THE HISTORY AND CONSERVATION OF ZANZIBAR TOWN. EU: Abdul Sheriff. James Currey. 1995. 164 pages. £35 cloth; £12.95 paperback. (Special offer to readers of ‘Tanzanian Affairs’ – paperback copy – £10).
The papers presented in this volume formed part of an international conference on the history and culture of the islands, convened in Zanzibar in December 1992 by the Department of Archives, museums and Antiquities of the Zanzibar government. Five papers deal with the history of the Stone Town; seven discuss its current and future status. In addition to a general introduction to the volume, Sheriff contributes a paper giving an outline history of the Stone Town, and another dealing with the socioeconomic implications of mosque building.
Sheriff begins by tracing the growth of the town since the 19th century. He argues against attributing the success of Zanzibar solely to the plantation economy. If that was the true explanation, Zanzibar would have been a larger version of Kenya’s 19th century Malindi. Sheriff believes that the immense cultural richness and cosmopolitan dynamism of Zanzibar town was due as much to its vibrant commercial port, and an emerging hinterland of huge economic potential. Sheriff’s second paper (published in a journal elsewhere) explores the connection between the building of mosques and the economic growth of the town, especially of its merchant community. Thus one sees an unfolding demography of the various religious communities through the endowments of their wealthy benefactors among whom were several property-owning women.
A facet of the cultural richness to which Sheriff refers is portrayed in Garth Andrew Myers’ article ‘The Other Side’ of the Stone Town, Ny’ambo, an area which has traditionally been considered a dwelling place of the poor. Myers does away with the notion that Ny’ambo was a dirty and chaotic area, and shows the development of its settlement to have been clean and orderly, possessing a ‘fascinating variety of house types and …. a gradually emerging solidarity of its peoples’.
The remaining two history papers can be taken together as their themes are similar, and in many ways they complement Sheriff’s article on mosques.These are Amina Ameir Issa’s contribution on the burial of the elite in the 19th century Stone Town, and Jean-Claude Penrad’s ‘The Social Fallout of Individual Death: Graves and Cemeteries in Zanzibar’. Issa deals with the burial locations of Omani and Hadhrama Arabs respectively, and also those of Comorians, Indians, and ‘othersr, a category which includes Africans, Europeans, Americans, slaves and members of other ethnic communities. Issa mentions the measures taken by the government to control and govern the allocation and upkeep of the burial sites. But such ‘ethnic’ burial was abandoned in 1969 by the Wakf Department in order ‘to end racialism’. Instead all people were required to bury their dead at Wanakwerekwe, four miles from the town. It is this social aspect of death, symbolised by the graves, tombs and their locations, which Penrad discusses in his article. The burial sites represent symbolic perceptions by the various communities about themselves and their beliefs.
The first of the seven papers on the conservation of the Stone Town is historically orientated, as it describes in detail the project to restore the ‘Old Dispensary’ a building with which the family of this reviewer has had some connection in the past. Steve Battle’s paper outlines the background and purpose of its original construction, and the current attempt to revive it as a functioning building.
The historical thread continues in Andriananjanirana- Ruphin’s paper which surveys the development of the Stone Town between 1890 and 1939. Of interest here is the story of the creation of the Municipal of Zanzibar in 1909, and its efforts during the years under consideration to undertake town planning and provide services for a growing municipality. A.Ruphin shows that its success was limited by ‘problems of land control, lack of financial means, shortage of staff, administrative slowness, conflict among the decision-making authorities, and absence of a clear policy of town planning.’ Remarkably similar ingredients to the ones listed above underlie the concerns expressed in the remaining papers in relation to the current and future condition of the Stone Town. The papers by Erich Meffert (‘Will the Zanzibar Stone Town Survive’) and Saad Yahya (‘Zanzibar Stone Town: Fossil or Foetus?’) pose the same question in different ways. Both emphasise the need for proper planning and for immediate action. Meffert is blunt and urgent in his plea: ‘One thing is certain: nobody will come to Zanzibar, or will look at the Stone Town. ..if the prime attraction of the historic landscape has been destroyed by more and more insensitive developers’. Yahya lists characteristics common to coastal towns, including Zanzibar, and suggests that this be utilised in developing not only the town itself but the islands as well. He lists some ideas for doing so.
The theme of planning is taken up in the last three papers by Archie Walls, Emin Balcioglu and Francesco Siravo. Walls’ plea is that the revitalisation of the town must make use of traditional methods of building; otherwise (as he has observed elsewhere) there is a risk of permanent damage. Balcioglu and Siravo discuss the work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and, in particular, its ‘Historic Cities Support Programme’. It is throughout the latter that the AKTC has initiated a planning project manned by AKTC appointees and Zanzibari officials to work out a realistic plan for the conservation and utilisation of the Stone Town.
The book is invaluable as a source of the history of the Stone Town, made all the more so by the inclusion of maps, drawings, and photographs of an era that has now disappeared. James Currey is to be congratulated for its production and for the insertion of the postscript which appears on page 142! Farouk Topan
WITCHCRAFT IN CONTEMPORARY TANZANIA. Ray Abrahams. African Studies Centre, Cambridge University.
This is an interesting book on a complex subject which demonstrates the link between traditional cultures and contemporary society. Witchcraft has been defined as the inherent power to harm others by supernatural (mystical) means. It is a phenomenon which many Tanzanians, both rural and urban, regard as an ugly reality, that can undermine the harmony of village society, but whose eradication can also lead to victimisation and violence.
Four case studies describe the incidence of witchcraft in the Bena, Sukuma and Pogoro tribes and how societies deal with suspects and false accusers. According to Mesaki, Ministry of Home Affairs statistics, from 1970 to 1984, reported the death of over 3,600 people – 240 a year – in witchcraft related incidents in 13 regions of mainland Tanzania. A direct link with witchcraft has not been conclusively demonstrated in all these cases. Over 60% of the cases occurred in Mwanza and Shinyanga (Sukumaland). The majority of victims were women.
Various ways of dealing with suspected witches are described – starting with warnings by the traditional village head, imposition of fines, moving on to driving the suspects out of the village, and finally the extreme case of killing the alleged witch, as in the clandestine operation of vigilante (Sungusungu) among the Sukuma. The Pogoro seem to have a benign way of dealing with suspected witches through a ritual shaving ceremony, kunyolewa. Green’s paper describes this effective social sanction.
Both Mesaki and Mombeshora give good assessments of the significance of legislation. It is doubtful if the formal legal process was ever very effective in rooting out witchcraft or in dealing with malicious accusations, which can be as destructive of a stable society as witchcraft itself. Post-independence governments, while deploring its existence, have had difficulty in dealing with witchcraft in the courts and have preferred to regard it as a civil dispute to be settled in the village. Bugurura, in his study of the Kahama district, describes how the village party leaders assess accusations of witchcraft even while they assert that it has no place in modern society.
Several of the authors, picking up a theory anthropologists have addressed in other African societies, allude to a possible link between the increase in witchcraft and the confining effect of villagization. Social strains in an enclosed society certainly increase as pressure on resources builds up. Young people’s unwillingness to conform to ancient lineage rituals can also lead to allegations that their elders are practising witchcraft.
The monograph is an exploration of a difficult topic in one country, rather than definitive statement of the place of witchcraft in African society. Nevertheless it does forcefully demonstrate the destabilising effects of maleficent beliefs and false accusations. As Professor Abrahams emphasises in his introduction, we are reminded that evil and harm in witchcraft in Tanzania have parallels in recent European experience with sectarian violence, ethnic cleansing and allegations of child abuse.
AFRICA. THE ART OF A CONTINENT. The Royal Academy Of Arts. 4/10/95 to 21/1/96.
This is a large and ambitious exhibition displaying many artefacts from all over the continent dating from pre-history to the beginning of the 20th century. The very first item on display is a simple hand axe from Olduvai, Tanzania. Over one and a half million years old it is two million years later than the Laetoli footprints, but it is the earliest hand tool known. Other items from Tanzania are all from the 19th or early 20th centuries. Among the most interesting are a Nyamwezi chief’s chair; a Makonde man/beast mask; and, a very beautiful Iraqw leather skirt embroidered with beads and bells. Makonde ebony carvings are notably absent, presumably because they are of a more modern age.
ESTIMATING THE SECOND ECONOMY IN TANZANIA. M Bagachwa and A Naho. World Development. 23 (8). August 1995. 12 pages.
THE IMPACT OF STRUCTURAL POLICIES ON WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S HEALTH IN TANZANIA. Joe L P Lugalla. Review of African Political Economy. No 63. 10 pages
THE INFORMAL SECTOR AND STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT: STRENGTHENING COLLECTIVE COPING MECHANISMS IN TANZANIA. M Schulz. Small Enterprise Development. 6 (1). March 1995. 10 pages.
FOREST-DEPENDENT LIVELIHOODS: LINKS BETWEEN FORESTRY AND FOOD SECURITY. S Dembner. Unasylva 182.Vol 46 1995. 6 pages. Includes brief case studies on Bolivia, Thailand, Vietnam and Tanzania – in two villages in Mtwara Region.
AID AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN TANZANIA. Thorvald Gran. Dar es Salaam University Press. 1994. 154 pages. £8.95. An evaluation of NORAD aid to Tanzania.
SOCIAL CAPITAL AND DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY: THE EXAMPLE OF RURAL TANZANIA. L Putterman. Development Policy Review. 13 (1). March 1995.
SUMMARIES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES FOR TANZANIA: AN AGENDA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. L Msambichaka and H Moshi. Dar es Salaam University Press. 1994. 95 pages. £7.50. Contains 23 papers on this 1993 conference.
CONSUMPTION AND POVERTY IN TANZANIA IN 1976 AND 1991: A COMPARISON USING SURVEY DATA. A Sarris and P Tinios. World Development. 23 (8). August 1995. 18 pages.
COMPARING EARNINGS PROFILES IN URBAN AREAS OF AN LDC: RURAL TO URBAN MIGRANTS VS NATIVE WORKERS. W P M Vijverberg and L A Zeager. Journal of Development Economics. 45 (2) 1994. 22 pages. A comparative study of labour productivity in Tanzania.
TEA ESTATE REHABILITATION IN TANZANIA. M Faber. World Development 23 (8). August 1995. 12 pages.
IMPORT SUPPORT AID. EXPERIENCES FROM TANZANIA AND ZAMBIA. H White. Development Policy Review. 13 (1) March 1995. 22 pages.
ECONOMIC REFORM AND SMALLHOLDER AGRICULTURE IN TANZANIA: A DISCUSSION OF RECENT MARKET LIBERALIZATION, ROAD REHABILITATION AND TECHNOLOGY DISSEMINATION EFFORTS. L Putterman. World Development. 23 (2). February 1995. 15 pages.
LIBERALIZATION AND POLITICS. THE 1990 ELECTION IN TANZANIA. Ed: R S Mukandala and H Othman. Dar es Salaam University Press. 1995. 319 pages. £16.75. Includes case studies on elections in Zanzibar, Chilonwa, Bunda and Mtwara.
TERTIARY TRAINING CAPACITY IN TANZANIA. ESAURP. Tanzania Publishing House. 1994. 234 pages. £14.95. A research report prepared for the Eastern and Southern African Universities Research Programme.
THE FUNCTIONAL DIMENSION OF THE DEMOCRATISATION PROCESS. M Mmuya. 1994. 148 pages. £9.95. Papers from a conference on the democratic process in Tanzania and Kenya.
CHAGGA. Leeman and Biddulph. 40 pages. £ 20. A course in the Vunjo dialect of the Kichagga language with two accompanying cassettes.
POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN TANZANIA. RECENT RESEARCH ISSUES. Ed: M S G Bagachwa. Dar es Salaam University Press. 270 pages.
£26.50. Seven papers from a 1994 workshop and a proposal for a long term research project.