Editors: JOHN COOPER-POOLE AND MARION E DORO
FROM RITUAL TO MODERN ART: TRADITION AND MODERNITY IN TANZANIAN SCULPTURE. Edited by Manfred Ewel and Anne Outwater, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam. £34.95 h/b, £20.95 p/b. Available from African Books Collective Ltd, The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OXl IHU
East Africa is often neglected in books about African art. Masks and sculpted human figures, which are generally the main focus of interest for historians of African art, are generally considered rarer and of lesser quality when compared with the rich and accomplished traditions of the Zaire basin and West Africa. It is therefore heartening to find a well illustrated and well produced book, published in Tanzania, that aims to redress this neglect. However, despite its ambitious title this book presents very little new material based on recent research. Although the contributing authors, who include Tanzanians as well as Europeans, display a scholarly familiarity with the literature on Tanzanian sculptural traditions this literature is itself outdated and in need of critical review. The book remains, essentially, a series of general surveys of different aspects of Tanzanian sculptural traditions.
A broadly critical perspective is adopted by Wembah-Rashid in his short opening chapter, but in attempting to discuss the broad sweep of Tanzanian sculpture and sculptors his observations are generalised almost to the point of meaninglessness. Hahner-Herzog’s chapter admits to being a preliminary survey of the history of Tanzanian art and achieves this aim to the extent that the literature allows. She attempts to trace formal and stylistic influences along trade routes and along paths traced for other reasons by the peoples of the region. But while Hahner-Herzog keeps to historically documented movements of peoples in her discussion, Felix, in his chapter, does not limit himself to such sources. His almost obsessive concern for the objects in themselves leads him to dispense with the need to explain how the ‘style’ of an artefact relates to a sculptor’s intentions or to its meaning and function in a particular social context. He uses long discredited ‘diffusionist’ arguments to trace the spread of loosely defined ‘types’ and ‘styles’ of artefact throughout eastern Africa.
Mulokozi’s over ambitious chapter attempts to cover the aesthetic principles and religious and philosophical ideas underlying Tanzanian (and in some cases even African) sculptural forms. Although he often relates his categories and principles to specific ethnic traditions he succeeds, like a number of the other contributors, mainly in reducing a fascinating and complex cultural diversity to a set of rather suspect generalities.
Katoke’s brief chapter is useful in that it focuses specifically on the Karagwe royal collection. This modest approach allows us to gain insights into the political significance of a unique collection of artefacts and into the transformations of meaning implied in their creation and acquisition. Castelli’s chapter, although fleshed out with snippets of Makonde ethnography, is theoretically very weak. His central, spurious thesis is that African sculpture preserved in European museums represents a tool for reconstructing African collective memories. This approach is again one of obsession with the objects in themselves. It lacks a critical perspective with regard to the European colonial projects that provided the historical contexts in which museum artefacts were collected.
Nooter’s analysis of high-backed stools has been well rehearsed in other publications and Mshana’s inquiry into Makonde shetani sculpture has now been superseded by my book, ‘A Host of Devils: the history and context of the making of Makonde spirit sculpture’ (Routledge 2002). Despite its shortcomings, which often reflect the shortcomings of the existing literature on East African material culture, this publication would be worth having merely as a visual record of Tanzanian sculpture. Ironically, however, most of the artefacts illustrated in it are no longer in Tanzania.
KONIGSBERG-A GERMAN EAST AFRICAN RAIDER Kevin Patience. Available from the author at 257 Sandbanks Road, Poole, BH14 8EY, Dorset. Tel 01 202 707450. Email saburi@hotmaiI.com Hardback, 216 pp. £16 incl.p&p.
This is a revised and enlarged edition of a book first published in 1997. On the outbreak of war the light cruiser Konigsberg sailed north from Dar es Salaam in search of British merchant shipping. During her absence H.M.S. Astraea of the Cape squadron destroyed the wireless station at Dar es Salaam and frightened the German Harbour Master into scuttling the floating dock in the harbour entrance to deny entry to the Royal Navy. In so doing he also denied the Konigsberg her best harbour in the area, so that being short of fuel and in need of repairs she anchored in the Rufiji river. While there she learnt that the old light cruiser Pegasus was at Zanzibar undergoing repairs to her engines, so she sallied forth and quickly put her out of action before returning to the Rufiji.
Two shallow draught monitors each armed with two six inch guns were sent from England and eventually worked their way up the river to a position from which they could destroy the Konigsberg in July 1915. They were assisted in this by aircraft of the new fleet air arm to spot the fall of shot and radio corrections to the monitors.
The author tells the story around the surviving relics of the ships, and personal records of those involved which he has tracked down with remarkable thoroughness. He has himself dived to examine the wreck of the Pegasus and has traced relics of the action from Pretoria to London. In particular he has obtained much information from the grandson of Captain Looff of the Konigsberg. There are many eye witness accounts of heroism and plain hardship from both sides and the book is profusely illustrated. Of particular interest is the account of the subsequent role of the guns of both Pegasus and Konigsberg in the land fighting.
The author is at pains to demolish the story of the heroism of the marines of H.M.S. Pegasus who were said to have held up the ship’s ensign after it had been shot away. As Geoffrey Bennett pointed out in 1968 in his “Naval Battles of the First World War”, the truth was that Commander Ingles surrendered his ship in the face of hopeless odds.
There is a wealth of fascinating detail not found in the standard histories. On the other hand the reader will not find a discussion of the wider strategic and tactical issues involved, or of the technical problems of controlling indirect fire by the novel use of spotter planes -it’s not that sort of book. For such things, the best account is still that of Arthur Pollen in his “The Navy in Battle”, 1918, which unsurprisingly, is not included in the short bibliography.
At times the story is in danger of becoming confused by the need to cram so much interesting information into a relatively small space, and an index would have helped the reader with the cross referencing involved. Nevertheless it is a lively story told by someone who has devoted much time to tracing the remaining vestiges of an important part of the war in East Africa, presented in an attractive format which represents very good value at the price -J. C-P.
FOOD PRESERVATION AT HOME. Paul Vincent Mroso: Benedictine Publications, Ndanda -Peramiho. ISBN 9976 63 639 3. Pp 191. Price £8.50.
Available from Ndanda Mission Press, P.O. Box 4, Ndanda, via Mtwara, Tanzania.
Dr Mroso’s book is a response to the food insecurity affecting many low and middle income countries in the world to-day. The book has interesting sections on alternative food sources that have the potential to meet the needs of a hungry planet and on improved means of providing families living in isolated areas with safe water, for example by harvesting rain water or making sand filters. Dr Mroso provides a particularly useful account of traditional methods of food preservation. These range from the better known techniques of smoking, roasting, drying, curing, salting, pickling and fermentation to less familiar ways of preserving eggs, blood, fats and oils. The account is a valuable store of traditional wisdom.
FORTRESS CONSERVATION. The Preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania. Dan Brockington. The International Institute in co-operation with James Currey: Mkuki wa Nyota; and Indiana University Press. 2002. 196 pages. ISBN 0-85255-418-4 (hardback). £40.00, 0-85255-417-6 (paper), £11.95
This book represents several years work including two in the field. It is a worthwhile and challenging read, and deals with an intractable problem common throughout modem Africa. This concerns the attempt, which is in present conditions well nigh impossible of achievement, to reconcile the needs of a hugely expanded population and its urgent need for more land and grazing, with the need to conserve wilderness and wildlife resources which are under threat worldwide. The author leans towards the needs of the people, and with this I can sympathise, but I abhor the picture on the front of the book which shows an epitome of an ostentatious western life-style. This is modem sleazy spin at its worst, is out of place in an academic text, and will I am sure offend many thinking people. Mkomazi is in many ways a unique environment, and not just a playground for rich western tourists.
I am fully aware of the problems posed by the author, and I know the area with which he deals. In the 1950’s as District Officer in Musoma and later in Lushoto, I was closely involved with illegal Maasai grazing on the Serengeti, and with Sambaa-Maasai problems on the Umba steppe. Much later, from 1971 to 1991 I was Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Botswana, and deeply involved in the active debate about the relative merits of increased cattle grazing and the preservation of the Kalahari environment, and with the varying demands on finite resources by San peoples, Tswana cattlemen, tourists, and diamond prospecting and mining.
After forty years in Africa then, I have no doubt whatsoever that traditional pastoralism cannot at the present day co-exist with a natural highly diversified environment, and its attendant wildlife. Everywhere it is in terminal retreat. One cannot square the circle, no matter how sympathetic one is to people such as the Maasai, and very difficult and unpalatable decisions have to be made, which cannot please all interests.
A hard decision has been made by the Tanzanian Government to cut the gordian knot, and this decision to confirm the Mkomazi Game Reserve must be adhered to. The real need now is to provide organisation and funds on a large scale to provide help to the burgeoning population of the Upare/Mkomazi area and indeed of all Africa. The people need to be taught better alternatives to traditional agricultural and cattle-keeping methods, which simply do not work under modem population pressures. They must also be offered new sources of work and livelihood, so that they do not continue to ruin the land which is their and their children’s’ home now and in the future. Sadly however, the rich countries of the world do not seem prepared to help on the scale required. They have in many places dreadfully damaged their own environments and squandered the earth’s resources, but seem impervious to the needs of Africa and its exploding population.
FROM BLANTYRE TO CHITAMBO – A Brief Life of David Livingstone. Peter Snelson. Published by The Round House Vestry, Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1 DB. ISBN 0 9541762 0 O. 50 pages, including four of illustrations. PIb. £3.50
David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland, in 1813, and died in Chitambo Village in the country now known as Zambia, in 1873. The author graduated in history at Cambridge. He served for 17 years as an Education Officer in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia, and later worked in the Commonwealth Secretariat. In his own foreword to his book the author writes -“this little book sketches the life of David Livingstone and summarises his achievements and failures in a few brief chapters. It breaks little new ground. The reader who has time to read more will find no shortage of full length biographies”.
Some of the full length biographies mentioned by Peter Snelson are too lavish in the way that they praise a hero whose adventures as an explorer, missionary, and opponent of the slave trade gripped the imaginations of Britain. Other biographers, for example Lytton Strachey, are too negative in their approach to “eminent Victorians”, and debunk a very great man with a cynicism which I find unpleasant. Peter Snelson avoids both these faults, and has written a lively, accurate, lucid and enthralling little book which succeeds quite admirably in its stated objective of “making a balanced assessment of Livingstone’s successes and failures”.
Livingstone’s explorations covered a vast area of Africa, and took him to many different countries. Readers of “Tanzanian Affairs” will be particularly interested in the parts of the book which deal with Zanzibar, Bagamoyo, and Stanley’s search for Livingstone and their meeting at Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, and in the months they spent together at Unyanyembe near Tabora. “From Blantyre to Chitambo” is an excellent account of an extraordinary life.
LEARNING THE FACTS OF LIFE: PAST AND PRESENT EXPERIENCES IN A RURAL TANZANIAN COMMUNITY.
Denis Roth Allen, “Learning the Facts ofLife: Past and Present Experiences in a Rural Tanzanian Community”, Africa Today, 47, 3/4, 2000, 3-27.
WOMENS’S INCOME AND THE LIVELIHOOD STRATEGIES OF DISPOSSESSED PASTORALISTS NEAR THE MKOMAZI GAME RESERVE, TANZANIA. Daniel Brockington. HumanEcology,
29,3,2001, pp 307-338.
DEMOCRATISATION AND THE TANZANIAN STATE: EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACHIEVING WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT. Andrea M. Brown. Canadian Journal of African
Studies, 35,1,2001. Pp 67-97.
ADOLESCENT GIRLS, ILLEGAL ABORTIONS AND “SUGAR DADDIES” IN DAR ES SALAAM: VULNERABLE VICTIMS AND ACTIVE SOCIAL AGENTS. Margaret Silberschmidt and Vibeke
Rasch. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 12, June 2001, 1815-1826.
The widening range of gender-focused research was particularly apparent in recent academic journals as illustrated in this selection that reflect concern for traditional sex education, urban teen-age pregnancy, rural economic status, and the political empowerment of urban women. While each of these articles is concerned with different aspects of Tanzanian womens’ experiences they share several common denominators. Perhaps the most important one is that the potential for resolving socio-economic issues arising out of gender depends on womens’ access to adequate economic opportunities, acquiring political credibility and achieving effective degrees of independence. These factors indicate that both the struggle between tradition and modernity, and the inequities between urban and rural opportunities for development continue.
The Allen article explores how young women in Tanzania’s Shinyanga Region learned about “sexuality and reproduction” and asks whether it would be useful to revive traditional forms of sex education. Through interview and informal conversations the author discovered several traditional forms were rarely used either because one of them -unyago-was apparently limited to Muslim girls and used infrequently, or another -maji -was essentially an informal mode of communal living. In the absence of traditional or established methods of sex education the evidence indicated that these rural women effectively shared their experiences about sexuality and reproduction through informal networking. Clearly, the results of this research suggest that future methods of sex education and health education would benefit from using this pragmatic method rather than re-inventing “traditional rites” which appear to be more myth than reality.
In contrast to the mores of traditional sex education in rural areas, Silberschmidt’s analysis of the sexual activities of adolescent girls in Dar es Salaam examines modes of urban sexual behaviour that are becoming major concerns throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Based on a qualitative analysis of 51 girls who had recently experienced illegal abortions this study reveals that many adolescents in the current generation often willingly engage in high-risk sexual behaviour that exposes them to HIV infections, early pregnancy and induced abortions. Not surprisingly their motives are to secure material benefits, and they are either not aware of the availability of family planning services or do not utilise them. Rather than using earlier findings that suggest that the girls are prey to lecherous old men, the author concludes that these adolescent girls have failed to recognise that sex education and contraceptives are intended to promote responsible behaviour rather than licence to engage in illicit sex.
Brockington, who has researched Tanzanian pastoralists extensively, focused on the impoverishment Maasai and Parkuyo women suffered following the eviction oftheir communities from the Mkomazi Game Reserve. The move caused serious losses of the stock on which women depended for their basic food and income, with the result that they were compelled to sell their milk supplies as well as well as to resort to selling firewood and traditional medicine. This led to other adverse effects, such as a decline in their socio-economic independence, dietary deficiencies for the poorer families who continued to live in remote rural areas, and difficult intra-household negotiations with their husbands over the use of their diminished income. Women among the relatively wealthy pastoralists living near a village endured less loss of income and enjoyed the advantages of nearby school, church and clinic, as well as income generating activities. The author acknowledges that more research is needed to ascertain the long-term effects of eviction on women pastoralists. However, the reader is apprised of how major changes in the lifestyles of pastoralists affect gendered socioeconomic life.
Tracing recent political empowerment of urban Tanzanian women Andraea M Brown explores their extensive participation in civil society as well as governmental institutions. Her research is based on extensive interviews conducted primarily with middle class women, as well as previous similar studies.
While female representation in local, regional and national government has increased, women must still cope with male dominated hierarchies, negative cultural attitudes, and their own culturally induced strictures. Their achievements are a mixed bag, balanced on the one hand by legislation that punishes sexual assaults, and the easing of restrictions on civil society associations, while issues relating to inheritance, property rights, sexual harassment, female education and health remain unresolved. Nevertheless, Tanzanian women fare better than their contemporaries in Kenya, Zimbabwe or Zambia. This is particularly true in the realm of civil society where professional and middle class women pressure government for change and challenge patronage politics. Much of their strength stems from their unity and ability to minimise ethnic and socio-economic differences in favour of gender related political issues. On the other hand, poor women who are most adversely affected by structural adjustment, focus on economic issues, using passive resistance and non-compliance to cope with issues such as taxation and licensing -M.E.D.
A FIELD GUIDE TO THE REPTILES OF EAST AFRICA: KENYA, TANZANIA, UGANDA, RWANDA AND BURUNDI.
Stephen Spawls et al. Natural world 2002. 543 pp. bibliography and index. ISBN 0-12-656470-1. $49.95
A product of expert east African herpetologists this guide includes nearly 500 reptile fauna in the area, complete with colour photographs, keys and introductory essays, distribution maps and a special section on dangerous snake bites and first aid -M.E.D.
FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF EAST AFRICA: KENYA, TANZANIA, UGANDA, RWANDA AND BURUNDI. Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe.T & A Poyser, 2002. 602 pp. bibliography, index. ISBN 0-85661-079-8. $40
Enthusiastically reviewed and recommended by specialists, this guide discusses 1,388 species, with 287 illustrations, numerous maps and useful indexes