Compiled by John Budge and Michael Wise
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Pat CAPLAN, African voices, African lives: personal narratives from a Swahili village. London: Routledge, 1997. 267p., ISBN 0-415-13724- 1. No price stated.
Caplan’s book is in the form of a personal narrative and is based on thirty years of fieldwork in a village in Mafia Island. We hear the story of Mohammed’s life, both through his own words, those of his wife, Mwahadia and daughter, Subira as well as Caplan’s own observations of him over this period. His life is revealed in conversations between Caplan and Mohammed, as well as excerpts from the diary he kept for her. These document personal matters as well as village gossip and other daily events of “Minazini” village. The author sees the work as a humanistic enterprise and aims to “explore the universal human condition, and in so doing cross, or bridge the gap between oneself as ethnographer and the subject of the life history”.
The book is divided into four main sections, each with an introduction by Caplan. It is interspersed with photographs which help to give the flavour of daily life in the village. The first section focuses on Mohammed’s life history and the second contains excerpts from his diary describing marriages, divorces, quarrels, ways of making a living by farming or fishing – all concerns which had touched closely on his own life. In the third section we hear other voices as well – those of Mwahadia and Subira. We see how their lives changed from 1965-1985 and how they suffered from increasing poverty and hardship. “The Search for Knowledge” is the final section, which deals with explanation for the afflictions which affect all the characters’ lives, such as witchcraft and spirits.
Caplan is concerned to break with the anthropological tradition of focusing on difference and “otherness” and instead shows how Mohammed’s and his family’s struggle to make sense of daily events has wider relevance. She has succeeded in her aim of producing a text to interest both anthropologists and non-anthropologists. It offers a fascinating glimpse of life in Mafia, and into the lives of three people who have concerns shared by us all.
Bethan Rees Jones
Tijs GOLDSCHMIDT, Darwin’s dreampond: drama in Lake Victoria. London: MIT Press, 1996. 274p., ISBN 0 262 07178 9, £17.50.
This is really several books within one. Firstly we have an account of the fish of Lake Victoria, especially those known to scientists as cichlids (species of Haplochromis) and to local fishermen as furu. The story begins in 1985 when fishing nets came up almost empty; where were all the small fish (furu) that usually filled the nets? Recently the fishermen’s gill nets had been full of big holes due to a predatory (carnivorous) fish – the Nile Perch (lates nilotica) or sangara, known elsewhere as ‘Elephant of the water’, that can weigh more than 70 kilos. Where had this fish come from? Why was it never caught by fishermen when the author first came to Mwanza in 1981? The answers are all here – they make fascinating reading.
In the late ’70s there was a project of the Tanzanian and Dutch governments to set up a fish-processing factory near Mwanza, which would process 60 tons of furu a day into fish-meal. Could Lake Victoria provide that much fish for an indefinite period? Scientists from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands set up a team (H.E.S.T. – the Haplochromis Ecology Survey Team) to study the ecosystem of the Mwanza Gulf and to identify the species of cichlid involved. As time went by, the nature of the diet of 302 species of cichlid became evident – with more than twelve different types of food ranging from detritus (mud), snails, smaller fish, to insects. These furu show a great range of morphology, especially in their jaw structure, which is related to their diet. No need for powerful jaws for eating mud! The big question is – were all the juru derived from one single riverine ancestor?
Secondly, there is frequent reference to Darwin and his theory of natural selection, and speciation, to aspects of camouflage, and selection pressure, to reproduction strategies, extinction … all part of the discussion of how species originate and change, not just in fish, but in birds, insects, and mammals. Throughout the book (originally written in Dutch and beautifully translated by Sherry Mm-Macdonald), there is an interesting use of words and language: the wanderers (Swahili mzungu), a kiss on the hand (from a female chimp), the battlefield (the lake, between Lates and furu), the savior (Sw. sangara), the Nile Perch, which has enriched some fishermen and traders), masabethi (aluminium dishes) … and so on.
Thirdly, there is an in-depth description of DNA and its variation, and its application to the identification of fish species and their origins. Fourthly, there are plenty of comments on social conditions, and life among the local residents; plus a six page glossary, 168 references, and a very complete index. What more could one want?
Brian J. Harris
Julie JARMAN, WAMMA: empowerment in practice, by Julie Jarman and Catherine Johnson. London: WATERAID (27-29 Albert Embankment, SE1 7UB), 1997. 20p.
WATERAID have produced an attractive 20 page booklet about their water development programme in four districts of the Dodoma Region between 1991 and 1996. WAMMA derives its acronym from the partnership between WATERAID and the Ministries of Maji (Water), Maendeleo ya Jamii (Community Development) and Afia (Health), but a key feature is the full involvement of the local community from the outset. Villagers have to establish a water fund, open a bank account and make a one-off contribution before implementation starts. They must also gather any local materials required, such as rocks, sand and gravel. The village Water Committee sets the price for water and encourages participation in a hygiene education programme.
The report suggests six preconditions for a successful programme of the WAMMA type: the right policy climate (a national water policy); the willingness of government to make suitable fieldworkers available; the continuous backing and support of a senior official (e.g. the Regional Development Director); readiness of the donor (in this case WATERAID) to sustain the partnership over a long period and at an adequate level; high priority for village-level participation at all stages; and above all, patience, flexibility and being prepared NOT to push for quick results.
Omar R. MAPURI, Zanzibar, the 1964 revolution achievements und prospects. Dar es Salaam: TEMA (P.O. Box 63 115, DSM), 1996. 120p No price stated.
This book represents a disturbing, even tragic sign of the times. Mr. Mapuri is a minister in the CCM government of Zanzibar, and his book is a call for the intensification of racial politics.
The author starts by identifying the ‘Arabs’ as oppressors who were overthrown by the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution. Now, he says, they have edged back into positions of power. It is a situation where ‘Zanzibari Africans’ – (not all Zanzibaris) must unite. But unite against what or whom? The answer is powerfully implicit throughout the book.
Mr. Mapuri bends over backwards to see everything in purely racial terms. For example, the Union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, which was engineered by the United States, happened according to him simply as the logical conclusion of the close relationship between African Associations in Zanzibar and Tanganyika – and to say anything else is somehow anti-African. The suggestion that the Umma Party, which had African, Arab and Asian members, had any role to play in the 1964 revolution is seen as an attempt to belittle Africans – since it detracts from what the author regards as purely African ‘achievement’.
What makes all this particularly strange, of course, is the fact that most Zanzibaris are not pure Arab or even pure African but a mixture of many different groups. Even stranger to anyone who has been to Zanzibar in recent years is Mr. Rampuri’s assertion that the last 33 years have been a continuation of the Glorious Revolution which brought justice and prosperity to the people.
One of the aims of the books seems to be to glorify the Afro-Shirazi Party, ASP (which was a key player in the 1964 revolution) and through it the CCM Zanzibar, which is seen as its successor with the same interests and support base. With this in mind the author praises the ‘Committee of Fourteen’, who were considered by many to have been responsible, in the period after the revolution, for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Zanzibaris. These included well-known progressive leaders of the ASP itself, including Abdala Kassim Hanga, Abdul Aziz Twala and Saleh Saadala.
The Civic United Front (CUF) is attacked as a representative of Arab interests, and a successor in this and other ways, of the Zanzibar National Party (ZNP) of 1964. It is also regarded by the author as the villain of the 1995 election. In a Kafkaesque scenario, it is declared that CUF rigged the elections, intimidated voters and manipulated the (African) people of Pemba to turn against the Africans of Unguja. He sees the international and national observers as stooges of the CUF – did they not, after all, complain that it was the CCM which had been engaged in rigging; that they were biased in favour of the CUF because the Arabs always had western support!
What then is the solution to Zanzibar’s problems? What does the author have to say to the youth for whom he declares he has written this book? The answer seems to be out and out confrontation – he urges ‘Zanzibari Africans’ and particularly the youth to save the gains of the Great Revolution.
Reading this book will bring for many of us a sense of deja vu and disappointment. Less than two years ago, in April 1996, the late Abdulrahman Babu predicted just such a polarisation and suggested a solution. In his last pamphlet Wanted: a Third Force In Zanzibar politics, written soon after the 1995 elections he wrote:
the ruling party has ‘won’ the election but not the country The country is at a standstill waiting for a political solution …’ The balance of political power has hardly altered since the 1950s struggle for independence which led to the 1964 Revolution. The political rivalry that has followed the advent of the multi-party electoral process has exacerbated rather than healed the great political divisions of the pre-independence era. And the political leadership cannot … find a way out of this deadlock.
What then is the way forward? In Babu’s view (which has been proved right), a government of national unity is not possible because the conflict now is primarily between leaders with past grudges, and not between parties. He advocated the creation of an independent Third Force in Zanzibar politics, whose task would be to alert the country to the reality of the current state of affairs. If this did not happen soon, he declared, there was a very real danger of fragmentation in Zanzibari society. Unfortunately, if Rampuri’s book is any indicator, the leaders are pushing Zanzibar towards just such a fragmentation.
Thomas SPEAR, Mountain Farmers: moral economies of land & agricultural development in Arusha & Meru. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota; Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press; Oxford: James Currey, 1997. X, 262p., ISRN 0-85255-737-X, £14.9533.
This study traces the history of the Meru and Arusha peoples during the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the fist half of the twentieth; the period when they found themselves, and their economic and social systems in conflict with incomers, whose interests were varied, and by and large became focused upon making use, in various ways, of their productive lands. The limited extent of these lands, and population increase led to strong resistance against incoming governments, settlers and religious bodies.
The Meru and Arusha peoples endured more than a customary share of tribulation during the period under consideration. Their traumas have included epidemic diseases, civil war, drought and famine. All these posed severe threats to the established social order, and more or less coincided with the arrival of Christian missionaries, who were killed in accordance with customary practise directed at individuals seen as introducing undesirable witchcraft, and undermining social order. The establishment of foreign rule, first by the Germans and later the British, bore especially heavily on the area under consideration in this book, by reason of the attractions of the lands for European farmers.
This situation was recognised, and criticised by administrators from the early years of British administration after the first World War. The two tribes were relatively small units when the German Government entered their lives … secure from molestation by other tribes. They occupied land almost unexampled by its fertility … Immense plains were at the disposal of their cattle and there was an abundance of agricultural land available for further expansion. These fair prospects were quickly brought to nought by the German Government. An extensive system of land alienation to non-natives was inaugurated and proceeded in the most reckless manner. Two large mission stations … and two small farms were alienated in the heart of the native area and a belt of farms was carried right around the mountain.. .and entailed the expropriation of many.. . when British officers took over the district they found the Arusha and Meru cramped within an area which was barely adequate for their immediate needs and practically incapable of extension to meet future requirements In every quarter, normal tribal expansion … had been hopelessly compromised.
The author’s prolonged investigation of source materials, ranging from verbal information to archives in Tanzania, Europe and North America, traces the attempts of the peoples concerned and their British administrators on the spot, to check the continued degradation of their society by incomers. This culminated, for the purpose of the book, in the internationally renowned Meru Land case, whose disputants went to the United Nations Trusteeship Council.
It is a record, not only of dispute about possession, but also about the actual use of land and resources by the people concerned, who rapidly, and fairly successfully adapted their methods in order to continue to produce and survive economically within a reduced allocation of land. Professor Spear has provided a highly readable, balanced and most informative history of a segment of Tanzanian society in the earlier twentieth century.
TUKI English-Swahili dictionary. Kamusi ya Kiingereza-Kiswahili. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota for Institute of Kiswahili Research, University of Dar es Salaam, 1996. xx, 883p. ISBN 9976 911 29 7. Distributed in the U.K. by African Books Collective, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 IIIU. Price £60; US$108.
The TUKI English-Swahili dictionary is the culmination of fourteen years’ work by the Institute of Kiswahili Research at the University of Dar es Salaam. Given the difficult conditions under which the TUKI staff worked (at which the Foreword only hints) and the quality of the final product, this dictionary is a remarkable achievement. There is no doubting the need for a new English-Swahili dictionary; the English language has outgrown Johnson’s dictionary of 1939, and none of the more recent dictionaries provides such comprehensive coverage. This one contains over 50,000 entries, including many new words and meanings, along with lexicographic information such as word class, alternative spellings, status (whether formal, slang, vulgar, etc.) and collocations. The most significant drawback, given the erratic nature of English spelling, is the lack of a pronunciation guide. This omission is attributed to technical reasons.
The dictionary begins with a series of diagrams explaining the various types of information included in a dictionary entry, followed by instructions (in English only) on how to use the dictionary. Both these sections are clear and informative, but should perhaps be given in Swahili also. The quality of entries is high; words and their derivatives arc easy to find, and the translations and accompanying information are generally accurate. Many colloquial and figurative expressions arc also included, as are a number of illustrative examples.
The work is not without its problems, of course. A significant problem is a lack of consistency within and between entries. Information about the status of a word or its regional variations appears sometimes before and sometimes after the word, which occasionally causes confusion. Such information can also be inconsistent between entries. Thus, the entry for bell includes the following illustrative example: (colloq) ring a – kumbusha. Under ring, the same expression is treated as a ‘run on’ (a sub-headword, in bold type) but without the information that this is a colloquial usage. – a bell leta kumbukumbu kwa mbali. Some inconsistency is also found in the regional information; although the dictionary indicates usage specific to Britain, America, Australia/New Zealand and Scotland, at times British usage is used as a default. For example, the entry for mad does not indicate that ‘angry’ is the most common American usage of this word; similarly, although the sub-heading of sidewalk gets the label (US) the sub-heading pavement is unmarked, and neither of these entries is cross-referenced to the other. There are also a few mistakes, but these arc rare.
Aside from these minor problems, I found this authoritative dictionary informative and easy to use. It will, I am sure, soon become established as a standard reference work. Steve Nicolle
Articles in Journals
Thadeus SUNSERI, Famine and wild pigs: gender struggles and the outbreak of the Majimaji war in Uzaramo Journal of African History, 38, 1997, p.235-259
Catherin BAROIN, Religious conflict in 1990-93 among the Rwa: secession in a Lutheran diocese in Northern Tanzania. African affairs: the journal of the Royal African Society, 95 (381) Oct 1996, p.529-554
There may not appear to be much connection between wild pigs and banana beer, but these apparently irrelevant details sparked off two rebellions, harking back directly and indirectly to the period of German rule in Tanganyika at the beginning of the century. These two admirable and interesting studies show how religious beliefs and practices become linked to radical social change and how authoritarian obstinacy can tear societies apart.
Sunseri, maintaining that the prevailing conception of the Majimaji war needs to be re-examined, acknowledges that a good deal of historical research was directed to this end at the University of Dar es Salaam in the 1970s.
The Germans, attempting to regiment Tanzanian peasants, succeeded only in destroying the historic structure of rural society – the delicate balance between the distinctive practices of men and women essential to social cohesion, health and the well-being of the soil and the environment. They forbade bush-burning, hunting, the felling of forest trees and forced men to work on communal cotton farms and railway construction. Men, robbed of their traditional tasks, were forced to leave their homes for long periods with the result that women had to assume their roles, ushering in vital “shifts in gendered spheres of power”. The 1905 revolt, Sunseri claims, was not so much a fight for independence as a ‘symptom of household struggles’ to overcome these problems. Headmen lost authority and when severe famine struck women practised ritual pagan remedies by using dawa (medicine) based on maji (water) to protect crops, and appealed to agricultural deities.
Sunseri claims that these rituals were appropriated by nationalist historians and ‘transformed into a proto-nationalist ideology of resistance’ which became established as the Majimaji tradition. In fact, he says, it was a subtle protest against the assault by the colonial power on the peasant economy and their ‘loss of environmental control’. The wild pigs became a symbol of the policy, exacerbated by the increasing number of Moslems with their aversion to eating pig flesh. Women became hunters – the protectors of the fields.
Whereas Sunseri shows how authoritarianism directly created social problems, Catherine Baroin demonstrates how social conditions drove a religious organisation into an ideological corner. Ever since Tanganyika fell under German domination in 1886, as a result of an agreement between Germany and Britain, the supreme cultural and social influence in the Kilimanjaro region has remained that of the Lutheran Church, which controls nearly all the infrastructure of social life, owning churches, fields, coffee plantations, schools and hospitals, and drawing upon external aid that enables it to finance development programmes.
The Rwa, who occupy the slopes of Mount Meru, are Bantu-speaking farmers, numbering about 150,000, working the rich volcanic soil of the rain-soaked mountain, which is favourable to intensive farming, mainly of coffee and bananas. The Kilimanjaro Chaga outnumber the Rwa nine times over and are “reputed for their business sense and on average more cosmopolitan, more educated and richer”.
Baroin claims that the ‘inferiority complex’ of the Rwa was one cause of conflict, although a large majority are practising Lutherans who read, write and speak Swahili. The 18 patriarchal clans are modelled on the Masai system, divided into ‘generations’, but they accused the Chaga (Northern) branch of the church of discriminating against them, especially in the financing of health and education.
The issue was exacerbated by the uncompromising attitude of many of the clergy and even the Bishop, who blamed the main instigator of the rebellion, Jackson Kaaya, describing him as “an agitator thirsty for power”. Aged over 70, he gained notoriety during the Meru Land Case, when the Rwa eventually took their case to the United Nations, in defiance of Britain, and their action was a prelude to founding the Tanganyika African National Union. A sore point with the church was the Rwan habit of indulging in long drinking sessions of banana beer, while other conflicts arose from their practice of polygamy and the generation system.
When the situation became tense the government strove to maintain order, eventually calling in the army. The rebels tried to take over church institutions in their area, the leaders were imprisoned, and after further serious rioting the Rwa eventually sought a compromise, as a result of which the hegemony of the church was ended. It is noted that bitterness still persists, especially between the Meru Educational and Social Development organisation (MESODET) and the church. As coffee producers the Rwa rely mainly on coffee sales for development funds, and the control of coffee co-operatives is a key issue. In Rwan consciousness, economics and politics are inextricably linked.
Hector BLACKHURST, East and Northeast Africa bibliography.. Lanham, Md.; London: Scarecrow Press, 1996. xiv, 299p. (Scarecrow area bibliographies; no.7) ISBN 0-8108-3090-6, US$62.50.
Compiled by the founder editor of the well known and much regarded Africa bibliography, this is a handy and very immediately usable gathering of references to books about the area published from 1960 to date. That alone is a form of recommendation, because of the greater likelihood of being able to find items in libraries, and even still in print and available for purchase.
Very precise subject headings allow immediate access to, or indication of non-existence of the user’s chosen approach Thus, more general items in our selected area of interest can be traced under Tanzania – Handicrafts; – Health and Medicine; – History and so on. Quite specifically, Chaga; Dar es Salaam; Olduvai Gorge; Zinza, etc. This is one of the most usable bibliographies I have come across for some time. Not exhaustive, but highly recommended for the sensible selection of entries included.
Erik 0. GILBERT, The Zanzibar dho [dhow?] trade: an informal economy of the East African coast, 1860-1963. Ph.D. thesis, Boston University, 1997. Obtainable from University Microfilms International, PO Box 1346, Ann Arbor, M1 48106-1346, U.S.A. quoting order number 9713661.
Abacleti K. KASHULIZA, Determinants of bank credit access for smallholder farmers in Tanzania: a discriminant anlysis appreciation, by Anacleti K Kashiliza and Jonathan G. Kydd. Savings and development, no.3, 1996, p.285-304
Nasor MALIK, Extension of Kiswahili during the German colonial administration in continental Tanzania (former Tanganyika), 1885-1917
Originally published in Swahili forum III, Sept., 1996, p. 155- 160, this article of approximately 2,000 words has been revised by the author, and a copy of the typescript can be seen by contacting the editor of Tanzanian affairs.
Fenella MUKANGARA, Women and gender studies in Tanzania: an annotated bibliography(1982-94). Dar es Salaam: The University Press, 1995. 245p., ISBN 967 6602 782. Distributed in the U.K. by African Books Collective, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 IHU, Pricc 514.95, US$27.
Roger PFISTER, Bibliography of Swiss doctoral dissertations on sub-Saharan Africa, 1897-1996 Bern SWISS Society of African Studies,( P 0 Box 8212, CH- 3001 Bern), 1997 76p No price stated
A useful list, which draws upon diverse sources to present a comprehensive and well indexed list of Swiss dissertations on African topics. The high degree of interest in Tanzania over the period is shown by the proportion which concentrate on the country (almost ten percent out of some 400). The bibliography includes helpful advice on how to obtain copies of dissertations listed.
PLUNDERING Africa’s past; edited by Peter R. Schmidt & Roderick J. Mclntosh. Oxford: James Currey Publishers, 1996. 296p., ISBN 0 85255 738 8, 514.95.
Described by the publisher as being a frank indictment of African contributions to the problem, and discussion of specific steps that could halt the disappearance of Africa’s art. In addition to several overview chapters looking at aspects of art theft continent-wide, there are two chapters devoted to aspects of the destruction and looting of archaeological sites in Tanzania, another on Kenya, and one on the East African coast.
Detlef H. SCHMIDT, Measuring participation: its use as a managerial tool for district health planners based on a case study in Tanzania, by Detlef H Schmidt and Susan B Refkin International Journal of health planning and management, 11, 1996, p.245-358
E.H. SILAYO, Cadastral surveying practice In Tanzania. Dar es Salaam: The University Press, 1997. 163p.
A discourse on why cadastral surveying “is much more than merely solving boundary disputes between neighbours”.
The reviews editors thank contributors for their reviews, especially those that come unsolicited and often draw attention to publications that might have been overlooked. Anyone offering a review should please contact Michael Wise.