for the ogre, first he killed abird named jiji, he ran to his mother with pride saying “Mayu, mayu namlaghashingwengwe” [“Mother, mother I have caught and killed the ogre”], his mother laughedat him and said “Kenaka” [that is not the ogre]. “The ogre is big, you are still young youcannot kill the ogre.” Another day the young boy shot something with his bow andarrow, and told his mother he had killed the ogre. But his mother told him that was notthe ogre, she advised him to wait until he was grown up. A time came when he wasmature enough to face the monster. His mother blessed and allowed him to go and killthe ogre. He went into a big forest where the ogre resided. There he met it, after a longbattle, he finally overpowered the ogre. As the young man was about to kill the ogre, ittold him to cut open its stomach and all the people it had swallowed would come out. The
  3. 3. young man then cut open the stomach with a sharp knife and sure enough all the peoplewere released. They thanked him and named him Masala Kulangwa [Trained inFelliance]There are other stories that have been told long ago concerning religions and beliefsamong sukuma society apart from believing in diviners and medicine men they also knowthat there is one GOD Who is above all. Even now the story is still useful as it makespeople believe and have one faith towards GOD. Example of a story is:-There Is Only One Bull In This WorldLong, long ago, there was a famous Sukuma dance leader of magicians’ group known asthe Bagalu. His name was Gumha. He was not only a ningi [dance leader] but also anfumu [practitioner of magic]. Gumba had a cock that used to spend the night on the roofof his house. Whenever wizards tried to cast their spellsanywhere near Gumba’s house at night the cock would crow alerting Gumba. Anyattempt on Gumha’s life always failed until he started boasting that no one could killhim. A time came when Gumha became seriously sick and died. His followers wereshocked, but appreciated that their leaders life had been taken by the Almighty God.They said, it is true that only one bull rules the world, that is God. It is he who has takenour heroes like Ibambangulu, Ng’wana, Malundi and Ngwana Ndele.KURYA SOCIETYNot only in Basukuma but also in Kurya society in a certain clan within a society inKurya a story is narrated on how that clan become followers of Christianity specificallyRoman catholic it says:- Long time ago when a certain elder in Banyamongo society had a vision of thecoming religion where by people will worship candles around the sanctuary. That eldersaid ‘and who ever join that denomination will not die and will live forever. The vision ofthat elder spread after generation to generation till the time of Christianity where by acertain boy from that clan heard of the denomination similarly to that his great grandelder saw in vision. He went and joined that church believing that he will not die. Fromthat time the members of the family decided to join Catholic Church.But still in kurya society there are groups or clans believing on their own way. Some ofthe animals are taken as sacred animal of their clan, Example, there is a certain clan usingthe name Magoiga (this is the name of the snake) and they believe that the snake is theirgod. Each clan has its own way of giving sacrifice to their gods and this is done secretly.Tradition elders are mostly known as superstitious because they have their own believeand ways of giving sacrifice example in the time of circumcision elders have to go to acertain tree and offer their sacrifice asking their god whether or not they can conduct thatSaro (circumcise), but other elders would go to the river to ask the lord of the river as towhether they can conduct Saro together with choosing one responsible for the sacrifice
  4. 4. this is applicable up the moment because the country offer freedom of worship to itspeople.KEREWE SOCIETYGabriel Ruhumbika was born in 1938 in Ukerewe Island he is one of the popular Novelwriters 1997-2001 one of his books were chosen in the curriculum of secondary schoolsin Tanzania. His writings reflect the life of many Tanzanians, he wrote many booksconcerning superstition and religion that shows the life of people of Tanzania and Africain general. Example of the books that he wrote that shows how people believe in traditionwhich craft are like Bunge la Wachawi ( Witches’ Parliament), Viumbe walolaaniwa(Cursed Creatures) Mizimu kushitakiwa Mahakamani ( Spirits to be Accused in theCourt) and many other writings reflecting Tanzanian life.Apart from these short stories and novels Gabriel Ruhumbika wrote another novel usingEnglish language tittled Village in Uhuru. In 2002 he wrote the interesting Novel rich inreligion, tradition believe or superstition, Life in past and present, education, politics andeconomy, leadership and the role of women in Tanzanian society. The title of the book isJanga Sugu la Wazawa, the setting of this book is Ukerewe where the writer was born,the book Jagwa Sugu la Wazawa, shows how people in ukerewe believed in superstitionto the extent of using human body parts as source of wealth where as they may sacrificeanything in case one sees that there is misfortune in front of him. In this novel we see thatsuperstition not only practized in Ukerewe but also other places within Tanzania thewriter express a character who travelled to Sukuma land and he saw different kind of foreseers, which doctors and diviners of different kind. In here the writer Gabriel Ruhumbikais trying to show that many tradition practices in Tanzania relates to one another in oneway or another. This book is applicable up to this time because there are still people whobelieve in superstition not all of the society members rely in one side of religion.Although the book explain how people in Ukerewe hated Christianity and its education tothe people of Ukerewe that they fought not to take their children to school afraid to bebaptized, some of them responded to Christianity but the majority remained with theirown way of life that is Superstition.CRIME AND PROSTITUTIONTanzanian literature composed of different literatures from different tribes that are foundin Tanzania. Some of the cultures in those societies within Tanzania are identical.Example in Wasukuma society oral literature is still useful in sukuma society. People intraditional Sukuma society and even now taught about their culture and truth of lifethrough different genres of oral literature according to the occasions. Oral literature helpsthem to grow up according to societal expectations.In case of prostitution Tanzanian literature has many stories, songs and saying thateducate on prostitution. But all these have been derived from different cultures that arefound in Tanzania example, the saying in Tanzania ‘chanda chema huvikwa pete’ the
  5. 5. saying have the meaning to girls who are in the age of being betrothed, that by keepingthemselves adultery and acts of that kind she will be awarded and it will bring respect toher and her family in general. The reverse of that is shameful to the girl and also herfamily. Haraka haraka haina Baraka (Hurry hurry has no blessings) this explain thereason on why girls should not rush to things that their time still not things like waiting tothe time of marriage because when waiting many blessings will flow rather than doingthings lustful, this also is the same to Asiyesikia la mkuu huvunjika guu this proverbwants children to listen to elders or any one aged than him/her for girls and boyswarnings are made by parents, members of the society and even teachers in schools thatthey should never engage to things that may destroy their life such as prostitution, thosewho follow the words will be safe but rejecting those words one’s leg will be broken (fillface trouble in life)Singers and painters also uses their art to educate children and the society in general thesongs and paintings urge girls and boys not to engage in prostitution which may result tothe infection of disease like HIV /AIDS. These artists use the media of literature that caneducate large number of people than sayings and proverbs which are uses in family level.Stories have been changed into drama and plays, in contemporary Tanzanian literature allthese have been changed into movies where by there are movies which educate on theconsequences of prostitution and crimes. Example of the movie “Family disasters”created by RJ Company shows how prostitution may result to failure in academics andalso death.It is therefore safe to state that oral literature is an instrument of cultural education. Thisliterature teaches what society likes and what it hates. For example it is a Taboo or agreater crime to kill a person in Sukuma society, but many crimes of killing people havebeen reported by different media and this is due to belief in witchcraft and superstition ,they have a saying also that (He who dig’s a well/ hole/grave gets into himself). That ifone plans evil, that evil will destroy the one who plans it. If a person is suspected as acriminal the only judgment is killing him/ her. In Sukuma tradition it is said that theelderly have the responsibility to protect the young people and not killing and eating themlike animals do but who kills will be killed and let his/ her body be eaten by animals,justice is being done.In Kurya society from generation to generation, circumcision practiced to both boys andgirls. But let us look on the side of girls, the question is why they were circumcised inthat time and why is it progressive up to this time?At that time it was told that they decided to circumcise girls thinking that it is the betterway of fighting prostitution because at that time Men spent a lot of time fighting withother ethnic groups so by circumcising women they will not work out of their marriage,that’s why in Kurya society at that time when one marries from another tribe his wife willbe circumcised the time she is giving birth. But up to this time the practice continues withother reasons that one is now in the maturity age and can make family. It is similarly toboys who are circumcised as a sign of becoming a real man in the society and can engage
  6. 6. in anything that men can do within their society, but to girl it is a shameful state toremain uncircumcised because it has no honor to the family and society in general, uncircumcised girls are called abhasaghane and it is a shameful name to be calledMosaghane (uncircumcised). Sometimes girls decide to go by themselves afraid to becalled uncircumcised and some of them are being forced by their family members to keepthe status of the family although some elders still believe that in circumcising girls therate of prostitution will decrease but that is not the case because it depend on a persononeself.The notion of circumcision to girls relate to all societies practicing it within Tanzaniabecause it is taken as maturity entry because the notion of reducing sexual feeling is notgenuine one can do whatever she likes even if she has no feelings to it.ORAL LITERATURE AND CORRUPTIONMany writers in contemporary Tanzanian literature stressed much on the development ofthe nation and many of them show how corruption under develop the nation. Zainabu MMwanga the playwright established her play Kiu ya Haki which reflect the life ofTanzania in term of job opportunities and in special places like in the court where bythose with money can do anything to divert the case and those with no money suffer theconsequence.In the Bog Bora Kujenga Daraja (Better build a bridge) wrote on the consequence thatface Tanzania that brought by corruption in 21 September 2011. He explained on:-Corruption in literature - some great readsThe great MG Vassanji, author of many of the best East African novels, was in Tanzaniarecently, and has shared his thoughts on Tanzania in a fascinating piece published in theCanadian magazine “Macleans” - "Tanzania: land of constant complaints." The countryseems well, but corruption is rampant. In Tanzania, is it that they complain too much, orthey expect too much? Since the beginnings of economic and political liberalization inthe 1990s, the nation has charged forward; the print media is bold and vociferous in bothof the national languages, English and Swahili—especially the latter. Paved roadsconnect every part of the country, reaching towns and villages previously cut off duringthe rains; cell phones are in evidence everywhere. The country is connected. It’s as if anengine turned on one day, and the once laid-back country, known as “the land of not yet,”woke up. So what are the complaints about? Or, as a slick, modern voice on the radiosays in an angular Swahili, “Wapi ni beef?”By M.G. Vassanji on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 10:25am. The editor wrote on somecomplaints of peoples of Tanzania on how they view their nation in term of social andeconomic development
  7. 7. On the way, my companion Felix, a local investigative journalist, points out other placesof interest: the modest headquarters of a yogurt maker whose product now reaches allover the country; the modest house of a local man who owns hotels in the capital; adownhill bend on the road that was formerly called Uwanja wa Ndege, or “Airport,”because—before the speed bumps came up—vehicles would fly off from this spot downinto the valley below; a coal mine started by the Chinese. Felix also tells disturbingstories of abuses of village women by foreign mine workers.Im not sure he has it quite right with the headline, since apathy, low expectations and justgetting on with things are more my experience. An SNV study, for example, elicited avery different thought from a respondent: "What do we expect from our government? It islike the rain: if it does not rain we try to survive, when it rains we are grateful."Indeed, the country is rich. Besides coal, there is gold, uranium and natural gas, andperhaps oil; food is grown abundantly in many parts and there are plenty of cattle. Thenwhy the incessant complaints from everyone I meet, not only in the nation’s capital, Dares Salaam, but far away here in Mbeya and Kyela, where you cannot starve even if youtried? The problem is governance and corruption. Every morning in Mbeya you seetrucks doing the rounds, piling up with bananas to take, presumably, to the capital. Thereis no adequate transportation for the produce. Tazara, the Tanzanian-Zambian railway,which once connected the south to the capital and port of Dar es Salaam, is now more orless defunct and remembered fondly. The Central Railway Line, built by the Germanswhen they colonized the country in the early 20th century, and which goes from the coastall the way to lakes Tanganyika and Victoria, is also useless. Air Tanzania, once thriving,is no more. The government, in a show of optimism, is planning another railway in thesouth, to be built perhaps with Chinese help.Better build a bridge blog continues saying; Otherwise, as Pernille argues, Vassanji hascaptured a changing Tanzania very well. And I cant argue with his litany of challengesfacing Tanzania or his simply stated analysis "the problem is governance and corruption."Many artist in contemporary Tanzanian literature reveals the weaknesses of the countryeach artist in his or her different way, writers of stories use ironic expression in revealingsocial, political and economical problems by attacking the source ironically, editorswithin the country and outside write on Tanzania openly without any fear, the goodexample is the Macleans Magazine showed how people complain daily on the badsituation of the country by blaming leaders on system.Not only writers but also other artists like singers and painters who uses their artisticmeans to attack bad behavior within the society and nation in general. Example Masudi
  8. 8. Kipanya in mwananchi News paper, an artist who uses cartoon drawings to portray thehappening in the society around us.Singer like Mrisho Mpoto uses his talent of singing using satiric expression in attackingleaders who do not care of their people his song “Nikipata Nauli” contain ironicexpression of a (Nephew) person of very low status complaining about hardness of thelife he have in his society and he doesn’t have even fare to reach his uncle (president)Comedy also is another genre of literature in contemporary Tanzanian literature that isloved by most of the people in the country. Groups like Original comedy performed inTBC television, despite of making people laugh they also educate the society in differentissues like Marriage in the section of “Ndoa ndoano”.Conclusively though contemporary Tanzania literature plays greater role in shaping thesocial behavior as well as entertainment, one should be very careful in understanding themessage communicated especially in genre like comedy when artist attack bad behaviorsby making funny on them, in another genre like novels writers use stories that are usefulin shaping the society but the majority are not good readers of books in that caseMOVIES have captured the greater scope of its audience and has the wide chance ineducating the society. Some of good movies mix the languages and make harder formany viewers to understand the message although the major communication channel isKiswahili.
  9. 9. REFERENCEhttp://disqus.com/forums/borakujengadaraja/httpblogdarajaorg2011,09corruption_in_literature_some_greathtml/trackback/Mirambo I. (1990),Oral Literature of the Wasukuma, Bio med Center, The Open AccessPublisher.M.G. Vassanji’s (2011), Macleans News Paper, Tanzania: land of constant complaints.Tuesday, September 13, 2011 10:25amMbonde J. P ( 2005) Janga Sugu la wazawa Uchambuzi na Uhakiki, Swahili Forum,Tuki, Dar es salaam.Ruhumbika G. (2002), Janga Sugu la Wazawa, E & D Publishers Limited Dar es salaam.