by Donovan McGrath

Rain and a whetted appetite in Zanzibar
(New York Times – USA) A week of drizzle leads to a mysterious curio shop and a succession of feasts says travel writer Sara Khan. Extract continues: If my circumstances had not been so dire – or rather, if my circumstances had been drier – I might never have found myself at the Zanzibar Curio Shop… “Hakuna Matata” T-shirts obscured the facade, and tourists browsed among the souvenirs. In any other city, I’d have breezed past. But sodden from the fury of a downpour, I decided feigning interest in refrigerator magnets was a small price to pay for shelter. “If you want to see the real history of Zanzibar, you have to come upstairs,” said Murtaza Akerali, who, with his brother, runs the store their father opened in 1968. And so I followed him through a portal to Zanzibar of yore: Hand-carved wood-and-brass trunks teetered against one wall; vintage cigarette ads from India and political posters from Tanzania formed a retro pastiche on another… [A] wall of grandfather clocks; a cluster of rusting keys, probably belonging to earlier iterations of the brass-studded doors I had been compulsively Instagramming all over Stone Town. You have to be careful when writing about places like Zanzibar, not to reduce it to a series of prosaic meditations on brilliantly sunny skies, blindingly white beaches and beguilingly azure waters… To prevent such exaltations from finding their way into my own notebook, Zanzibar made sure I encountered nothing of the sort… The Swahili language spoken here is a composite of Bantu and Arabic, with tributes to Persian, Portuguese, English and Hindi… “Zanzibar is not just one thing – Arab, Indian, Persian or Bantu,” the fashion designer Farouque Abdela said. “It’s what they call Swahili” … You can trace the cultures that have mingled in Zanzibar through Mr. Abdela’s lineage: He is a native Zanzibari of Comoran, Indian and Arab descent … Zanzibar was, for centuries, where far-flung corners of the world converged. The region was settled by Bantus from mainland Africa, then Persians, Portuguese and Arabs, each wave leaving indelible influences on the language, dress, food and religion… “A mixture of culture, rather than food,” is how Mr. Abdela described urojo to me. The stew, popularly known as Zanzibar mix, is hearty, rainy-day food … a few chunks of mishkaki, or East African grilled meat, sliced off the skewer, were draped with Indian-inspired fried bhajias, local casava strips and chunks of potatoes … (24 February 2020) – Thanks to Elsbeth Court for this item – Editor

Oxford University restores Maasai artefacts

Group of Masaai during visit to Oxford University

(Economist online – UK) Men with spears come to the dreaming spires… Extract continues: Former colonial powers have tended to take a defensive attitude to requests from formerly subject peoples for the return of objects that may have been stolen. In Britain, France and elsewhere, laws prevent museums from letting stuff go. But in 2017, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said that he wanted to see the return of pilfered artefacts to Africa within five years. Since then, the movement for restitution has gathered steam. Universities are not constrained by the legislation that binds national collections, and several have started to return objects. The Pitt Rivers, which holds Oxford University’s archaeological and anthropological collections, is the vanguard. It has returned 28 objects, all of them human remains. But Dan Hicks, curator of archaeology at the museum, believes that the movement needs to accelerate, for “museums are sites of colonial violence”. Rather than deal with national governments, which can make for tricky politics, the Pitt Rivers is engaging directly with indigenous peoples. The Maasai visit came about after Samwel Nangira, a Maasai from Tanzania, visited the Pitt Rivers when he was at a conference. He questioned the labelling of some of the objects in the museum: “what does ‘collected’ mean? Like when you find something in a forests, so not donated, and not robbed?” One of the problems with restitution claims is establishing provenance. The Maasai have come at the invitation of Laura van Broekhoven, director of the Pitt Rivers, and InsightShare, an NGO, to establish where and when the objects were taken. To that end, they have brought Lemaron ole Parit, a laibon—a spiritual leader with mystical powers. . . Sitting on the floor of Mrs van Broekhoven’s office, Mr ole Parit breathes into an enkidong vessel packed with stones and snuff tobacco. He then shakes out the stones, whose patterns reveal the artefacts’ history to him. “I’ve identified the circumstances under which objects were taken,” he explains. “The times when they were taken, and how many hands they went through.” Out of the 188 artefacts Mr ole Parit viewed, he has identified only five he thinks are culturally sensitive enough to warrant a return. Artefacts matter to the Maasai, in part because they represent the continuation of a dead person’s life. . . Mrs van Boekhoven says that the way knowledge systems are judged needs to be liberated. “Real decoloniality is to see each other’s knowledge systems as equal.” British colonial catalogues, she points out, are not models of accuracy. “All we have are labels with question-marks. It would be quite disingenuous to say, ‘Your knowledge system is inferior to ours’.” (13 February 2020)

Tanzania crush for sacred oils kills 20 worshippers
(BBC News online – UK) Extract: At least 20 people have been crushed to death and 16 others injured during an outdoor religious service in Tanzania. Worshippers were attending a Pentecostal service at a stadium in the northern town of Moshi … when the incident occurred. Moshi district commissioner Kippi Warioba said attendees rushed forward to be anointed with blessed oil… The service was held by pastor Boniface Mwamposa, who refers to himself as “the apostle”. Survivors said Mr Mwamposa told hundreds of people gathered at the service to pass through an area where “blessed oil” had been poured over the floor. The crowd rushed forward to try to step in the oil in the hope of being cured of sickness. Peter Kilewo, who attended the service, described the scene as “horrible”, telling AFP news agency that people were “trampled on mercilessly, jostling each other with elbows”… (2 February 2020)

Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera freed after seven months

Tanzanian investigative journalist Erick Kabendera arrives at the Kisutu Residents Magistrate Court in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman – RC1314E63E80

(BBC News online – UK) Extract: Detained Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera has been freed seven months after he was arrested. He had been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime. Mr Kabendera’s release comes after he entered into a plea-bargain agreement with the prosecution. His detention was seen as an example of rising repression against the press and critics of Tanzania’s President John Magufuli who came into office in 2015…The authorities had initially said the investigative journalist was arrested over a question about his citizenship but that investigation was dropped and the financial crimes charges were brought in… The journalist, who has the reputation for holding the authorities to account in his articles, has written for several British publications, including The Independent, The Guardian and The Times, as well as for newspapers in Tanzania and the wider region. (24 February 2020)

The all-women safari camp in Tanzania
(BBC News online – UK) The Serengeti National Park in Northern Tanzania is one of the crown jewels in Tanzania’s tourism industry and famed for its safari experience. According to a report compiled for the UN Conference on Trade and Development in 2015, out of 2,000 safari guides in Tanzania, fewer than 10 were women. The Dunia Camp in Serengeti National Park is trying to solve this problem by hiring only women to fill positions. The following is an extract of a transcription of the video embedded in this article: Director of Dunia Camp, Jane Ngwatu, says she set it up to show that women are capable of doing such things – “it is not only men who can stay in the bush”. In East Africa, women usually hold the lower tiers in the tourism industry. . . At this camp the women take up all the roles, from housekeeping to security and management… (11 March 2020)

Trump Administration Adds Six Countries to Travel Ban
(New York Times online – USA) Extract: … Immigrant visas, issued to those seeking to live in the United States, will be banned for Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan. The ban will also prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from moving to the United States through the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to as many as 50,000 people a year… Non-immigrant visas, including those for students and certain temporary workers, as well as visas reserved for potential employees with specialized skills, will not be affected by the ban. Immigrants will be able to apply for wavers from the restrictions. The administration has said waivers are issued to those who would experience undue hardship if denied entry into the United States, although the process has been criticized as opaque… Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity said Eritrea, Tanzania and Kyrgyzstan were being added to the list because each country had either had not satisfied the administration’s information-sharing requirements related to terrorism or did not have updated passport systems… [A]n American government official said the administration planned to add Nigeria and Tanzania to the list because of the number of people coming from those countries on a visa who end up staying in the United States illegally… (3 February 2020)

Tanzanian officials force men into humiliating anal examinations to check for evidence of gay sex with one HIV-positive victim told ‘you got AIDS because your acts angered God’
(Mail online – UK) Extract: Men in Tanzania have been forced into humiliating anal tests to check for spurious evidence of gay sex, according to a damning report … The report by Human Rights Watch says the tests are a ‘medical travesty’ which can in some cases ‘rise to the level of torture’… The report, entitled If We Don’t Get Services We Will Die, outlines what it calls a ‘systematic attack’ on LGBT people under President John Magufuli’s rule since 2015. The report describes how government officials have closed down HIV testing centres and banned the distribution of lubricant which would allow safer sex. In addition, police raids on meetings and training sessions which educate people about HIV have ‘instilled fear within activist communities’. When police have arrested people for homosexuality they have sometimes ordered medics to carry out the humiliating tests to collect ‘evidence’ of gay sex. Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania under a colonial-era law which was later amended to allow for a life sentence as punishment. ‘These exams have no scientific basis and are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that can amount to torture,’ Human Rights Watch said… A 24-year-old gay man, Osman, said he was ridiculed by health workers at a government hospital in Dar es Salaam after he sought treatment for HIV. ‘You’re a good boy, why do you have gay sex? That’s why you got AIDS, because those acts angered God,’ he was allegedly told. ‘They also told me to stop these games and get saved, to chase out Satan, who caused me to have sex, and to find a wife, get married, and have a family,’ Osman said… (3 February 2020)

Early Stone Age populations in Tanzania made cutting tools that were optimised for different uses 1.85 million years ago
(Mail online – UK) Extract:... The Olduvai Gorge was occupied by early humans for more than 1.8 million years, with stone tools found at a location from around 1.85-1.2 million years ago. The region has three suitable stone materials for making tools – chert, quartzite and basalt derived from lava flows – all of which were used by Stone Age populations. Researchers used modern engineering techniques to explore the material properties of flakes of each of the three stones when used as a cutting tool. They found that the three stones have varying levels of edge sharpness and durability which would make each suitable for different applications. This could explain the variation of tools found in the Olduvai Gorge – and why sharp and durable chert appears to have been preferred where available for small tools. In contrast, the durability of basalt could explain why the volcanic rock makes up so many large tools like hand-axes that would have needed to last a longer time. Archaeologist Alastair Key of the University of Kent and colleagues used modern experimental engineering techniques to assess the edge sharpness and durability of freshly-flaked samples of basalt, chert and quartzite collected from the gorge. The team did this by determining the force, work and material deformation needed when using flakes of each material to cut samples of 2 mm-diameter PVC tubing. PVC was chosen to test cutting because – as one applies a tool to it – it deforms before a physical cut develops, just like biological materials like muscular tissue. The researchers found significant differences in the physical properties of the three tool-making materials… By understanding the way that these tools work and their functional limits it allows archaeologists to build up a greater understanding of the capabilities of our earliest ancestors at the dawn of technology.’ … (8 January 2020)

U.S. bans Tanzanian official who launched anti-gay crackdown
(Reuters online – UK) Extract: The United States said … it banned from visiting the country a Tanzanian official who announced a crackdown on homosexuality in Dar es Salaam in 2018. The U.S. State Department said it was taking the action against Paul Makonda, administrative chief of the Tanzania capital, “due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights, which include the flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.” It said Makonda had “also been implicated in oppression of the political opposition, crack-downs on freedom of expression and association, and targeting of marginalized individuals.” The move bars Makonda and his immediate family members from visiting the United States… Makonda announced in 2018 that a special committee would seek to identify and punish homosexuals, prostitutes and online fraudsters in the city… Tanzanian President John Magufuli cracked down on homosexuality after winning power in 2015, and a conviction for having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” could lead to a sentence of up to 30 years in jail… (31 January 2020)

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